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Summer 2011 | Issue 13 | University of Wolverhampton | www.wlv.ac.uk

Moving forward Retiring Vice-Chancellor reflects

Sweet healing Research into the healing power of sugar

No place like home The evolution of staycations


Welcome

Welcome to the latest edition of WLV Dialogue. Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline Gipps retired from the University this summer after six years of successful leadership. Our cover picture is a piece of student artwork which featured prominently in Caroline’s office.

In this edition, Caroline reflects on the University’s achievements and the changing face of the higher education sector. During Caroline’s time at the helm, the University’s research performance has improved and there are many interesting and pioneering studies under way. Moses Murandu from the School of Health and Wellbeing is researching the healing powers of sugar, and on pages 8-9 we take a look at this innovative study. China recently opened its first glass museum and among the exhibits are creations by University of Wolverhampton staff and graduates. Read more about our links with the Shanghai Museum of Glass on pages 4-5. Elsewhere internationally, the University is continuing to develop the provision of courses delivered overseas at partner institutions, known as transnational education. Find out more on pages 18-19. Budding entrepreneurs are able to launch a business alongside their studies through the SPEED WM programme. On pages 16-17 some of the students and graduates explain how the scheme has benefitted them.

The student experience is an important part of Wolverhampton’s mission, and the University was delighted to win a prestigious CASE Europe 2011 award for a fundraising project to transform its Students’ Union Centre. Ken Harris has recently become only the fifth person since 1931 to win a second term as Students’ Union President and on pages 22-23 he explains what the University and its SU means to him. We hope you enjoy reading this edition of WLV Dialogue. If you have any feedback for us, please get in touch at: wlvdialogue@wlv.ac.uk Our next magazine will be out in the autumn. Best wishes Vickie Warren WLV Dialogue Editor

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CONTENTS 1

24

12

4

2

8

PAGE NEWS

2

Clear vision – Opening of China’s first glass museum

4

Good to talk – Lecturer receives national policing award

6

8 10

16

INTERNATIONAL 18

BUSINESS Pebble power – Partner business clinches top award

20

PEOPLE

PROFILE Moving forward – VC Professor Caroline Gipps reflects on her six years at Wolverhampton

SPEED stars – Budding entrepreneurs launch businesses

Global view – Expansion of transnational education provision

RESEARCH Taking the hot desk – Research looks at new office environments

16

FEATURE

No place like home – The evolution of ‘staycations’

Sweet healing – Study into healing powers of sugar

10

12

Putting students first – Q&A with SU President Ken Harris

22

Graduate success story – Three students launch business

24

What’s on guide – University events

25


2 NEWS

No place like home A sunny, dry Spring can do wonders for the UK tourism industry. People who have not yet booked a foreign getaway for their summer break start to consider the possibility of a heatwave, and use it as an opportunity to explore the gems right on their doorstep and maybe save a few pennies. Known as a ‘staycation’, more and more people are opting to stay in Britain and either enjoy day trips near home or travel to another part of the country. A recent study by the hotel chain Travelodge estimated that staycations could give the UK economy a £7.2 billion boost this year, with over a third of people who responded to the survey saying they planned to holiday in the UK.

Peter Robinson is Principal Lecturer and Head of the Department for Leisure. He explains the notion of staycations emerged in the USA in 2008 as a way of describing a change in people’s holiday patterns away from long haul destinations. “Essentially it has evolved as a reaction to the increased cost of travel and the perceived risks of travel, for example delays and cancellations to flights due to volcanic ash clouds. If you stay in the UK, you can go by train or in your own car – although it has to be said that these forms of travel are not always cheap.” While unpredictable weather means the UK cannot appeal to the holidaymaker solely in search of sun, sea and sand, the country has a lot to offer the ‘wanderlust traveller’. This is

someone interested in learning more about heritage and culture, which is closely linked to slow tourism; this describes tourists who want to get to know an area by exploring it in depth. These travellers often select alternative forms of transport such as walking, cycling, or heritage transport. They make a real contribution to the economy because they stay within a single destination for a longer period of time. Peter explains: “Staycations are at their most beneficial when people spend money in local shops. If people are buying food and souvenirs locally that can, in turn, benefit the destination through increased employment, business opportunities and taxes. “When people are on holiday, they are inclined to spend more money. If people stay in their


