SA Magazine - Issue 4

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/ for alumni and friends of Staffordshire University /

ISSUE 4 • WINTER 2015 - 16

INTERVIEW Alastair Campbell speaks about mental health during his University residency PARTNERSHIPS A new collaborative degree offers the chance to study at Alton Towers RESEARCH How technology in the classroom can help raise literacy levels among children EMPLOYABILITY A host of new initiatives to ensure graduates are equipped for a career

BUILDING THE FUTURE Creation of a new campus Students will soon be treated to a whole new campus experience, thanks to the greatest transformation the University has known Turn to page 16

“Pull quote copy goes in this style”


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ALSO INSIDE THIS ISSUE 1. Computer graphics and the remaking of classic children’s television 2. Why industrial tourism means a windfall for the Potteries 3. The School of Computing celebrates 50 years of pioneering work

I Want to Teach... Staffordshire University School of Education has a reputation for developing teaching assistants, teachers and education professionals to the very highest standards. We are the only provider rated OFSTED Outstanding in the region which we’ve maintained since 2000. If you are a graduate with a passion for teaching and with an honours degree in a relevant subject, you could complete a PGCE. Our range of PGCE courses covers:

EYTS (Early Years Teacher Status) Primary (General) Secondary Art and Design Secondary Computer Science Secondary Design and Technology Secondary Economics and Business Secondary Mathematics Secondary Social Science PCET Bursaries are available for shortage subjects

In January 2016 we are running a free ‘I Want to Teach…’ event that is designed to provide you with a wealth of information on pursuing a career in teaching. It will give you the opportunity to meet the course leaders, discuss different training routes and bursaries, as well as getting advice on the application and interview process.

For more information about the School of Education and our courses, please visit: or call 01785 353830 For further information and to register for our ‘I Want to Teach...’ event in January, please visit or email


CONTENTS Professor Michael Gunn Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive


s we go to press, the Stoke campus is a hive of construction activity. When the hoardings come down, it will be to reveal the greatest transformation that this University has seen in its long history. It’s the realisation of our long-standing ambition to offer the very best student experience on a single edge-of-city site. See our feature on page 16 for a preview. In November, we welcomed Alastair Campbell to the University for a three-day residency – the first of many such events that will bring staff and students into contact with some of the most eminent speakers of our time. Alastair’s boundless energy was an inspiration across the University, and his interview with SA makes a heartfelt case for changing attitudes to mental health. This issue also contains a celebration of the School of Computing, which was among the first of its kind when it began teaching in 1965. It is one thing to be a pioneer, but quite another to maintain such high standards for half a century. Elsewhere, we look at how the Potteries can capitalise on their past to bring in visitor income, we profile the School of Film, Sound and Vision, and we visit Alton Towers to report on a unique collaboration with the University. Finally, a farewell: this will be the last introduction that I write for SA before my retirement. I will miss the University tremendously, but I will always feel privileged to have served such an ambitious, exciting and friendly place. I hope you enjoy this magazine.

50 Regulars 04 News 08 In touch 10 Opening shots

12 Profile 28 Reunion 32 International

58 Subject focus 62 Alumni news 66 Final word

Features 16 Welcome to the future How the campus is being transformed to deliver a new experience

22 Q&A: Alastair Campbell An exclusive interview about tackling the taboo of mental health

34 Digital pioneers The School of Computing celebrates a half-century of excellence

40 Oat cuisine A personal appreciation of hearty Staffordshire food and drink

42 Computer literacy How classroom technology is helping children to enjoy reading

46 Let’s go to work New initiatives to make students ready for a rewarding career

50 Turning clay into gold Why industrial tourism is good news for Stoke and the Potteries



54 Hands up if you love learning The latest step in the University’s partnership with Alton Towers

Special thanks to Georgina Kelly, Deborah Sanderson, Maria Scrivens, Laura Perrins, Samantha Nuttall, Judy O’Brien and the Staffordshire University team Editor: William Ham Bevan Publisher: Andrew Riley Creative director: Mike Raven Picture editor: Tom Bird Design: Simon Konaszczuk and Paige Goddard Contributors: Chris Alden, Tom Burnett, Lucy Douglas, Rin Hamburgh, Victoria James, Penelope Rance, Maxine Frances Roper, Paul Williams SA is published regularly in print and online editions. The opinions expressed in SA are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of Staffordshire University

SA is created by RileyRaven • • / Riley Raven Ltd, Unit 606B, The Big Peg, 120 Vyse Street, B18 6NF



NEWS Ceramics graduates have a bright future Two Staffordshire University ceramics students have had their talent recognised at Future Lights, a prestigious Europewide competition that forms part of the British Ceramics Biennial. Current MA Ceramic Design student Yuka Kikumoto (left) and recent graduate Francesca Romei were appointed Future Lights ambassadors by a jury of experts from leading European ceramics institutions. What’s more, they were able to showcase their work on home turf: the finalists’ exhibition was at Staffordshire University’s own Flaxman Building. Enterprise and Development Manager Cath Ralph says: “We are proud to be part of this largescale European project. It offers excellent opportunities for students at Staffordshire University to fulfil their potential as the future of the art, design and ceramics industries.” The annual Future Lights Competition is associated with the EU-funded Ceramics and its Dimensions project. The winners of this year’s competition, including Yuka and Francesca, have been invited back to Stoke-on-Trent to take part in an interdisciplinary workshop in 2016.



Rare Ming cup goes to auction

One of the University’s most valuable treasures is to go on sale next spring. The 15th-century Stem Cup is expected to fetch around £2million, which will be used to benefit future generations of students. The vessel was made in China during the reign of Emperor Xuande (1425-1435) and is the most precious article in a legacy left to the University by London pharmacist Ernest Thornhill in 1944. The stunning collection of more than 250 ceramic items was displayed until the early 1990s but had remained in storage since then. Thornhill’s bequest specified that the collection should be available for students to handle and appreciate. The sale will ensure his wishes are followed, and help fund the building of a special facility to house the delicate

items at the Stoke-on-Trent campus. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Rosy Crehan (above) said: “The value of the collection has increased in recent years to the point where the University is not able to house and display it securely. The reason for selling is so we can raise the funds to do that. “Proceeds from the sale of the Stem Cup will enable us to comply with the original bequest and give our students full access to this historically significant collection of oriental ceramics – some of which are over 3,000 years old.” The cup will be shown around the world ahead of its sale in Hong Kong. The University is also commissioning a number of copies, to ensure that the collection can still be viewed and handled in its entirety.


Better prospects for prosthetics patients Patients in the developing world who need prosthetic limbs could soon benefit from better standards of care, thanks to a Staffordshire University initiative. Scientists led by Professor Nachi Chockalingam are developing a new set of international guidelines for orthotic and prosthetic services, after winning a contract from the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO). The team is currently carrying out a full review of the existing

standards of care worldwide, which it is due to complete in 2016. Prof Chockalingam said: “We understand

the huge responsibility that we have in presenting this report. This will have vast implications on the development of international standards for prosthetic and orthotic devices and services.” Dr Sandra Sexton from the ISPO said the organisation is delighted to have the Staffordshire team on board. She says: “Only a very small proportion of the world population that needs orthotic and prosthetic support has access to these services. We are very keen to improve this situation.”

Multinational MA comes of age

Owen Jones set for next residency The University will welcome Owen Jones (above) in 2016 for the second in its series of residencies. The writer of bestselling books Chavs and The Establishment was previously made an Honorary Doctor at this year’s Awards Ceremony. The residency initiative aims to build on the success of previous public lecture series, bringing in high-profile speakers to encourage debate and to inspire students and staff. It was launched in November 2015 by writer and campaigner Alastair Campbell, the former director of communications and strategy to prime minister Tony Blair. Campbell spent three days on campus, interacting with a wide crosssection of academics and students. See page 22 for a full report and an exclusive interview with SA Magazine.

Students from all over the world have returned to Stoke to celebrate the 21st birthday of a unique Staffordshire University Masters degree. First offered in 1994, the MA in Economics of Globalisation and European Integration is run as a collaboration between nine universities in Europe, China and Brazil. Teaching rotates between the partner institutions: the cohort graduating in 2015 had spent time at the Universities of Antwerp (Belgium) and Bari (Italy) as well as at Staffordshire University. Of the 29 students to graduate this year, 11 travelled to Staffordshire for the celebration, held at Stoke Minster. They were personally congratulated by the Chancellor, Lord Stafford, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Gunn. Dr Ian Jackson of Staffordshire University’s Business School said: “The MA is a unique degree. It provides a bespoke teaching and learning approach as well as promoting a deep level of understanding among both students and staff. It embodies two key themes of academic study: globalisation and European integration.”



Olympic champ’s mission to inspire Andrew Triggs Hodge MBE has been invested as Pro-Chancellor of the University – an important ambassadorial role in which he pledged to “nurture young athletes and inspire future generations about the opportunities that come with education.” The Staffordshire Graduate, who won gold medals in rowing at both the Beijing and London Olympics, said: “I see my new role with Staffordshire University as a great opportunity to support the development of young talent – as it did with me – and help prepare students for their own paths through life.” Andrew, 36, first took up rowing while studying Environmental Science at the University. Since graduation, he has won gold at four separate World Rowing Championships, gained one European gold and been part of the winning Oxford University crew in the 2005 Boat Race. He was formally appointed Pro-Chancellor at the University’s Awards Ceremony in July – the third time he has been honoured at the annual event. “The first time I was graduating with a degree in Environmental Science,” he said. “My next visit was in 2013 when I was made an Honorary Doctor of the University. I am delighted to be invited back a third time to take on the role of Pro-Chancellor.”

Sports therapists make it a hat-trick Three coursemates have walked from university straight into a career in the notoriously competitive world of elite football. Matt Roach, Saffron Mann and Chris Loughran have all started work after graduating in 2015 from the BA(Hons) in Sports Therapy. Matt has taken up a role at Championship side MK Dons as the academy sports therapist. His duties include pre-match and pitchside care, and attending training sessions to help with rehabilitation. The Irish Football Association employs Chris to look after the Northern Ireland under-19 side, with whom he travelled to a friendly in Iceland earlier this year. He says: “I’d worked with teams before but never had the opportunity to travel. This was truly amazing.” Saffron was recruited as academy sports therapist for Shrewsbury Town FC, working with seven teams including



the under-16s and the ladies’ side. All of them credit the degree course – which enjoys a 100% rating in the National Student Survey – with preparing them for work. Matt

says: “The placements I had with a professional football team while at Staffs helped me get this job. As well as being good experience, it marks out your CV on graduating.”


£1.25m revamp kicks off year of sport The Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre has reopened after a £1.25million refit – just in time for Stoke-on-Trent’s spell as a European City of Sport for 2016. The refurbishment forms part of the University’s Campus Transformation programme. See our main feature on page 21 for details of the much-improved facilities at the Leek Road facility. The opening ceremony was attended by Sir Stanley’s daughter, Jean Matthews Gough MBE (right). She said: “I was honoured to come into this magnificent sports arena. I just wish Stan was here because he would be absolutely delighted, as his life was helping young people to get into sport – he did it all over the world.” As a European City of Sport, Stoke joins a select club that includes Bordeaux in France, Bilbao in Spain and the Italian city of Parma. Planned events include athletics events, community fairs and taster sessions at venues across the city.

Wardrobe Wars wins TV trophy

IN BRIEF A fundraising drive by Social Welfare Law students has been raising funds for Stoke Food Bank and the University’s own Food Hub, while aiming to raise awareness of food poverty issues. The first-year undergraduates donated £300 and 10 food parcels to the two emergency facilities. The University has welcomed five law students from one of its partner institutions, MBS College on the Greek island of Crete. The group received a taste of student life in the Stoke – attending lectures and workshops and getting careers advice for working in Britain. The trip was made possbile through financial support from the University’s Annual Fund.