NEWS 3

pricing strategy to appeal to the staycation market.” The one thing you can never guarantee in Britain is the weather. In 2004, flash floods caused extensive damage to the historic Cornish village of Boscastle while the Severn Valley Railway in the Midlands suffered £2.5million worth of damage due to a landslide in 2007. People may be put off by two or three seasons of bad weather, but Peter says these attractions have received overwhelming support from the public and increased visitor numbers when they re-opened. “There is also an increased acceptance of the unreliability of the British weather. The tourism industry has helped by promoting indoor activities and all-weather attractions,” he says. But there are downsides to staycations. Peter explains the UK is seen as quite an expensive destination and people may still be able to find a last-minute cheap week away in Majorca for less than the cost of a week in the UK. “If there is an increase in day trips then there may be a decrease in overnight stays in bed and breakfasts and hotels, resulting in a negative affect on the hospitality industry. However the accommodation industry is very good at offering discounts and developing new markets.” It is also important to recognise, as Peter says, that we still need inbound tourism, as that tends to be the higher spending market, and the US and Japanese markets remain relatively stable, with many new travellers visiting the UK from China and India.

own homes and do day trips they can also choose to enjoy higher priced activities, such as theme parks. Some places, such as Alton Towers and Warwick Castle, promote numerous special offers and discounts, and what might once have been considered an expensive day out then becomes affordable.” Advertising has also assisted the tourism industry in the UK, with Visit England, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales all investing in television adverts that raise awareness of what is on offer at home. “UK attractions have changed their image, and staying at home and going to certain destinations is more accepted. There is not that sense of peer pressure that you have to go abroad at least once a year, as we are

increasingly surrounded by publicity promoting UK destinations.” The popular paid and free destinations remain largely unchanged, with places such as Alton Towers, the Eden Project, Chatsworth House, Kew Gardens and the national museums in London featuring highly. “What is interesting is that a number of those attractions have increased what they offer. Longleat, known best for its a stately home and safari park, now offers a variety of additional attractions for the family market, including mazes, a train and even a Postman Pat Village, whilst Alton Towers has developed into a US style resort with hotels, a waterpark and an adventure golf course sharing the site with the theme park. Some places have realigned their

The School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure offers courses which allow students to consider contemporary issues in the tourism and hospitality industry. Students explore how people travel and what influences their decision-making processes on the tourism, hospitality and event and venue management courses. They also explore how the hospitality industry relies on different markets and therefore promotes itself to key audiences. The growth of staycations could even be of relevance to sports management, as the 2012 Olympics will undoubtedly have a positive impact on tourism with people flooding to the capital. It is clear that the tourism and hospitality industries have risen to the challenge of tempting Brits to consider staying close to home.


4 NEWS

Clear vision China recently opened its first glass museum showcasing both the country’s heritage and contemporary international designs. Among the exhibits are creations by the University of Wolverhampton’s staff and graduates, which form part of the permanent collection.

Glass has a long and illustrious history in the Black Country. Stourbridge and Dudley have been home to world renowned glass companies such as Royal Brierley and Stuart Crystal, and the industry can trace its roots in the area back to the early 1600s. The University of Wolverhampton was a pioneer in the education of glass art, and its glass design course was the first in the country. Established in 1854, the course has been in continuous operation ever since and over the last 40 years distinguished alumni have successfully launched educational glass and professional practice all over the world. Among the celebrated graduates is Professor Zhuang Xiaowei, who studied for a Masters in Glass at the University. He attributes his own artistic and professional success to his time at the School of Art & Design (SAD). When he was appointed as the Director of the new Shanghai Museum of Glass, he decided to return to his artistic origins and include striking artworks by staff and graduates from the University of Wolverhampton in the collection. Stunning glasswork by current staff members, Professor Keith Cummings and Stuart Garfoot, along with former Dean of the School of Art