A charity-shop fashion challenge proved to be a winning concept for three Staffordshire students at the Royal Television Society Midlands Student Awards. Their TV programme, Wardrobe Wars, won the Comedy and Entertainment category at the November ceremony. Nathan Riley, Carla Bithell and Dave Morgan made the programme during the second year of their BSc(Hons) Television Production Technology course. Senior lecturer Fiona Graham said: “It’s excellent news. The show was produced and directed by the team,

with crew roles being filled by students across the first and second year.” Two other Staffordshire University productions were nominated for awards. Experimental Film Production graduate Josh Tilley was shortlisted in the Factual category for his Welshlanguage documentary From the Mouth of the Mariner. A graduate team comprising Amy Sharman, Josh Harris, Stephen Turner, Matt Flegg, Lucy Heyworth and Sarah Wheat also received a Comedy and Entertainment nomination for their final-year music video, Cold Woman.

A graduate of the BSc(Hons) in Forensic Science has been named joint winner of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences Most Meritorious Undergraduate Award. Philip Pikula, 21, now plans to start a PGCE and start a career in teaching. Viewers of the ITV drama Jekyll and Hyde may have noticed a familiar face among the cast. Staffordshire Graduate Amit Shah, featured in the last issue of SA, played the role of “invisible agent” Brannigan in the adventure series.



IN TOUCH We are always delighted to receive your emails, letters and messages on social media. If you’d like to share your experiences at the University, comment on the magazine or suggest topics for us to cover in a future issue, please contact us at: SA Magazine, Graduate Relations, Staffordshire University, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2DE If you’re happy for your message to be published in a future issue of SA, please mark it “for publication”. Letters may be edited for length.


FORTHCOMING EVENTS Throughout the year, the University hosts a wide range of public events, including lecture series, workshops, film screenings, degree shows and exhibitions. All are free to attend. To see what’s coming up, visit For further information and reservations, you can contact Corporate Events on 01782 295860 or email



There’s no shortage of inspiring stories about Staffordshire Graduates making a difference in all walks of life. By giving your support to the University, you’ll be helping more talented students realise their educational potential and become the successful graduates of tomorrow. Staffordshire University’s mission is to transform people and communities by delivering accessible, high-quality higher education. In doing so, we aim to raise aspirations, further increase learning opportunities and promote social inclusion and mobility. In supporting the University, you are investing in this ambitious plan – ensuring that when our students leave, they are work-ready and able to make a

positive impact on the world. The University has set the ambitious goal of raising £1million worth of support over four years – not just in cash donations, but also through offers of time, work placements and gifts in kind. This target can only be achieved through fostering strong relationships with alumni, local and national business leaders, honorary doctors and other friends of the University. The first year of fundraising has raised more than £72,000 for the Annual Fund. More than two-thirds of this has gone towards providing 33 disadvantaged first-year students with bursaries of £1,500 each. Further bursaries are earmarked for outstanding final-year undergraduates


THE DONOR’S STORY Jane Matthews* is a retired teacher who donated £3,000 to support students.

THE RECIPIENT’S STORY Richard Godfrey is a PGCE student who aims to teach design and technology.

“As a former teacher, education has always been close to my heart. I have taught people over the years who were clever enough to go to university but couldn’t afford to, and I thought I could help someone have this opportunity. I decided to give a donation of £3,000 – I didn’t set any criteria as I trust the University to use the money in the best way. It’s a relatively small amount but it would have been life-changing for me, and I hope it will help whoever is selected.”

“I was elated and humbled to be receiving a bursary from a very kind benefactor. Trying to manage a course this intensive, while also having to worry about financial concerns, is very stressful. Having a bursary of any amount takes a lot of the stress away and gives me additional time to focus on educational issues. I plan to use the money to invest in woodworking equipment to benefit my future pupils – it will allow me to enhance their learning and progress.”

*Name has been changed

from low-income families, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship (worth £1,000) will go to a graduate who demonstrates flair and achievement in the creative industries. The Annual Fund is also supporting Employability Bursaries, which will enable students to gain the attributes and skills required to obtain a graduate-level job upon completing their degree. Thirty grants of £300 each will be made to finalyear students, to help with expenses such as clothes, travel and accommodation. A further £1,000 will be held back to help first and second-year students. HOW TO HELP No matter how large or small, your support will make a difference. You can help in a number of ways: financially, by making a regular monthly donation, a one-off payment, or leaving a legacy. Your time and expertise is also extremely valuable to the University. Students gain immeasurable benefits from work placements, internships and mentoring.

Don’t be a stranger... University life doesn’t end at graduation. For over 100 years, we’ve been the trailblazers, transformers and trendsetters. As a Staffordshire Graduate, you play a lead role in our success story. We are immensely proud of our graduates and we’d love you to be part of our next exciting chapter. So keep in touch – and we will do our best to support you in whatever way we can. The easiest way to keep in touch is to visit – you’ll be able to access our full range of alumni services and find out all about our latest news. You can also get the latest Staffs Alumni news on Twitter – follow @StaffsAlumni. To get in touch with us, email, call 01782 294942 or write to Graduate Relations, Staffordshire University, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 2DE. STAFFS ON SOCIAL MEDIA Social media is an excellent way to keep up with us and network with other Staffordshire Graduates. Visit: or use the following:

By getting involved with the Alumni Careers Network, you’ll be passing on your skills and knowledge to the next generation of Staffordshire Graduates. For more information, see, email or call 01782 295702.

@StaffsUni +staffordshireuniversity



Pale and precious: Gemma Louise Taylor’s collection of earthenware dishes, left and below, include pieces with smooth glazing and embossed geometric patterns

GLAZE OF GLORY Six graduates and students from the MA in Ceramics were invited to exhibit at this year’s Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair. We present some highlights

Pure elegance: Camila Pérez specialises in functional tableware, left and below, that’s inspired by simplicity and classical ideals of beauty




Shades of clay: Eva Radulova’s tableware designs, above and right, mix traditional and contemporary influences, and aim to be innovative in shape and function

Tracing lineage: Alex Allday produces decorative crockery, left, with embossed details based on traditional Stoke-onTrent surface patterns

Symphony in white: Yuka Kikumoto’s ceramics, above, are influenced by Japanese culture and created through ‘slipcasting’ with liquid clay in a mould

Mythical beasts: Jasmine Simpson’s figures, left, are re-imaginings of the animals that feature in legends and folk tales such as Aesop’s fables




Many of our best-loved children’s series are being remade with computer graphics, but animation lecturer Stuart Messinger believes there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned artistry and storytelling By Chris Alden 12



“It’s about technology not taking over, but extending creativity”

Black magic: Stuart helped to bring Voldemort to the screen in two of the Harry Potter films


emories of early childhood can be a hazy thing, full of half-remembered cartoons and long-lost toys. But for Stuart Messinger, senior lecturer in Animation at Staffordshire University, one memory from when he was about seven years old stands out more than most. He says: “I was lying on my mum and dad’s living room floor – I can see the pattern on the carpet still – and I was drawing a rabbit with an axe on his shoulder, smoking a pipe, with a bright yellow neckscarf on. I don’t know why I was drawing it, but I could probably redraw the image, it’s that clear.” Then came the “aha” moment. “At the same time, a cartoon was on the television in the background. I had the

realisation that, essentially, what I was doing was also on the screen. It was from that moment that I started to get curious about it. I later learned it was called animation.” From hand-drawing scenes for the children’s TV series Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids to managing the production logistics of bringing Voldemort to life in the fourth and fifth Harry Potter films, Messinger’s career has straddled traditional animation techniques and the computer graphics (CG) of today. And amid the recent vogue for remaking old children’s TV – from Thunderbirds to Danger Mouse and from Bob the Builder to The Clangers – he’s clear on one thing. Technology is there to help

you to be creative, not to dictate what you do. He says: “John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, says technology is the extension of your creativity. The creativity is what comes first; the technology can make your ideas so much greater.” That’s why Messinger still stresses the importance of drawing to his Staffordshire students. He encourages them to aim to execute a creative idea using technology, not find out every last thing a piece of software can do. But of the recent fashion for reboots, he suggests, it’s the lasting power of the source material that keeps people coming back to familiar themes. “The things I look back on from childhood are the things that are now coming back




“The things I look back on from childhood are the things now coming back around” No strings: Left, the CG reboot of Thunderbirds Are Go; below left, the original series; right, the new Clangers; below right, Disney’s Snow White

around,” he says. “The people who were influenced by those as children are now directors and producers, and in a position to make decisions on what gets made. They’re saying: ‘I loved that; let’s try to bring it back.’” But there’s also a practical advantage of a CG reboot for a modern studio. “When you think about an original stop motion or supermarionation project like Thunderbirds, there was a finite number of actual puppets. You only had three Bob the Builders, for example. “With CG you can have many people working on the same character at the same time, because they are now digital puppets, assets that can be shared. A team can work internationally, and its members don’t even have to be in the same location.” That means a production can be potentially more cost-effective – though not always – and it’s possible to make bigger, longer series based on the original characters and situations. But today’s childhood audiences have different expectations from those the seven-year-old Messinger might have had. They are used to a faster pace of storytelling, he points out.



And while CG reboots can capture the charm of an original series, he says, they can also alter the focus. The “hand-touched” quality of a traditional puppet still can’t be reproduced in CG. But regardless of technology, strong storytelling and characterisation will always shine through.

“Thunderbirds has been fairly good,” he says. “I am a fan of the original. I question it when they remake things, but it has been a fairly successful reboot because it has such great source material, with a sense of adventure.

They’ve made it more contemporary, redressing the gender balance.” And perhaps we shouldn’t think of traditional animation and CG as different spheres; there’s overlap between the two. He says: “We need to recognise the importance that technology plays in aiding and improving stop-motion animation, such as CG mouth replacement, previsualisation, 3D printing of character facial features and props, and setting up CG environments. It’s not about CG taking over; it’s about how technology can extend creativity.” A case in point is the renowned puppet-making studio Mackinnon and Saunders, which opened a digital facility in 2014. Founders Ian Mackinnon and Peter Saunders are honorary graduates of Staffordshire University, which is working on building a relationship with the studio. “We were lucky enough to take groups of students to see the studios,” says Messinger. “It gives them an idea of what a real, working studio is like.” While students were there, they saw puppets being made for one of

POTTED HISTORY Stuart Messinger is award leader for the BA(Hons) Animation and BA(Hons) Stop-Motion Animation and Puppet Making. He is a graduate of the Surrey Institute of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, and worked as a 2D animator on the CITV series Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids. His film credits include Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! He also works as an artist and writer from his studio in the West Midlands.

the more magical recent reboots, The Clangers, which uses stop-motion. And although Thunderbirds has been rebooted in CG, three new episodes are also being made under the project title Thunderbirds 1965, using original audio and Supermarionation techniques. The project – which has the blessing of Sylvia Anderson, who co-created the original – has raised more than £200,000 on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. “I find that interesting,” says Messinger. “While the Thunderbirds series is doing very well on television and is still being broadcast, there are still people who want the authenticity, the nostalgia, the hand-touched quality. Such things are cyclical: as long as there is nostalgia, people will say: ‘I want to see this in a traditional form.’” In the long run, of course, it’s up to Messinger’s students to decide what technology suits their own ideas. “It’s their influences, their nostalgia and their creative vision that will sustain this industry,” says Messinger. “They’re going to be the filmmakers and producers of the future.”

THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL Rebooting old animations is all very well. But the animation that Stuart Messinger most admires is the oldest of them all: Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animated feature film. “It’s my go-to film,” says Messinger. “It’s important in the development of cinema, not just animation. People said you shouldn’t do it, you can’t do it, they called it Disney’s folly. And he did it, even though he went bankrupt three times, which is not something I’d suggest to students. “There’s great characterisation, storytelling and use of colour. It used the multiplane camera, the cutting-edge technology of its day; the equivalent of what CG is now. It demonstrates the combination of ideas and technology – no matter how basic it seems to us now – to make your ideas go further.”





Students will soon be treated to a whole new campus experience, thanks to the greatest transformation project the University has known. Turn the page for a sneak preview...

known. Turn the page for an sneak preview... transformation project the University has

A SPACE FOR INSPIRATION What does it take to build a place of learning fit for the future? In these pages you’ll discover Staffordshire University’s answer. Above all, it requires ambition and a clear vision to develop a new campus that can deliver an exceptional student experience. And this has demanded significant investment – more than £40million for Stoke-on-Trent, plus £4.5million on Centres of Excellence at Stafford and Shrewsbury. The most far-reaching changes will be seen on the College Road site at Stoke. Construction is already well under way to transform the estate, with major structural work taking place at the Cadman, Mellor and Flaxman Buildings. What’s more, an entirely new building is taking shape...




If stone could speak, the famous frieze above the Cadman Building’s portico would have some tales to tell. This is where the University began in 1914 as the Central School of Science and Technology. In the years since, it has served generations of students in many different ways, variously housing laboratories, libraries, lecture rooms and spaces in which to meet, collaborate and socialise. Today, a new chapter in its history is about to open. The Cadman Courtyard and Pavilion will be the new home for courses in Media, Music, Games Design, Television and FX when they transfer from Stafford. There will be dedicated work spaces for each subject that will rank among the best-equipped of their kind. The library space will be made bigger, a new-look public café will open in the Thompson Gallery, and the courtyard will be turned into an improved social hub.



Staffordshire University has pioneered many new forms of learning, but there will always be a call for lecture halls, seminar rooms and teaching spaces. This requirement will be delivered in style at The Beacon, a new building at the very heart of the College Road site. The three-storey landmark, clad in grey metal, will offer flexible space for teaching across a wide range of faculties and departments, plus IT labs and a new public café to replace the Pavilion. Of course, this isn’t the first University building to be known as The Beacon: its namesake at the Beaconside Campus in Stafford is set to close in 2016. In an online poll, students and staff voted overwhelmingly that its name should live on in Stoke.


The top three storeys of the Mellor Building are undergoing a total refurbishment. They’ll be the new home of Staffordshire University’s School of Computing when it vacates the Octagon in Stafford – its base since 1992. All of the suites, labs and studios needed to deliver the University’s acclaimed information-technology courses will be under one roof, including specialised areas for Forensics, Games Programming and Data Analytics. Many facilities are supported by the industry, including the Cisco Systems Networking Academy.


Academics, administrative staff and students will all benefit from an extensive renewal of the Flaxman Building. The Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies has already moved back in, taking advantage of redesigned work spaces and better teaching facilities. The building also houses the University’s marketing and PR, finance and human-resources departments.



CHANGE IN ACTION The transformation of Staffordshire University extends far beyond College Road. A raft of improvements are taking place on the Leek Road site, including the construction of a new community garden as a social space for University members. More than 300 extra parking spaces will be created at this location, and accommodation and public sports facilities are being brought bang up to date. Although the University’s activity is being consolidated in Stoke-on-Trent, it will maintain a presence in Stafford, Shrewsbury and Lichfield. Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Blackheath Lane and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital have received a sizeable injection of funding, making sure that Staffordshire University remains at the forefront of the discipline for years to come.




Thanks to a £4million investment, Blackheath Lane is being transformed into a state-of-the-art learning facility. The specialist campus in Stafford will be home to the University’s acclaimed nursing, midwifery, paramedic and public-health courses. When it reopens in September 2016, it will be able to offer clinical-skills laboratories geared to each individual degree programme, using the latest bespoke equipment. Meanwhile, construction work is progressing to schedule at the Centre of Excellence at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. The refit includes a new reception area, student social spaces and changing facilities, and muchimproved teaching rooms, skills labs and staff offices.



When they leave for Staffordshire University, students will never have to leave their home comforts behind. Halls of Residence are all being refurbished to a high standard, with facilities that would have seemed an unimaginable luxury just a few years ago. Halls are being equipped with instant hot-water boilers and plush, comfy sofas, as well as high-tech refinements such as USB sockets, Bluetooth kitchen speakers and large flat-screen televisions. A communal pizza oven has even been installed outside the halls, for times when a take-out just won’t hit the spot. And there will always be a Residence Life Coordinator at hand to help out, organise social events and deal with any problems.


The Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre has already reopened after a £1.25million refurbishment –and as it’s now accessible to the public as well as staff and students, it will promote sport and fitness to the whole community. Gym capacity has been tripled, new studio spaces have been added and equipment has been totally updated in partnership with Matrix Fitness: the gym is the first place in the UK to feature the recently launched Connexus functional training system. Other features include a sports hall with sprung wood flooring, new sports therapy rooms and air conditioning throughout.


While the physical, bricks-and-mortar campus is transformed, a similar project will change the online landscape, improving the communications infrastructure that connects everyone at the University. The website will be totally redeveloped to put the needs of individual users first. Among the new resources for students will be an online Residence Life Hub. It will feature everything they need to make the most of their time in University accommodation – from information on local shops to forms on which they can report problems. For staff, the first-ever Intranet will be a “one-stop shop” for information, helping to connect people across the main campus, the Centres of Excellence and beyond.




CHANGING MINDS Alastair Campbell has campaigned tirelessly to improve attitudes towards mental health since leaving Downing Street. As part of his residency at the University, he gave a powerful public lecture on the topic and afterwards spoke to SA Magazine 22



As the first high-profile figure to feature in Staffordshire University’s Residency programme, Alastair Campbell worked to an intimidatingly busy schedule. Over three days in November, he met a wide cross-section of students, staff and stakeholders, and led events on such diverse topics as the future of the welfare state, crisis PR in sport and the business benefits of EU membership.

The former journalist and aide to Tony Blair toured the Students’ Union, launched Global Entrepreneurship Week and found time to offer career guidance to media and psychology students. But for his public lecture, he returned to a subject close to his heart. He chose the title: “Bonkers? All the best people are – an inspirational tribute to the achievements of the mentally ill”. In the speech, Campbell drew upon

two of his books – The Happy Depressive and his latest work, Winners and How They Succeed – plus his own experience of a mental breakdown in 1986. He argued that those with mental-health problems don’t just need support; they should also be seen as people who can make an active and unique contribution to society, as shown by inspirational yet troubled figures such as Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill and Charles Darwin.



“Students talk about mental health in a different way: attitudes are changing”

SA Magazine: You mention the importance of viewing those with mental-health issues as active contributors rather than passive victims. How can we set about changing attitudes to make this happen? Alastair Campbell: I think we’ve started doing this with the Time to Change campaign. You sometimes need campaigns to bring things together, and it’s definitely having an effect. I do think attitudes are changing. If I look at all the different people in the University here that I’ve spoken to, the students talk about mental health in a different way. That says to me that attitudes in the next generation are changing. You’ve got to keep working at it. When you’re talking about changing the way people think, there’s no easy way to do it. It’s slow, but there comes a tipping point and we’re getting there. At the end of my talks, quite a few people come up to me and tell me their own story, their own problem. Bit by bit, that’s going to break down the way we think about things. SA: In the lecture, you discussed three sectors: sport, politics and business. You suggest that the same psychological support available to elite sportspeople should be accessible in other sectors. How could this be brought about – in business, for example?



AC: A lot of companies are starting to realise that if they have an ill workforce, whether that’s through physical or mental illness, it’s a less effective workforce. If they constantly have to scrabble around, filling in for people, hiring casual staff who aren’t properly trained and don’t know the systems, that actually damages the organisation. A lot of this is about leadership. I wish that more company leaders would talk openly about having had problems in the past because I think a lot of them have, but they don’t want to be seen as being weak. To my mind, it’s not a weakness but a strength to talk about it. So I think it’s again a cultural change, and some companies are doing it. They have a culture which says that if you’re feeling under pressure, if you’re stressed, if you’re feeling you’re not performing well because you’re overworked and tired, that is not going to be held against you. On the contrary – we’d rather you were open and honest about that and we could deal with it. SA: What has turned out to be the most effective way of getting the message out there and chipping away at prejudices? AC: Some of the best stuff, the most powerful stuff, has come through things like soap operas – having actors in EastEnders, Coronation Street


or whatever it might be who are playing people who are going through difficult mental challenges. That has an impact. I think the Time to Change campaign is having an effect. I find more and more people wanting to be open, and this is what’s going to change us in the end. It will put pressure on the policy makers and politicians to understand that they have to improve mental-health services, because there will be a greater demand for those services. My worry at the moment is that we’re making strides in awareness and understanding, and that makes people want to be more open, but they don’t necessarily find the support services.

SA: Would you say that there are elements of the media that are acting against this movement to change attitudes for the better? AC: There are, but I think that in general the media are not so bad on this – and I criticise the media about a lot of things. You still get “Psycho killer on the loose”; you still get “What’s he got to be depressed about?” But a few years ago, when the Sun splashed with a headline “Bonkers Bruno locked up”, they’d changed it to “Sad Frank in hospital” for the late editions. That was because there was an immediate reaction. I think it’s important to see this in the context of previous campaigns.

I’m a football fan and I think back to the Seventies and Eighties, when black players would routinely get monkey chants, bananas thrown and all that stuff. That’s gone, and it went in large part because of campaigns. So I see what we’re doing on the Time to Change campaign in that context. We’re trying to change the way people think and talk about issues. SA: You spoke about the Norwegian prime minister who took time off for depression: do you think we’ll get to the stage in Britain where senior politicians can do that, openly telling the electorate that they’ve had mentalhealth problems and sought treatment?




people feel they can’t do it. So the more we have doing it, the better. SA: Do you think there’s a role for the education system in all this – from citizenship classes at primary and secondary level to the universities?

AC: I think so, and I think the sooner it happens, the better. I don’t think any of the politicians who have done so regret it. Charles Walker, the Tory, has got OCD and he’s talked about it quite openly. A couple of Labour MPs have talked about their depression. One of the reasons why I talk about it so much is because it helps me. I think I am seen as someone who’s pretty tough and has done quite a lot of things, and I don’t feel I’ve done them despite my breakdown: I’ve done them in

part because of my breakdown. So yes, I do think there will come a time when a politician feels able to say, “I need to take three months off. I’ve got really bad stress. I’ve had a breakdown.” And they’ll worry that they won’t be able to come back from that but there’ll be plenty of people they can look at and say, “They did it. So why can’t I?” If our politicians can’t do that, our headteachers feel they can’t do it, doctors feel they can’t do it, business

AC: Definitely. I did a session yesterday with some nursing and psychology students who are working in hospitals at the moment. And they say they’re noticing more young people reporting with anxiety, depression and self-harm. I just think we should be talking about that stuff in primary schools. I certainly think that places like Staffordshire University have a huge role to play. I know from my own kids and my own life that when you leave home for the first time, going away into a strange environment, all sort of stuff is going on. Universities and colleges have a huge role to play in making sure people are open and honest about how they’re feeling and whether they might need support. And then – crucially – in making sure the support is there.

SELECTED READING The Blair Years (2008)

The Happy Depressive (2012)

Campbell published further accounts of life as Tony Blair’s press chief, but this volume of diary excerpts was a publishing bombshell.

First published as an e-book, this enquiry into happiness draws upon the writer’s personal experiences of mental illness and bereavement.

All in the Mind (2008)

Winners and How They Succeed (2015)

The relationship between a quartet of psychiatric patients and their doctor, himself experiencing mental crisis, is explored in his first novel.

Is there a secret to success? Campbell puts the greatest talents of the modern era under the microscope, from athletes to business magnates.