& Design Professor Andrew Brewerton, were acquired as part of the permanent collection, alongside works by successful graduates, David Reekie and Colin Reid. The official opening was attended by the Dean of the School of Art & Design, Dr Bryony Conway, who facilitated the acquisition and shipping of the precious works. At the grand opening, Dr Conway spoke about the University’s delight at being associated with this new venture. “I think the museum highlights the very significant contribution of Wolverhampton to the development of glass art in China. It also raises the profile of glass at the University. Our students graduate from a highly regarded course. In addition, there is the international link which we learn from – it is never a one-way flow.” Andrew Brewerton was instrumental in setting up this link with China. He visited China in 1996 and put on an exhibition, the New Glass Economy, in Shanghai. This was followed by the commissioning of a glass sculpture for the new Shanghai Public Library, made by alumnus Colin Reid.

Iconic landmark The Shanghai Museum of Glass is an iconic building in itself, created within a former glass factory. The space integrates the building’s original structure and unique characteristics whilst also benefiting from modern functionality. Its mission is to share the countless possibilities of glass, and the museum is designed to juxtapose the past and present. The ground floor focuses on the history of glass in China, while the first floor is an exhibition of international glass art. The beautiful displays are a mixture of contemporary Chinese and international artists, over half of whom are from Wolverhampton. So what is the secret of the success and longevity of the glass design course? Bryony Conway attributes this to the broad appeal of the course and staff expertise. “We have wonderful facilities and a fabulous academic and technical team. It is a course that allows for a variety of different pathways.


NEWS 5

Photograph: diephotodesigner.de, Berlin/Germany

Photographer: Simon Bruntnell

Students can focus on glass art or follow the architecture or design pathway, and that is represented in the expertise of the staff team. “Professor Keith Cummings started his life as a fine artist, and is particularly strong in glass art, with his original and complex art forms. He is a hugely influential scholar of glass art. “Stuart Garfoot spent 20 years working for German companies Rosenthal and Thomas as a designer, and his design work is absolutely beautiful – pure, modern classic design. David Green is a specialist in architectural glass and we recently recruited a research fellow, Dr Max Stewart, who has developed his own work in highly expressive glass sculpture. “Art, and particularly glass, is not only about the creation of beautiful objects – it also requires a scientific understanding of the material.”

Industry links Also key are links with industry, and the School of Art & Design is continuing to build upon these. Representatives of the glass industry have created the British Glass Foundation, and they are working with the University to organise an international glass symposium in 2012. Dr Conway also explains that a glass stakeholders group has been established to ensure the region makes the most of its glass heritage and works positively together. As well as being located in a transformed glass factory, the Shanghai Museum of Glass can trace its own roots to strong partnerships with industry. After completing his Masters at Wolverhampton, Zhuang Xiaowei returned to Shanghai University but found there was no glass workshop and no money to develop this area. He went out and worked with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in China, encouraging them and helping them to develop successful glass businesses. They provided

him with the material and the resources to get a glass programme off the ground at Shanghai University. Dr Conway continues: “It is the glass industry that is financing the Shanghai Museum of Glass. That is a really powerful lesson for us. They are working closely with industry to make a success of the development of academic glass.” So what makes the Wolverhampton glasswork on display in Shanghai special? “Personally, I love the magical quality of glass, the way light interacts with glass,” Bryony explains. “A piece by Stuart Garfoot, Ice Chi Family, uses bits of crushed glass – like ice chips – on the graceful forms, and the depth of the purple is gorgeous. The deep red of Colin Reid’s column of glass has an amazing vibrancy about it. There are some wonderful pieces.” For more information about glass at Wolverhampton, visit www.wlv.ac.uk/sad


6 NEWS

Good to talk

Senior Lecturer Jenni Jones is celebrating after receiving a top national award in recognition of her work on a mentoring scheme for West Midlands Police. She was presented with the prestigious British Association for Women in Policing (BAWP) Special Recognition Award 2011 at a ceremony in June.