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GREATEST HITS TOUR Thirty years ago, a shadowy group arrived in Stafford to start their degree courses in technology. Soon known as the HIT Squad, they bonded over a shared interest in computers, heavy metal, go-karting and beer. We caught up with them as they revisited some old haunts




“Many enterprises kept us together, such as juggling and especially real ale”


any of us may remember being eager to start our degree courses, but few could claim to be as keen as Kevin Urwin, who in 1985 turned up at what was then North Staffordshire Polytechnic a whole week early. “I got the times wrong,” he admits. “I was supposed to go to a house with a lady who rented her rooms to students, but whether it was because I was early or because I had really long hair, she just didn’t like the look of me.” She was even less thrilled when her new lodger revealed that he played guitar and loved heavy-metal music. So it’s no surprise that as soon as he could, Kevin moved into the Brooke Court tower block where several of his coursemates also lived. They were to become the core of a group of friends that dubbed itself the HIT Squad, and this October nine Squaddies went back

to the campus for a 30-year reunion. The HIT Squad members had more in common with Steve Jobs than James Bond. They were all computer programmers, among the polytechnic’s earliest intake on the Honours Information Technology course, from which they took their name. What’s more, Kevin wasn’t the only HIT Squaddie whose student days got off to an unanticipated start. Paul Jones, who had gone straight into Brooke Court, settled in so well that on his first day he missed the shuttle bus to campus “due to a night in the Yeoman pub on the Highfields Estate, and had to get a taxi to registration.” The course they’d enrolled on was wide ranging, taking in “electronics, from simple networks up to chip design, and software, from machine code up to artificial intelligence,” recalls Squaddie Chris Norman. “The course [intake] wasn’t massive and the group fostered cooperation and knowledge sharing.” But exciting early-days computing

design wasn’t the only thing the new coursemates bonded over. Chris says: “Many joint enterprises kept us together, from Kevin’s band Pariah to wargaming. I dragged several along to juggling conventions. And especially, there was real ale.” Performing regularly in pubs and at Rag week talent nights, Pariah’s speciality was “dodgy covers of glam and hair metal,” according to Kevin. “We used to dress up in outrageous costumes. It was all about getting girls.” “We’d go go-karting,” adds Squaddie Peter Rimmer. “The Go-Kart Club had a few vehicles maintained by the students and we’d go and race them at the airstrip. I was one of seven people sharing a house and we had various motorbikes, pushbikes – we were all pretty mechanically minded.” Nevertheless, the Honours Information Technology courseload was demanding. “We seemed to do more lectures than everyone else and more classes than everyone else,” says Peter. The students were also kept busy travelling across the polytechnic’s sites,



with classes split between Beaconside and Blackheath Lane. With such a busy schedule, it was perhaps inevitable that one activity quickly emerged as the HIT Squad’s favoured pursuit: going down the pub. So it’s no surprise that their 30-year reunion featured not one, but two pub crawls, the first on the outskirts of Stafford, followed by one in the town centre on the following night. “On Friday we drove round all the old haunts outside of town,” says Paul. “We went to Derrington where we used to live in a farmhouse that was kind of derelict, but has been renovated and is now lovely. Our Derrington local is no longer a pub, though.” Thirty years is a long time in the publican’s trade, and Saturday



night’s pub crawl was a hit-and-miss affair. “It was sad to see one particular pub in a real state of disarray,” says Pete. “It used to be our regular student haunt because it was right across the road from the Students’ Union, but we got up and left the beer, it was that bad.” Another watering hole has undergone an improbable but successful reincarnation: Stafford’s former biker pub in the Market Square now does an excellent vegan burger. “It’s modernised and all very trendy, but that was a high point,” Pete says. The Squaddies also toured the University campus, and found more changes awaiting them – not just the inevitable rapid advances in computing technology, but the reconfiguration inside and out of buildings they once knew. “Even the common room had had a makeover,” says Chris, “though some of our lecture rooms were still there.” One room brought memories of a particularly arduous learning experience flooding back: mastering Pascal programming code on a “sequential line editor”. “If you made one mistake,” says Paul, with a sigh, “you had to do the whole line over again.” Paul was particularly struck by one

building, the Octagon: “It was built just after we left, a massive, purpose-built place for computing.” But perhaps most startling was the realisation that for some of their number – the group included several mature students – their own working lives have come full circle. “It’s a bit nerve-racking,” Kevin explains, “because you get to know people for a few years at the start of their careers, and then we meet up again and it’s near the end of their career. It was like ‘What did you do?’ But it was all so friendly: there was no need at all to be nervous.” For computing specialists, the HIT Squaddies admit they were surprisingly slow to connect up through evolving technologies. Email came first, and reconnected a handful through a Yahoo! group. Then the friends kept in touch sporadically on LinkedIn, before forging firmer ties on Facebook. They plan to make good use of it again soon. “It was gratifying to know that the HIT Squad could still hang together after all these years,” says Chris. “Now there’s talk of another meet-up – perhaps to celebrate 30 years after graduation!”


“It was gratifying to know we could still hang together after all these years.”



A THRIVING ENTERPRISE A decade on from admitting its first students, the University’s partnership with Chengdu University of Technology is training the next generation of Chinese entrepreneurs


f you’re not familiar with the city of Chengdu, statistics suggest that you soon will be. The capital of Sichuan province is a major economic hub of western China, with a growing urban population that now numbers more than 7.5 million people. Earlier this year, the China Daily reported that its GDP had rocketed from 814 billion yuan (£84bn) to one trillion yuan (£103bn) in just three years. It’s a fitting home for one of the University’s most successful international partnerships – a collaboration that has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. Since 2005, students have been able to study towards Staffordshire University qualifications at the stateoperated Chengdu University of Technology (CDUT). “The programme has grown quite significantly,” says Lee Zhuang, Head of International Partnerships. “When we first



started, we had about 100 students in the first intake. Now we have 1,500 studying at our partner institution.” Seven Staffordshire University validated degree courses have been approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education. BA(Hons) programmes are offered in Business Management, International Business Management and Marketing Management. In June 2014, approval was also granted to BSc(Hons) Internet of Things, Knowledge Management, Software Engineering and Web Development. An international Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCEi) programme is also being run at Chengdu. Students have the option of coming to the UK for part of their degree. Lee Zhuang says: “This now delivers around 70 students to our on-campus

Cause to celebrate: Above, the group photo. Below, the British delegation

provision in Staffordshire each year. Some come to study at level 5 [second-year] and others for level 6 [final honours year]. A few then stay on as postgraduates. I think it helps greatly with our cultural diversity on campus.” Chengdu has become known as an enterprise-friendly city, thanks to a host of government initiatives to encourage students, scientists and technology innovators to start businesses. Alumni interviews suggest that the Staffordshire University programmes have proved very effective in equipping graduates with the skills needed to take advantage of these new opportunities. Many former students returned to CDUT for the tenth-anniversary event, which also welcomed the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Gunn, Lee Zhuang and a British delegation. Highlights included a celebration banquet, a basketball game between Chinese and British alumni, and a special graduation ceremony. Dr Zhuang says: “It was aimed at those who had not had a chance to attend graduation in China or the UK before, and around 80 graduates attended. It’s worth noting that it was the day after the Chinese president’s visit to the UK – so it felt like a continuation of that celebration!”


“I’m able to put into practice what I learned on the course”

JAY JING graduated from the BA(Hons) in Business Management at CDUT in 2010, having completed the degree in Stoke-on-Trent. He works as a teacher and entrepreneur in China, with a stake in several businesses. I think the collaboration between Staffordshire University and CDUT is one of the most successful programmes in Chengdu. We benefited from a pure English teaching environment, and getting a good British undergraduate degree provided me with the opportunity to apply for postgraduate study in a British University. When I came back to China, my first job was working as a treasury analyst. At the same time, I started to operate my businesses. Now I’m a shareholder in a pub, a jewellery workshop and a restaurant – though officially I’m a teacher working in Chengdu, teaching tourism and hospitality management. Studying overseas really changed me a lot. I enjoy tasting different cultures in life. I’ve been able to put into practice what I learnt on the course, especially when it comes to business evaluation.

YAN HAN completed the BA(Hons) Business Management at CDUT with a final year in Stoke-on-Trent, graduating in 2012. He is a managing partner of three Chinese companies. When I started the programme, I found it very different from a traditional Chinese university, especially the group projects and presentations. But as I got used to it, I enjoyed it. I made friends from other countries and got involved in new challenges, including making it to the semi-final of an IBM business competition. After graduating, I did a Masters before returning to China. I spent some time with a start-up specialising in analysis for the internet finance industry, and writing several books on the subject. I then started my own business, helping people pay rent monthly. In China, people normally pay rent quarterly or half yearly, which causes pressure for graduates who are just starting work. My Staffordshire University degree definitely helped, from the business analysis knowledge that helps me target the right markets, to presentation experience which has helped me to secure angel investment.



Set the controls: Paula Jackson, secretary to the Head of Department, at the DEUCE console in the late Sixties

DIGITAL PIONEERS For 50 years, the School of Computing has represented excellence in IT education. On the eve of its move to Stoke-on-Trent, we mark the occasion with a look back at iconic items from the University’s Computing Futures Museum, plus cutting-edge kit used by today’s students By Victoria James 34




taffordshire University departments pride themselves on continually improving results and investing in better equipment, but only one can boast a 10-million fold leap over the past 50 years: Computing. That’s the difference in memory capacity between the one-ton DEUCE (Digital Electronic Universal Computing Engine) that powered the early years of study and the desktop machines that will fill the School of Computing when it moves to Stoke in September 2016. It’s a move that will “mark the next stage of the School’s incredible journey,” according to its current head, Tracy Lewis. And what a journey it has been. Staffordshire College of Technology, the University’s direct ancestor, was one of five pioneering institutions that were the first in the country to teach undergraduate degrees in the subject in 1965. It had the smallest starting cohort of the five pioneers, just 11 students. But it immediately pulled away from





Requiring its own air-conditioning unit, the DEUCE had to be winched into its first-floor home at Blackheath Lane. It made use of mercury delay lines and a magnetic drum for storage, and two cathode-ray tubes for use as display units.



The College acquired its third digital computer, the English Electric 4/50, in 1968. Like many machines of the time, it was programmed with punched cards.

the others (Manchester University and the technology colleges of Brighton, Hatfield and Wolverhampton) by enrolling 60 students the following year and more than 100 by 1967. And uniquely out of those five institutions, the first Staffordshire Graduate to cross the stage and collect a Computing degree in 1969 was a woman. Beryl Gjerstad received first-class honours. Staffordshire University continues to this day to be an innovative and worldclass centre for the discipline. When the School of Computing moves into the Mellor building next year, its labs will benefit from £5million of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) funding awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But then, the University’s computer scientists have long been adept at securing the funding that’s so essential to drive their discipline forward. “In 1986 we got money out of the County Council, which funded polytechnics at the time, because there hadn’t been a lot of snow that winter so they had some cash left over,” recalls Professor Roy Newton,



one of that 1965 undergraduate intake who rose to be the first Dean of the department in 1986 and was appointed to the new University’s first Chair in Computing in 1994. “The Director called me up and said ‘Let’s help them spend that spare money. How much could you use?’ So I said £1.6million. Not long after, he rang back and said ‘They’ve agreed. I should have asked for more!’ So we laid Ethernet across the campus and got a DEC VAX 8800 – the most powerful teaching computer in Europe. And that was a crucial moment for Computing at Staffordshire.” The University’s track record in attracting funding continued in 1993, when Staffordshire University went one better than the US Department of Defense by building not a Pentagon, but an Octagon. This brought all Stafford computing activities together in one site on the Beaconside campus, and became one of the best-known symbols of the University. The project attracted £11 million from HEFCE’s predecessor, the Polytechnics and



In the Seventies, any computers featured in science fiction or spy thrillers were sure to have spinning wheels of tape. In fact, magnetic tape was an essential storage medium and 20MB was a generous capacity.

Images courtesy of:, Auto Pilot, Stuart Brady and Micheal Piotrowski




The story of removable storage, like much else in computing, is one of miniaturisation. Before the 3½” and 5¼” floppy disk, the 8” version was standard.



Students starting Computing degrees at the Polytechnic would have learnt basic concepts on a BBC Micro at school, and they were used in Poly departments including Engineering.




Computing power was expanding at an exponential rate – but the quickest way of working out exponential calculations was still the mathematician’s loyal friend, the slide rule. Several examples are preserved in the University’s Computing Futures Museum.



While the internet was within the reach of only a very select group of research scientists, other forms of networking flourished. With this modem, users could gain access to services such as British Telecom’s Micronet 800, which featured news, e-mail and chat services.


The use of a mouse as an input device was popularised by the Apple Macintosh in 1984, and point-and-click graphical interfaces soon became ubiquitous through Microsoft Windows. As this example suggests, it was a while before the design settled into a standard configuration.

“We were solving real industrial and business problems” Colleges Funding Council – the biggest single funding grant the council ever awarded to a polytechnic. But what made – and continues to make – Staffordshire’s contribution to the teaching of computing unique wasn’t just its commitment to maintaining cutting-edge infrastructure. It was also the work that went on inside those buildings, using that equipment. The legacy

of applied and immersive study continues to shape Staffordshire’s achievements in the field today. The institution’s first course leader, Don Conway, was “an icon in the development of computing education,” says Newton. “In 1972 Conway started the initiative to have degrees in Information Systems. Staffs had not only the first degrees, but also the first HNDs (Higher

National Diplomas) in Computing. “In the early Nineties, Staffs was about the first to start degrees in Technology Management under Professor Alan Eardley. We were all about applied, industrial development stuff. We weren’t splitting atoms: we were solving real industrial and business problems.” It is a measure of this that the University’s students have taken up






Before laser printing reached the mass market, so-called “letter-quality” printing could be achieved with a golf ball printer.




Introduced in 1989, the Intel 486 family of processor chips represented a big improvement over its predecessor, the 80386. It was replaced by the Pentium.

placements within an extraordinary array of industrial, corporate and research environments. The list doesn’t just include big players in the IT industry such as IBM, Microsoft and Cisco – it encompasses everything from police forensics and Airbus helicopters to luxury brands such as Porsche and TAG Heuer. CERN, the Swiss home of the Large Hadron Collider, is a regular destination for Staffordshire University students, with one recent intern rubbing elbows with NASA astronauts in the canteen. Tracy Lewis says: “Many employers return year after year, seeking both placement students and graduates, in some cases coming to us as their first port of call. Employers typically say that our students have impressive theoretical and practical knowledge and quickly become valuable and capable members of their teams, making contributions of the highest professional standards.” In the past five years, the University has not only supplied its own graduates to industry, but has also established itself as a deliverer of work-based



At the turn of the millennium, a new form of removable storage appeared. The flash drive or “memory stick” was tiny and robust, with no moving parts or susceptibility to magnetic fields. Early models stored 8MB; in 2015, terabyte (1,000,000MB) versions are common!

learning and corporate programmes. What began as a ground-breaking collaboration with FTSE 250 soft drinks giant Britvic has grown into a nationally recognised training provision for British Telecom, Vodafone and NHS health informatics services. Staffordshire also delivers Foundation and top-up degrees in Computing to large numbers of British Armed Forces personnel. Another of the University’s striking successes, with roots that go back to its earliest days, is innovation in school-age computing education. The Technical College’s first cohort of students was already engaging with schools back in 1969, when a “portable computer” was a near-unimaginable concept. Instead, students travelled out to local schools with a “data link”, a cumbersome wireless device that could communicate with the behemoth computer back on the Stafford campus. “The data link was incredibly heavy,” says Roy Newton. “I remember once it got loaded into the van on a hill, but the brake wasn’t on and the whole thing started rolling

slowly backward. The driver came running pretty quickly when he saw it.” Disaster was averted, and for 50 years Staffordshire has championed the widest possible access to Computing qualifications, from creating an intake stream for schoolleavers without A-level Maths back in the 1970s, to establishing conversion Masters courses for graduates from all fields. In 2014 the University hosted its first National Computer Science in Schools conference, in step with the nationwide introduction of new GCSEs in Computer Science. Plans for the future include rolling out the University’s Coding Club to schools and colleges. From that first 1965 intake of just 11 students, Staffordshire’s Computing graduates now make up one of the University’s largest alumni groups, numbering nearly 40,000. And the University collaborates on the world stage with no fewer than eight international partners, in countries ranging from Malaysia to Ghana to Oman. These overseas affiliates have graduated more than 25,000 students

Images courtesy of: Henry Mühlpfordt and Official GDC




Digital Forensics students at Staffordshire University learn how to use the XRY system to probe data on suspect devices. It links any tablet or smartphone to a PC for data to be examined.

with Staffordshire University qualityassured Computing qualifications. So, as it celebrates 50 pioneering years of Computing teaching, Staffordshire can reflect on how far it’s come from the 1960s, when that one-ton DEUCE was the department’s big draw. “I remember showing some prospective students around,” says Newton. “The DEUCE was so big it had a door in the back, and as a joke I told them it was powered by a bloke inside with a slide rule. Now, it was a cold day in winter, and when I opened it up to show them there was indeed a lab technician inside having a sandwich in the warm. Funnily enough, I don’t remember them applying.” These days, more students than ever



Next year sees the release of the PlayStation VR, Sony’s new virtual-reality headset that promises to revolutionise immersive gaming – but Computer Games Programming students have already had the chance to make themselves familiar with the hardware.

are experiencing all that Computing at Staffordshire University has to offer. And that, says Lewis, is nothing less than the opportunity to be part of “the development of technology, and to shape the world in which we live and work today”. She says: “The School of Computing continues to be one of the largest Higher Education Schools of Computing in the UK, offering one of the most diverse portfolios of undergraduate and postgraduate course subjects. We’re at the forefront of award developments, transnational education, employer engagement, industrial placements and enterprise and research activities. I don’t think that’s bad in 50 years!”



Today’s School of Computing offers courses in areas that were outside the realm of science fiction 50 years ago – but true to its origins, they’re all geared to addressing the current needs of the sector and emerging markets in the digital ecosphere. Subjects that may be studied include Games Programming, Software Engineering, Mobile Systems, Computer Networks, Cybersecurity, Embedded Systems, Web Programming, Multimedia and Interactive Systems, Information Systems, and Business Information Technology. The latest developments include courses in Cloud Computing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things. The School continues to invest in industry-leading technologies and resources, and the principle of practical scholarship remains central to its mission. Students are encouraged to innovate, develop employability skills, and engage in work placements and entrepreneurship so that they emerge as practitioners ready for a career in the digital sector.



OAT CUISINE Few would claim that Staffordshire is a county noted for its cuisine, but one writer argues that it’s definitely worth getting your teeth into some of our regional specialities By Tom Burnett


any parts of Britain have a dish that is synonymous with the area – an iconic culinary item that immediately comes to mind. Lancashire has its hotpot, for example, and Cornwall has its pasties. Other places have their own drink. No trip to Scotland would be complete without a dram of whisky and few people can truthfully claim to have visited Ireland without throwing back a pint or ten of Guinness. But what about Staffordshire? Well, many people may not be aware of it, but I’d argue that Staffordshire has a cuisine to rival any other region in the British Isles. And at the core of this rich gastronomic experience is the mighty oatcake. Definitely not to be confused with its Scottish namesake, the Staffordshire oatcake is actually a savoury pancake made from oatmeal, flour and yeast. It’s difficult to think of another foodstuff that’s so versatile. Oatcakes are equally good for breakfast, lunch or dinner – or all three if you’re really keen to go native. Best of all, they go with absolutely everything. Sausages, cheese and bacon are the most usual fillings, but there’s nothing stopping you from adding jam, syrup or just butter and sugar as though you were dealing with a normal – and inferior – pancake. It’s the ultimate convenience food. In fact, oatcake shops were once a feature of almost every street



in Stoke-on-Trent, providing fast food long before Ronald McDonald crossed the Atlantic to set up shop. Oatcakes are not to everyone’s taste; they’re as divisive as marmite to people from outside Staffordshire. But to folk from the Potteries, they’re not just a staple food, but a medicine. Oatcakes are believed by many locals to be the only food that can effectively cure a hangover. Some people put this down to their sponge-like consistency being able to soak up toxins and any alcohol that may still be swilling around. As yet, there’s no

“Oatcake shops were once a feature of every street corner in Stoke-on-Trent” scientific backing for this theory, but the proof (as they say) is in the eating. There’s more to Staffordshire cuisine than just oatcakes. Another dish that’s popular with locals yet all-but-unknown to anyone from outside the bounds of the county is lobby. This hearty stew is a distant relative of the more famous Liverpool “lobscouse”, from which the cityfolk get their nickname. As with scouse, there’s no definitive recipe. Corned beef, onions and diced

potatoes feature in many versions of the dish, but its original function was to use up any leftovers from the Sunday joint with vegetables that were often homegrown. It was traditionally eaten by poorly paid potters in Stoke’s ceramics factories, who couldn’t afford fresh food every day. Today, it’s a perfect meal for student kitchens: cheap, easy to put together and very difficult to mess up. What are you going to drink while wolfing down your oatcakes and lobby on your gastronomic odyssey? It goes without saying that Staffordshire’s climate doesn’t lend itself to wine cultivation, but there’s a healthy and resurgent ale scene. Local breweries include Titanic in Burslem – a family company that produces nautically named ales including Steerage, Iceberg and White Star. Since 2014, Fenton has had its own brewery, RAN Ales. Its Hedge Hopper Ale recently had the distinction of being served at the Strangers’ Bar in the Houses of Parliament. Another of its beers may have done a better job of spicing up Parliamentary procedure, though: Honey Chilli Flya, as the name suggests, is fortified with honey for sweetness and chillis for a hot kick. So, with traditional grub close to hand and excellent drink to wash it down, there’s no excuse not to get familiar with one of the most underrated culinary scenes in the country. Get tucked in, duck!


POTTED HISTORY Tom Burnett, 27, is studying journalism at the University and is also a part-time lecturer. He has worked as a reporter for The Sentinel and has also written for Staffs Live, Kettle Magazine and Review Avenue. He lives in Leek, Staffordshire.

MAKING YOUR OWN Oatcakes are simple to make. You’ll need 200g plain flour, 200g fine oatmeal, 1tsp salt, 1tsp sugar, 15g dried yeast, 425ml water and 425ml milk, both slightly warm. Mix the salt, flour and oatmeal, and mix the milk and water together. Reconstitute the yeast with some warm water and add the sugar. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly to make a batter, cover with a tea towel and leave for around an hour. Then pour the batter to make each oatcake onto a thick pan or griddle, cook for three minutes then flip like a pancake to cook the other side.