Jenni joined the University seven years ago as a Senior Lecturer in the HR Department at the University of Wolverhampton Business School, specialising in Learning and Development, Leadership, Coaching and Mentoring programmes. Prior to that, she worked in the private sector, initially for the Prudential as a Human Resources Manager and Training Manager and then for drinks company Britvic as Performance and Development Manager. She later worked for a consultancy in Shrewsbury offering training, development and mentoring.

1

How do you feel about winning the British Association for Women in Policing (BAWP) award?

I feel very honoured and surprised! It is nice to see the Police are valuing mentoring within the force. It is great that they have invested the time of the mentors and mentees and allowed me to go in and work with them, on an ongoing basis. Speaking to both the mentors and the mentees, there is a surprising amount of learning coming out of it for both parties, in terms of increased awareness and personal development, particularly in the area of coping strategies during times of change.

2

The project you won the award for was with West Midlands Police – could you tell us a bit more about what this involved?

One of my Masters students in Coaching and Mentoring worked for West Midlands Police and asked me to come in and share a bit of knowledge. They felt there was a need for a programme targeted at supporting women in the Police, and as this was an area I was

studying for my PhD, it seemed sensible that I could advise them and so I ended up doing the

chat about where someone is up to, how they are feeling and showing an interest in

training.

someone can have a massive impact on their confidence levels. All the different roles I have taken have been about helping people realise their potential, and often the simplest things reap the biggest rewards. Mentoring is about encouraging someone to see what the future might hold for them.

The project gave women in the force the opportunity to be trained as mentors and they were then matched with women who identified themselves as requiring someone to support their personal development and career progression. I delivered two days of training for the mentors and a half day session with the mentees. I also created a handbook, and I met up with the mentors and mentees every couple of months for over a year to see if they needed any extra support. The mentees mainly talked about the positive impact it had made on their motivation. Often the mentors were surprised at the learning they had gained, above and beyond what they expected. Mentoring is often seen as an altruistic activity by mentors but there are hidden benefits: they learn new things about how to support each other and also reflect on their own career. It makes a difference for both parties in their role with the general public and also the teams they work with. It is encouraging that the Police are rewarding learning and development activities and that goes to show the changing culture. It is still a male dominated profession but there are a growing number of senior women now and the purpose of the mentoring was for women to see the opportunities that exist.

3

What interests you about Coaching and Mentoring?

I have worked in various HR, training, development and consultancy roles and it is amazing how having a conversation with someone can make such a difference. A

4

You teach modules focused on Coaching and Mentoring, what is involved in these?

All our coaching and mentoring teaching is a mixture of theory and practice. We discuss the theoretical underpinning, such as what works and what doesn’t work, but also teach the practical aspects too. These are popular optional modules at the Business School. Some Coaching and Mentoring practitioners may be sceptical about university courses because they feel it might be too theoretical but we recognise the importance of the two things together.

5

What characteristics make a good coach or mentor?

If you asked West Midlands Police about what makes a good mentor, they would say someone who listens, cares, shows empathy and empowers the mentee to do it for themselves. Most of those would be good skills for a coach too. In West Midlands Police, it was important to have mentors that understood the workplace and would listen, encourage and support the mentees to make changes for themselves. I would say a poor coach or mentor would be someone who told people what to do or did it for them.


news 7

Sponsor Michael Cullen from Cooneen, Watts and Stone, Jenni Jones from the University of Wolverhampton and BAWP President and Assistant Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police Service Cressida Dick.

6

What sorts of benefits are there for people taking part in a mentoring scheme?

The benefits are for the individual, their teams and the organisation. On an individual level, it is beneficial in terms of personal development, skills and attitudes. There is always surprise from both mentors and mentees about how much they have learnt about themselves, their job, their views and aspirations. For the mentee, it is more obvious as it is focused on them, but the mentor can gain a lot of self awareness and satisfaction too. There are also benefits for the team or department in terms of the skills and new knowledge they can share. An example would be ‘active listening’, which can become a normal part of your working day rather than just something you do in a mentoring scenario. The impact is beyond the individual and that is often a positive surprise to people

at senior levels. People understand not only about themselves but also how they work and behave and what impact this has on others, and that has got to be a good thing.