COMPUTER LITERACY Technology can play a key role in getting children to love books, according to one of many European projects powered by Staffordshire University research


ecent research by the National Literary Trust suggests that 22 per cent of school-age children rarely or never read in their own time, and 17 per cent would be embarrassed even to be seen reading a book. So how do we encourage the next generation to develop a love of literature? A Europe-wide project involving Staffordshire University suggests that one answer could be the use of creative digital collaboration in the classroom. AMORES, part-funded by the European Commission, involves 10 teachers and 400 children in six countries including the UK. It’s just one example of the strong links that the Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies has been forging with partner institutions throughout Europe. Through these exchanges of knowledge, Staffordshire University research is having a measurable impact all over the continent, from Scandinavia to Eastern Europe and the Balkans. AMORES encourages teachers to use technology to involve children with the stories that they read, by getting them to work together on digital artworks known as “e-artefacts”. The idea is that these – which include comic strips, animations and videos – build on the characters and themes in the stories, ultimately encouraging children to read more. Janet Hetherington, senior researcher at Staffordshire University’s Creative Communities Unit, has been leading the University’s involvement in the project. She says: “The project draws on research showing how collaborative work seems to have a positive effect on

children’s experiences of reading, alongside findings that show that creating ‘e-artefacts’ is indeed a collaborative process. “So the idea is that you merge the two together: you use group work to create digital artefacts, and then that engages children in reading and literature. That’s the core of what we’ve been doing.” Fittingly for a project that promotes creative collaboration, it’s itself arranged as an international academic partnership. Led by CARNET, the Croatian Academic and Research Network, it involves researchers and schools in Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Greece as well as the UK. Each country and each school has taken a slightly different approach when creating e-artefacts. That’s partly because the focus of AMORES is on “national literatures” – texts that are specific to each country – which are usually part of the canon that is promoted and studied in schools. However, “national literatures” doesn’t necessarily mean classic works of literature that have been taught for generations. Hetherington says: “It’s also about what new texts are becoming national literature. We’re not doing Harry Potter, but that would be a good example in the UK of a text that’s now universally

“You create digital artefacts, and this encourages reading and literature” ISSUE FOUR






recognised by most young people and adults as being a piece of British literature.” Part of Hetherington’s role has also been to run interactive workshops for teachers in different countries, introducing the AMORES theory and methodology so it can be tweaked and adapted for different situations. “We have shared our learning all across Europe, from a conference in Tallinn to a workshop in Stoke-on-Trent,” she says. “The findings and resources have been universally well received.” Teachers took an active role in the research process from the start. Initial workshops, for example, included sessions dedicated to helping teachers think about what a “love of literature” meant, as that could vary from school to school. “For some places it’s about trying to get children to read more at home, and in other places it’s more to do with improving reading skills. We also looked at how teachers use existing ICT in the classroom, working out what could be done to encourage them to use the technology they had at their disposal.” By allowing them to try out the theory in the classroom and then come back as a group to analyse the impact that it made, the AMORES team gave teachers a lot of latitude to “shape what the next part of the project was going to be”, according to Hetherington. On top of this, some of the schools found another benefit: using the project to help with language learning. Hetherington says: “I went to a class in Denmark, and they did the whole class in Danish – until the last hour, when they switched to English and decided that they were going to reflect on what they were doing in their lessons! So our European partners were having fun from a linguistic point of view.” The AMORES project was completed in November 2015 with an event in Dubrovnik, Croatia, attended by the

“We’ve shared our learning across Europe, from a conference in Tallinn to a workshop in Stoke-on-Trent” winners of an e-artefact competition for schools. But it’s just one example of researchers from Staffordshire University’s Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies taking a leading role in cross-European projects. A similar initiative was Mindset, aimed at developing tools and training to support teachers in managing classroom diversity, and helping students to understand social inclusion and tolerance. That project was led by Staffordshire University with collaborators in Austria, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Greece. Dr Barbara Emadi-Coffin, Head of the Creative Communities Unit at Staffordshire, says: “It was about trying to take communities which are perhaps used to being rather homogenous, and getting people of all ages to accept newly arrived people,” Also Staffordshire-led was the Residency project, in collaboration with Barcelona and Warsaw universities. This arranged for artists from each country to visit one of the others for a two-month residency in a vulnerable community – one example being care homes in North Staffordshire, which hosted the Spanish photographer Almudena Caso. “Out of these experiences, we produced a toolkit for people who want to do this kind of work in future,” says Mark Webster, Head of Staffordshire University’s School for Art and Design. One unique initiative was built on historic links between Stoke-on-Trent and continental Europe – albeit in the context of one of the darkest periods of European history. On June 10, 1942, the Nazis destroyed Lidice, near Prague in the Czech Republic. In response to the

massacre, Stoke-on-Trent doctor Barnett Stross immediately launched the “Lidice Shall Live” campaign, establishing a fund to rebuild the village after the War. More than 70 years on, senior lecturer Dr Jackie Reynolds and her team revisited this tragic episode to examine how arts and culture could develop reflection and empathy across national divides. In 2014, she led a group visit to Lidice for its annual commemoration of the tragedy, chronicling their visit on film and gaining valuable research insights. As a result of this, new resources have been produced to aid future initiatives – including a set of “Caring Cards” designed by the Stoke-based artist Nicola Winstanley to spark off discussion on themes of empathy, compassion and understanding in arts projects. Dr Reynolds says: “It’s a unique resource, because the illustrations that she has done are in direct response to the research findings.” Back at AMORES, it seems children have taken to the project with gusto. On the Greek island of Kos, one school – the eventual winner of the e-artefacts competition – created a video from children’s drawings, based on a Dodecanese folk tale. Other children have created digital comic strips based on photographs of Lego characters; another group even designed an electronic version of the card game Top Trumps based on the books they had been reading. Hetherington says: “The artefacts take whatever form the young people create: stop-frame animation, film, even adapting games like Minecraft... anything that’s digitally produced, really. It all works to develop positive attitudes towards reading.”


45 45

LET’S GO TO WORK Readying students for a rewarding career has always been part of the Staffordshire University experience. Now guaranteed work experience and an annual CareersFest are making doubly sure every graduate is equipped for life beyond the campus




WORK EXPERIENCED: Parker Software Name: Mitchell Hancock Degree: Computer Games Programming “I was a member of the technical support team, so I was helping out customers who used the company’s software. I didn’t do any programming, but it was a very valuable experience for the year and I hope to go back to Parker Software when I’ve finished. I’d like to get a software role when I leave Uni, so it will be slightly different. But being in an IT job for a year taught me a lot of skills.”

WORK EXPERIENCED: CGI Name: Laura Mizzi Degree: Digital Forensics “I started out helping with communications and then I was doing second line support, maintaining databases and checking systems were working. I had a broad understanding of programming and how computers work, and that was very helpful on my placement. I’d been learning how to analyse things for two years, so when it came to troubleshooting, I was able to do it. My placement helped me understand how I can get the career that I want. Working with CGI and talking to the people there, I now know better how to achieve my goal.”

WORK EXPERIENCED: Red Bull Racing Name: Jonathan Appleby Degree: Computer Science


ith apologies to James Bond’s family motto, a degree is not enough. Academic achievement is no longer sufficient to make a candidate stand out in the world of work, and employability is the single most important attribute that graduates can emerge from university with. It’s not a new phenomenon. Six years ago, an influential report was launched by the Confederation of British Industry and Universities UK – the association representing all British universities – setting out the importance of preparing students for the workplace. At that time, CBI director-general Richard Lambert said: “Universities and business must

“I worked as an IT support engineer. I think there were eight of us on the IT team. As a graduate I think I’ll want to look at a bigger business, but it was a great experience. It was a more technical, hardware-oriented, hands-on role than my course, which is quite software led. That suited me better. On my feedback form, my manager said he was impressed with how I and another Staffs Uni student knew the business. He liked the way we were taught.”

WORK EXPERIENCED : BBC Antiques Roadshow Name: Avida Buyombo Degree: Television and Radio Studies “It was an interesting experience to be part of such a flagship BBC production. You don’t really know what goes into making such a big programme as Antiques Roadshow. I was a steward, so my job role was to look after the audience who came for the show. It highlighted the level of professionalism that goes into it. I’m now more aware of all the people who work on a programme, and what their jobs entail.”



do more to meet the pent up demand that exists among students for doing work placements and internships during a degree, and developing skills they know will be vital in getting a good job after graduation.” Since then, most universities have ramped up such initiatives to a greater or lesser degree; but employability has always been at the top of Staffordshire University’s agenda. Earlier this decade, it pioneered the Staffordshire Graduate pledge, promising that students would leave their courses with real-world skills



and attributes beyond simple academic knowledge. Now the University is guaranteeing that every new student will have the chance to take part in a period of work experience during their degree. Placements have already been offered across a wide range of industries and business sectors. Students can opt for one related to their area of study, or one that involves more general experience to broaden employment skills. To give an idea of this breadth, previous employers offering places have ranged from Stoke City Football Club, Newcastle Jazz

and Blues Festival and the Tourism Management Institute to Slidesports Race Engineering, Red Bull and the BBC. Sandwich placements, stints that include multiple organisations, paid internships and work shadowing have all been offered. In October 2015, the University launched its annual CareersFest, supported by the Careers Service and Students’ Union. During the weeklong event, students were able to meet employers and take part in sessions on topics such as CV building, pitching


business ideas, volunteering and finding internships. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Gunn, says: “We want more of our students to get graduate level jobs and so we launched CareersFest during Independent Study Week. We are looking to engage all our students in a range of activities to inspire them and get them thinking and planning for life after graduation.” A range of employers came along to CareersFest to run activity and advice sessions, including KPMG, the Army, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Davies Group and Emma Bridgewater Ltd. Other companies were represented at the event by employees who were themselves Staffordshire Graduates – some of whom got their first break through work placements. Now internal communications manager at Michelin, Danielle Jankovic had previously studied Events Management at the University. She says: “I did a placement in my third year at Michelin, organising events for a big centenary. As a result, I had the offer to work part-time during my final year, and at the end was offered a full-time role.” High-tech tools were at hand to help the students with their job prospects. They could download a CareersFest event app to create a personalised agenda, interact

with speakers and careers staff, and receive event alerts. An added incentive was the chance to take part in the Job Hackathon – a competition that involved going through an application and interview process for a “dream job”, with the top three candidates winning a £250 Potteries Shopping Centre voucher. Alongside all these new schemes, more traditional modes of delivering careers advice are still very much in operation. Throughout their studies, and after they graduate, Staffordshire students can access the resources at the Careers Network, with bases on the Stoke and Stafford campuses. Here, professional employment counsellors offer coaching, including interview preparation and

assistance in identifying jobs and work placements. But if they can’t make it to campus, alumni can access Careers Network resources through eCoach, an internet portal offering simulated interviews, an interactive CV builder and psychometric testing among a wealth of other services. In all of these ways, the University is ensuring that Staffordshire Graduates are among the most work-ready in the country. This is good news not just for students but for the region’s economy as a whole, according to David Frost, chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. He says: “Skilled graduates are absolutely vital to the success of the economy here in Stoke and Staffordshire. If we’re to have a successful, vibrant future, it will rely on having bright graduates, bright young people who are able to bring the skills that they’ve learnt into play with local businesses, organisations and the public sector to help them grow and create more jobs.”




TURNING CLAY INTO GOLD By Paul Williams With new visitor centres and a starring role in a primetime BBC show, Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramics heritage is becoming a major tourist attraction. It could be key to the region’s regeneration, says the Head of Staffordshire University Business School 50



Photograph by Tim Crocker


n his book English Journey – an account of his travels around the nation in 1933 – the novelist and playwright J B Priestley wrote of Stoke-on-Trent: “May cups and saucers and plates and teapots run like magic out of the clay; may the ovens never grow cold.” His wish has been granted: Stoke remains a unique city with a worldwide reputation for ceramics and pottery. There is little doubt as to the overwhelming dominance that the industry once imposed on the region, nor of the impact it had on the wider world. The city’s name was stamped

with pride on the bottom of almost every tea cup and saucer produced. Steven Moore, regarded as one of the country’s leading ceramics experts, frequently reminds me that this great city has “so many stories, so many teapots, so much culture”. Quite simply, people eat and drink from works of art made in Stoke-on-Trent. And the Potteries label clearly retains a considerable degree of resonance today. More recently, the industry that has shaped the city for more than 300 years has had a starring role in BBC Two’s Great Pottery Throw Down – a

series filmed at Middleport Pottery in Burslem. The programme pulled in a TV audience in the region of two million. It sparked off renewed press interest in the Potteries, with the Independent proclaiming that ceramics was set to be “the nation’s next obsession” and the Guardian reporting that “pottery has become, if not hot, then at least cool”. It all suggests a bright future for the city now being promoted as the World Capital of Ceramics, and the Great Pottery Throw Down is unquestionably a great advert for Stoke-on-Trent.