7

of you and that is very satisfying. It is about giving people the tools to do it themselves – you do not have all the answers but are helping people to find their own way.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Seeing people learning and growing. I have worked here for seven years on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and it is so satisfying to see people in their first year and again in their final year and the difference being here has made for them. Mentoring is a bit like that too. You start building a relationship and a rapport and often the person is not sure what they want. You work together and over time the student or mentee becomes more able to recognise what they want, plan towards it and then do things for themselves. They become independent

Mentoring is about encouraging someone to see what the future might hold for them.


8 RESearch

Sweet healing If you were asked what the best use for sugar is, what would you say? Sweetening your tea perhaps, or maybe baking a tasty cake. But would healing wounds cross your mind?

That is precisely what Moses Murandu is researching currently. It is one of the more unusual research projects being carried out by University staff, but it is also one of the most interesting. His work could have major implications not only for the health service in the UK but for developing countries all over the world.

Senior Lecturer Moses grew up in Zimbabwe, and whenever he or his brothers suffered injuries, his father Majazi Aron would use granulated sugar to heal the wound and reduce pain. It was only when Moses moved to the UK that he realised this simple but effective treatment was not used everywhere.

The sugar works because bacteria need water to grow, and applying sugar to a wound draws the water away. Because there is less water the body responds by getting the heart to beat faster and increase blood flow to the area. This brings white cells that fight infection and oxygen and nutrients that enhance cell regeneration.


research 9

the money that developing countries have. It will benefit other countries like Zimbabwe where I came from.” Moses emphasises that at every stage, his motivation has been the patients he wants to help heal and get better. He is extremely grateful for all the support he has received along the way. This has enabled the project to develop further, and a randomised control trial is currently under way at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. For this, Moses is using two types of sugar – white granulated sugar from sugar beet and white granulated from sugar cane. There was slight activity with brown sugar, and for this reason only the two white granulated sugars are being used. Moses, a Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing at the School of Health and Wellbeing, explains: “The cleaning of the wound was good and the reduction of odour was very good. We found the pain was reduced for the patients that had the sugar treatment. The cost of our dressings was quite manageable and the nursing and medical staff were happy from the survey we did.

However, Moses faced an uphill struggle to get his research into the healing effects of sugar under way, visiting three different health trusts without success. His fortunes changed when he was introduced to consultant vascular surgeon at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, Mr Malcolm Simms, who had worked in Uganda himself and encountered the use of sugar there. Moses carried out six months of research into the effects of sugar on wounds such as bed sores, leg ulcers and even amputations on patients on the vascular ward at Selly Oak. In 2009, he submitted an abstract detailing the project to the prestigious Fondation Le Lous and was awarded the Scientific Research Innovation Award, worth £25,000.

“The most important survey is the patients, and they loved it. Many of them were very surprised that it worked and others wondered why it had not been used before. Some of them actually said, ‘do you mean the sugar you use in tea?’ and we said ‘yes!’” An important consideration is the effect on diabetic patients. Moses explains diabetic patients were tested and monitored closely as the sugar was applied. The results were encouraging, as the sugar worked and there was no blood sugar level increase. The next stage of the research will involve evaluating all the results and looking at the economic impact. “With wound management, we need a dressing that can reduce pain, be effective and also be affordable,” Moses says. “We are not only trying to do this for the UK, we are trying to do it globally and there are countries that don’t have

“I am so grateful to the University of Wolverhampton and School of Health and Wellbeing for allowing me to enter academia because without them, I could not have reached the stage I am at now. “I was in a clinical setting before and could see the suffering, but could do nothing because I had no background to influence the policy makers. I owe a lot to my father for his encouragement. He was a very poor man but he always said we had to help people whenever we can. That was embedded in me, and what I wanted to do was to see patients getting better.” Moses describes Mr Simms as an ‘angel sent by God’, and is also grateful to Dr Carol Dealey, Research Fellow at the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and University of Birmingham, who bridged the gap between them. Moses also pays tribute to Professor Colette Clifford, who was his supervisor while he was completing his Masters at Birmingham, and gave him so much encouragement to pursue his research. The pioneering sugar research continues to attract a lot of interest and discussion, and was featured on the BBC’s The One Show recently. And seeing sugar being used on hospital wards could happen sooner than you might think. The project is expected to take two years, and Moses estimates it could be in use by the NHS within three years. One thing is certain, Moses Murandu is extremely committed to his sugar research and however long it takes, will persevere and overcome whatever challenges may face him along the way for the sake of the many patients he believes will benefit from his work.