“Ceramic heritage gives the city a unique sense of place”

Trip to china: All pictures, World of Wedgwood visitor centre in Stoke-on-Trent

As well as showcasing the city and the recently refurbished Middleport Pottery, the show shone a new light on the craftsmanship involved in pottery making. It has brought the city’s rich heritage of skills and traditions, and its reputation for design and innovation, back into the public consciousness. Staffordshire University is at the vanguard of this renewed interest in ceramics. Its MA in Ceramic Design is



well known for producing graduates who go on to successful careers in the industry, both locally and throughout the world: 81% of its graduates stay in the sector. Other University initiatives include a feasibility study on developing a National Centre for Ceramic Education and Research. This could supply a further boost to the industry’s future competitiveness and sustainability, and play an important role in the region’s heritage-led regeneration and an expanding visitor economy. Tourism makes cities better places to live, work and invest in – not just to visit. Encouragingly, cities such as Stoke-on-Trent that exploit their industrial past as a catalyst for tourismled regeneration have benefited from increased visitor demand from the broad public, and not just from a special interest group. The fascination with industrial tourism really grew as a result of the heritage euphoria towards the end of the 1980s. It emerged in response to a consumer trend for individualised, educational experiences and differentiation in tourism, plus the wish

of cities to promote their association with the industries for which they were famous. This type of tourism has been very good news for destinations that were previously off the visitor map: ones that lack conventional attractions, but do possess a unique heritage. Stoke-on-Trent is a place where this strategy has begun to pay dividends. Despite de-industrialisation, there remains a sufficient mass of potteries, renowned brands, industrial heritage and contemporary ceramics excellence to serve as valuable tourism assets – lodestones for attracting visitors to the region. So it’s clearly beneficial for the city to promote this unique sub-set of industrial tourism as a spearhead policy, rather than as an add-on or a niche offering. Back in 2004, the North Staffordshire Tourism Strategy rightfully highlighted tourism’s role as a tool and an agent of regeneration. It stated that ceramic heritage “gave the city a unique sense of


POTTED HISTORY Paul Williams is Head of Staffordshire University Business School. A qualified teacher, he worked at Stoke-on-Trent College before joining the University as senior lecturer in Marketing and Tourism. He was appointed Head of Programmes and Portfolio in 2010, and has been involved in a wide range of roles at the University’s campus in Stoke-on-Trent and at partner institutions. He has published extensively in the fields of tourism and management.

place and is the reason why tourists are attracted to visit”. Consequently, Stokeon-Trent has established itself as a key destination for pottery tourists. A 2014 economic impact assessment identified that the industry remains the principal attraction for the 4.1 million visitors to the region annually, who generate just over £200million.

Through the power and reach of television, the “Throw Down” effect is likely to lead to an influx of visitors to Middleport Pottery, the Grade II* listed Victorian pottery recently restored by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust. The region’s visitor economy is also celebrating the much-heralded, revamped and rejuvenated £34million World of Wedgwood attraction. When we include Emma Bridgewater’s remodelled factory and the awardwinning Gladstone Pottery Museum along with the many other ceramics trail attractions, it becomes clear that pottery tourism has come of age. Yes, it’s important that we keep pottery manufacture as a going concern to boost jobs and economic growth – thereby preserving traditional skills while

simultaneously advancing leadingedge technologies. But in the same way that pottery embossed with the Stoke-on-Trent stamp is fashionable again, the industry’s long-term future is also linked to its industrial heritage and its appeal to local, national and international visitors.

PUTTING THE PAST TO WORK Heritage tourism has bolstered the economy of former industrial areas throughout the UK. Here are three success stories: Ironbridge. In Staffordshire’s neighbouring county of Shropshire is the “Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”. Thomas Telford’s 1779 bridge is its much-visited symbol.

Blaenavon. Attractions at the South Wales town include the Ironworks museum, and the Big Pit National Coal Museum, where visitors can descend into a genuine coal mine.

Belfast. Interest in the shipbuilding history of Belfast was much increased by the 2012 centenary of the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage, and by a vast new museum named after the ship.






The University’s partnership with Alton Towers makes education a thrill for students throughout their school years – and now beyond, thanks to a unique joint degree programme




Dropping in: Visiting pupils can enjoy rides such as Thirteen, far left, and find out how it works at the Education Centre, below


t may come as a surprise to some that Staffordshire University has a presence in Cloud Cuckoo Land. That’s the sector of Alton Towers theme park where its newly refurbished Education Centre is to be found – opposite the bouncy inflatables of Wobble World, and next to the Driving School where young children learn to negotiate traffic lights and roundabouts in natty little electric cars. Walk into the centre and you’ll immediately see the University’s familiar Staffordshire-knot logo on the walls, recognising its sponsorship of the facility. Katie Chapman, trade marketing manager for Alton Towers, says: “We told the University about our plans with this space and how we wanted to move forward with the programme. We discovered that they shared our vision, so we entered into a two-year partnership in August 2015.” Through this initiative, many thousands of primary and secondary pupils will encounter the Staffordshire University brand each year, including 12,000 studying at GCSE level or above. But the chance to benefit from the partnership doesn’t end at school-leaving age. From September 2016, the University will be offering a new Foundation Degree in Visitor Attraction and Resort Management, in conjunction with Alton Towers. Twenty students will be recruited to the work-based qualification each year, learning about all the key areas of the business. Of course, university is far from the minds of the youngest children who troop through the doors of the Education Centre. Some of the workshops that schools can book are suitable for children at Key Stage 2, meaning they can be as young as five. Others are geared to older students, including sessions based around human resources, catering and customer service. The smart new centre where they’re delivered consists of two rooms. The more hands-on activities take place in a



Ideas workshop: The classroom space, main picture, and a detail from a ride blueprint

workshop space lined with interactive touchscreen displays. There’s also a well-equipped lecture theatre for more formal lectures and presentations. Chapman says: “What we do in there is more information based, aiming at the older kids who may be thinking about college or university.” The centre makes a trip to Alton Towers something of real educational value for schools, offering insights as well as thrills. Its programmes aim to complement school lessons by relating facts and theories to real-life situations – something at the heart of the Staffordshire University ethos.



Education officer Jonny Harper says: “The children are learning about the same theory that they’ve learnt in the classroom, whether it’s in science, hospitality, marketing or a lot of other topics. But we link everything to the theme park and the resort, and it brings the learning to life. “With science, for example, I remember doing circular motion in physics and it was a boring subject. But as soon as we put it in terms of Enterprise – one of our rides – we can show that centripetal acceleration means you don’t have to wear seat belts on the ride, because the G-force itself

keeps you rooted to your seat. Suddenly, it makes sense to the kids.” In sessions for older students, the emphasis on workplace realities is again very much in line with the University’s priorities. Harper says: “We can focus on employability, which is great for teachers. That’s the bit they can’t address so well – they’re standing in a classroom, not in the middle of a business that’s involved in running a major theme park.” As well as sponsoring the Centre, Staffordshire University has been involved in providing learning resources and designing the content of


“It goes well with the University ethos of following your curiosity” its courses. In addition, student teachers in the University’s School of Education are enlisted to help with the special events that take place throughout the year. “It gives them valuable experience of working in a different educational environment from a normal classroom,” says Harper. When the first cohort of students embark on the Foundation degree in Visitor Attraction and Resort Management next year, they’ll find their time split between traditional study and paid work experience throughout Alton Towers. Jason Mumford, its learning and development manager, says: “It’s the best of both worlds. While they’re at the University gaining their qualification, they’re going to get an incredible overview of what we do. It involves operational areas across the resort, both front and back of house: working in the hotel, and in marketing, management, HR and learning development.” The qualification includes a total of 18 weeks’ work at Alton Towers. Students work in entry-level positions during their first year, then take on more responsibility in the second. “They’ll step up to team-leader level, where

they’ll start to make decisions and deal with difficult situations. It will test their skills; they’ll be able to show they’ve developed and whether they have a clear desire to progress further.” On completing the two-year programme, students can top-up to a full honours degree by staying on in higher education for a third year, or they can proceed immediately to work. “Ultimately, we’d love many of them to stay within Merlin Entertainments [Alton Towers’ owners],” says Mumford. “They’ll be able to apply for roles at Alton Towers, and Merlin is a global company with opportunities around the world. “Obviously there are no guarantees, but if there are vacancies and they’re the right person, with drive and determination, we’ll be able to match up the person to the attraction.” It all means that not so long from now, someone who first attended a school trip to the Education Centre may end up as a graduate of the Foundation Degree – and then walk back into Alton Towers to begin a career in the leisure industry. “It goes well with the Staffs Uni ethos of following your curiosity,” says Jonny Harper, “And I’m sure it will happen.”



MAKING THE CONNECTIONS In the latest of our department profiles, we look at the School of Film, Sound and Vision and how it fosters real-world skills and cross-campus collaboration




are interested in music writing.” Working on personal and group projects is not an add-on to classroom learning but an essential part of degree courses across the School. The approach is resolutely practical, preparing students for real working environments. Daniel Hopkins, award leader for Film Production courses, says: “We don’t sit around criticising films – we learn by doing, and we get the students out to industry events and on trips. Within weeks of the course starting, we take our first-years to the Lake District and get them to make their first film.” Some of the School’s programmes are unique in the UK university sector. The BA(Hons) in Radio Production is the only undergraduate degree of its kind, and all its tutors have worked for the BBC. There are also whole courses which are more typically taught as single modules, such as Experimental Film Production. Continuous investment has ensured that students have access to the best facilities. For those on Drama degrees, the dedicated Performance Centre at the Stoke campus offers three rehearsal spaces with scenery bays, workshops and a green room. The adjacent Studio One is a full theatre in

Photograph by Kate Gallow

he School of Film, Sound and Vision is among the largest in the University. It’s home to 1,200 students, engaged in disciplines ranging from theatre arts and experimental film production to music technology and digital effects; and this diversity offers one great advantage. Whenever students are taking on a creative endeavour, they rarely need to look outside the School to find the right expertise. If you’re a filmmaker, for example, you’ll seldom be short of willing volunteers to take on acting roles, perform the soundtrack, create special effects or look after the technical aspects of post-production. A minor impediment has been the School’s split between two campuses; but from next year, all its activities will be centralised in Stoke-on-Trent. This will not only permit easier collaboration across the School, but also with other faculties and departments. “It’s going to be great as far as we’re concerned,” says Dave Newman, academic group leader on the Music Technology degrees. “For us, the move from Stafford will mean things like Music Technology students being able to collaborate easily with students on the Journalism BA who


“We don’t sit around criticising films. Within weeks of the course starting, our students make their first movie”

miniature, with dressing rooms, a full lighting grid and a stage that can be configured in several different arrangements. Many of the resources for the School’s more technical degrees will be upgraded when they move to Stoke-on-Trent. The Film Technology division currently has two fully equipped studios at Stafford: a digital TV studio with vision, audio and lighting galleries, and a green-screen studio with a control gallery and film-finishing facilities. Next year, the Music Technology facilities – including the flagship Studio Seven with equipment to rival any professional recording facility – will be housed in five entirely new studios on the Stoke-on-Trent campus. The oldest facility on campus, and one held in great affection by past and present students, is Stoke Film Theatre. The 213-seat cinema is operated by volunteers independently of the University, and is open to the public. It’s the most visible legacy of John Jordan, a former sound recordist who worked on films with Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers, and who started the discipline of film studies in 1973 at what was then North Staffordshire Polytechnic. When it comes to work experience, students benefit from enviable industry links. Rather than settling for the fortnight of coffee-making typical of many media internships, students are encouraged to immerse themselves in a professional environment for a longer period of time. In one example, two of the most talented students on the BSc(Hons) in Film Production Technology are offered a year-long placement with top London post-production house Envy Post. Some students on placement end up taking on more responsibility than expected. One well-told anecdote involves an undergraduate who was charged with delivering the data tapes for the latest Harry Potter film to Warner Bros in Los Angeles, and returned from the United States with the 35mm reels for the




“The students see placements as a chance to shine, not just a hoop to jump through”



movie’s UK premiere. There are few who don’t rise to the challenge. “The robustness of the work placements means students see them as a chance to shine, not just a hoop to jump through,” says Dave Newman. Students can get involved in a number of business ventures tied to the courses. The Music School runs its own record label, Phoenixx, which students look after on a rolling basis. Now in its fourth year, it has started to receive royalties from signed bands. Its greatest success to date is the Manchesterbased four-piece The Words, who supported Placebo on their European festival tour. Grand Independent, a Film School production company led by producer Peter Rudge, has taken

two of its short films to the Raindance Festival, including I’ve Got This Idea For A Film, a documentary that explored the emotional impact of seeing your short film made on a 72-hour deadline. However, the greatest impact of the School of Film, Sound and Vision on the wider world is through its alumni. Staffordshire graduates may be found in famous recording studios, Hollywood backlots, post-production houses in Soho and radio newsrooms across the UK. “When they come to the University, our students often don’t understand what they’ve got,” says Daniel Hopkins. “We get them out there being creative and learning how to work with people, and just watch them gaining their confidence.”





Nicole serves up a treat Nicole Williamson’s vintage vans have become a common sight at festivals and fairs in Staffordshire and beyond, dispensing delicious ice cream and homemade French crêpes. Having acquired her first van at 18, Nicole sold ice cream at weekends while studying for a BA(Hons) in Media and History. Now her catering business, We Are Lollapalooza, turns heads at weddings, parties and other events with two 1970s Bedford icecream vans and a converted Citroen HY van called Pierre. “I’m not sure what attracted me



to this type of business,” says the 23-year-old, “but I always wanted to be my own boss. I think my mum once volunteered on an ice-cream stand at a local fête and I couldn’t believe how busy it was, so it gave me the idea. I really liked the old vintage vans. There was one on eBay at the time in Wales, so instead of having a first car, I went halves with my dad on my first ice-cream van!” Nicole, who lives in Hanley with her boyfriend, believes that her degree prepared her well for her business life. “I learned a lot from my lecturers,” she

says. “They were all really supportive of me and my goals. I also learned a lot of life skills – I feel that I was pushed to reach my full capabilities. I’ve taken a lot of what I learned doing class presentations and speeches and applied them to my business today.” The business is now expanding, with Nicole taking on her first employee and planning to expand her fleet. She says: “Lollapalooza is a reflection of me. I put my all into it because I want it to work. I don’t take shortcuts because I like things to be spot on.”


A strong case for studying forensics

Around the world in seven films A Staffordshire Film graduate has embarked on an 11-month voyage of adventure, filming the world’s longest yacht race. Rich Edwards, 32, is making seven films to document the 40,000-mile Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in his job as shooting producer-director. Having left London’s St Katharine Docks on 30 August aboard Great Britain’s yacht, Rich will “boat-hop” between the 12 competing vessels to film the different crews. The race’s final leg will see it return to London in July 2016. He said: “It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. To sail around the world, to challenge myself and to make that many documentaries is pretty special.”

Before leaving port, Rich took part in the same intensive four-week sailing course as the race competitors. “I feel focused and dead keen to go out there and do it,” he said. “Obviously I feel a bit apprehensive, as I know there will be times when I might be scared or surprised – but there’s only so much you can prepare for this kind of challenge.” Rich graduated from the BA(Hons) Film, Television and Radio Studies course in 2005, and has since worked in sports programming for the BBC and Sky Sports. You can follow his progress around the world on a special Staffordshire University blog at

A former Staffordshire student who was inspired to study forensics by the 7/7 London bombings has found her ideal job with the police. After gaining a first-class BA(Hons) in Forensic Investigation, Natasha Lomas went on to complete the MSc in the same subject. After graduation, she secured a job as a case builder with Avon and Somerset Police. She says: “Basically, I’m compiling cases for both Magistrates’ and Crown Courts. So, on a day-to-day basis it could be any type of offence. I’m really enjoying it so far.” Natasha’s graduation day coincided with the tenth anniversary of the tragic 2005 attacks on London, which first sparked her interest in the field. “I was really interested in how they identified people with very little material – I really got into it from there,” she says. She recalls her degree courses at the University – which include hands-on experience of evidence-gathering at the University’s Crime Scene House – as a “brilliant experience”. “The lecturers were so supportive,” she says. “You really get the help you need from every kind of angle and they’re never too shy to support you or direct you in the right way.”



Turning risk into reward As chief executive officer of Eos Risk, David Johnson has become familiar with the world’s most volatile trouble spots. The company, which he co-founded with his wife Lesley in 2004, provides security solutions and crisis management in “challenging or

hazardous environments” – such as the pirate-infested shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean. It’s a long way from Staffordshire University, where he graduated in International Business and Enterprise in 1995. But David, 44, still credits the course with giving him his first insight into the international business environment. “I joined the degree because it appeared less on the theory side and more on the practical,” he says. “The projects we were given were generally very true to life and a lot of the lecturers had real-world experience. “The course had the elements I needed in order to achieve what I was looking to achieve. It also hugely broadened my outlook on the world, as in my third year I spent close to two months in the Far East researching the investment climate in part of the region.” Eos Risk has enjoyed significant success in its field, winning a UK Trade and Investment Small Exporter of the Year award in 2008 and being shortlisted for a Queen’s Award for International

Why Natalie has a career in mind After completing her BSc(Hons) degree in Psychology last year, Natalie Quinlan’s flair for the subject took her all the way to a voluntary placement in Sri Lanka. Now, after working to tackle the stigma of mental health problems in the island nation, she hopes to build a career back in the UK. She says: “I’d always wanted to do clinical psychology, even from about a year or two into my degree, so working out there sealed that for me.” During a three-month placement in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, Natalie worked in a psychiatric hospital as well as on various community projects involving people with mental disabilities or learning difficulties. She says: “You would perhaps go to an orphanage and teach the kids,



or work with people with Down’s syndrome or autism. Traditionally there is a sense of shame surrounding mental health problems in Sri Lanka. Most people believe in karma and that if someone has a mental illness, they are being punished for some wrongdoing in a past life.” Natalie now hopes to enrol on a PhD at Staffordshire University to fulfil her dream of becoming a clinical psychologist. “The route into that is lots of experience,” she says. “I’ve been working for 10 months in community care and I’ve also recently got a job as an assistant psychologist. “I’m hoping this will give me the experience I need to get a paid post. That will then give me the experience I need to get on to the PhD.”

Trade four years ago. It has trained more than 2,000 people, and has 300 personnel across four continents. “Our business is working at the forefront of situations seen on the news,” says David, who is currently working with Staffordshire University on a software-based project and internship programme. “It has brought tens of millions of pounds of trade into the UK, and enabled many businesses and individuals to trade globally.” David and Lesley have always imbued the company with a strong focus on human rights and ethics. In 2012, they went on to found their own charity, Dawn Aid, with the aim of helping children who are victims of armed conflict. He says: “It’s very early days for the charity, but there is a huge need for people to help those in the desperate situations we see daily. “I’m a firm believer in the ripple effect and hope that if everyone with a conscience about helping people in need does something, then a tidal wave of assistance will flood the areas where it is needed.”


A talent for finding talent

Sadie gives film course star billing Actress and film producer Sadie Frost had more than 30 years of industry experience when she joined the MA in Film by Negotiated Learning, but had long hoped for an opportunity to return to education. “I’ve always been involved in the film industry,” she says. “I was very lucky that my career started young. I dropped out of college when I was around 16 or 17, went on to have a successful acting career and had children very young, so I never had a chance to go back and study.” In July, the 50-year-old mother of four graduated from the Masters programme – delivered by Raindance film school and validated by Staffordshire University – with a top distinction grade. The degree is taught by film-industry professionals, either in London or through online learning, and allows students to design up to 80% of their own curriculum.

Despite having started a successful production company, Blonde to Black Productions, in 2011, she was keen to learn more about all aspects of the film industry. “I was sometimes feeling overwhelmed, being in an industry where I had produced films but there were certain elements I didn’t understand, whether it was the post-production side of it or sales and distribution.” And on joining the course, Sadie found that its structure suited her working life. “You’re mirroring what you’re actually doing in real life. You’re doing the course and learning about the experiences that you’re doing – it’s action research. It gave me a lot of confidence and a huge wealth of knowledge. “I love studying – I always love applying myself to things, so it was a wonderful opportunity.”

Amy Foster’s achievements since graduation include scaling Kilimanjaro and winning a People Management Award from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Now the 37-year-old has taken on a new challenge: starting up her own recruitment business. Amy, who graduated with a degree in Sport and Leisure Studies in 1999, founded Nomad HR and Recruitment in August 2015 to provide small businesses with specialist support. She made the decision after returning from maternity leave to her job as global HR and talent manager at an international consultancy. “When I went back to work, it just wasn’t the same,” she says. “I wanted more flexibility so I decided to resign and find something part-time. However, I found I was overqualified and wasn’t getting jobs I thought I would, so I decided to set up on my own. I felt totally excited and empowered by the decision.” And while her course might not seem immediately relevant to her career plans, Amy believes it provided a great foundation for starting a business. She says: “We did law, psychology, management, economics and marketing – everything you need to run a business. It wasn’t an easy course, despite what many think about sports degrees – I worked harder than the law students!”




Chris Buxton (right of picture, with Nigel Broomhall): “I felt a sense of pride and honour to be among all the other younger graduates. Achieving a University diploma taught me so much – not just about improving my knowledge in my workplace but also as a person.”

Matt Brighton (centre of picture, with parents Richard and Andrea Brighton): “Graduation day is an end, but also a beginning. You leave one incredible journey behind with memories, but you start your proper journey in life!”


Yolanda Nyangani: “I worked really hard to make sure I got my degree. The day itself made me feel like all my hard work had finally paid off – I would go back for another course just to have that experience all over again!”

Matt Bagnall (right of picture, with Liam Taylor and Cara Sutcliffe): “Graduation was fantastic. It’s what I worked hard for during the three years on my drama degree, and crossing that stage was such a proud moment. Now I’m staying an extra year to do my Masters.”

After their award ceremony, this year’s proud graduates popped into the PhotoBox to tell us what earning a degree meant to them

Ray Thorley: “I was thrilled at getting my photography degree, and graduating with a Masters felt a bit special. I was so lucky in my academic experience to have great tutors to work with, who encouraged and pushed me along the path to graduation.”



Richard Lewis (right of picture, with wife Delyth and sons Rhys and Steffan): “I was particularly pleased to receive my degree with my family present at the ceremony, and alongside such an inspiring group of honorary graduates.”

GIVE YOURSELF THE POSTGRAD EDGE Earn up to £15k more in your first year of work* 86% Postgraduate student satisfaction** Study could take as little as 12 months and if that wasn’t enough, as a Staffordshire Graduate, you’ll also be entitled to 15% off course fees***

* First-year earning potential, compared to candidates with an undergraduate degree. Source HESA. **PTES category: Overall Satisfaction. *** You are entitled to 15% off your course fee for the majority of our postgraduate awards, if you have previously completed an undergraduate degree with Staffordshire University. Some courses are not eligible for discount.

Start in January and September Call 01782 294400 or visit