10 RESearch


research 11

Taking the hot desk With companies seeking to make savings wherever possible, all aspects of the working day are being placed under the spotlight. Whether it is hours, staff numbers or workload, businesses across the board are looking for ways to economise. One interesting way being investigated is the work environment itself, and how different infrastructures can impact on productivity and team dynamics. The evolution of the non-territorial work space, often referred to as ‘hot desking’, is an area that is receiving attention from academics in various fields. In this type of workplace, staff do not have a pre-assigned desk and can work in a different position every day. Depending on the size of the organisation, this could be four desks in a room or 100 desks spread over two or three floors. Office space is expensive to hire or build, and there are also environmental costs of heating and maintaining a building that is not fully occupied. Therefore businesses are seeking to save money by using the space as effectively as possible. In a non-territorial office, there are often fewer workspaces than employees, as it is highly unlikely everyone will be in at one time. Occupational Psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton, Dr Jane Carstairs, explains this kind of working environment has become possible due to advances in technology. Wireless technology means staff can set up a laptop anywhere and even work on mobile phones. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to this set-up, particularly in relation to staff members’ sense of identity. “Having your own space allows people to gain control within that small environment and personalise it with pictures and little things that define their identity. The threats to that of the non-territorial office can result in a lack of

motivation and even stress,” Dr Carstairs, from the School of Applied Sciences, explains. “There have been some studies that suggest people find working without the ability to personalise their space quite a stressful event. This emphasises how important perceived control is in being able to cope with stress. The worst case scenario is that it could lead to people having time off work. If there is a reduction in people’s satisfaction with the environment and job then that can impact on people’s commitment to the organisation. In extreme cases they might find a job elsewhere.” In environments where people do not have assigned desks, research has found there are instances of people getting into work early just so they can occupy a favoured desk. People may also attempt to personalise the space by leaving something on a chair or table so they can return to it the next day. Older staff in particular report difficulty carrying around heavy books and laptops and are more likely to favour a return to conventional office arrangements. Another disadvantage is a lack of team cohesion. Staff members may not be seated in close proximity to the people they are working with on particular projects. However, as Jane explains, there is also conflicting research indicating that the non-territorial environment can benefit performance as well. “If a team is dynamic and different people work together at different times, you can choose to sit with them and that could improve performance for that piece of work. There is also a suggestion that non-territorial offices enable the generation of ideas.” A further advantage is that it is more egalitarian, and if you get in early enough to grab a window seat then you are entitled to it. But Jane says there have been suggestions that people of higher status will sometimes make it clear a particular desk ‘belongs’ to them.

Dr Carstairs explains an important factor which has been widely recognised by researchers investigating the impact of moving into a new office environment is consultation with staff. “It is important to get employees to have buyin concerning the design of their space and their environment, giving them ownership and control over some aspects,” she adds. “It is also important to bear in mind the type of work being done. If people have a highly cognitive type of job they will often have more difficulty coping with the physical and psychological character of an open plan office than people involved in administrative or routine work. Staff members will benefit from having quiet areas where they can hold meetings or do more demanding work tasks. Many open plan and non-territorial offices have meeting rooms specifically for this purpose.” Jane, who has worked at Wolverhampton for six years, has been researching workplace design, and a paper based on her work with Interior Design Consultant George Mylonas was presented at the 9th Australian Industrial Organisational Psychology conference. The report included recommendations for further research, and Jane explains teasing out what it is about the non-territorial office space that relates to reported improvements or reductions in performance would be beneficial, as existing research has produced ambiguous findings. It would also be useful to assess whether it is actually the effect of entering a new environment that is being reported rather than the office arrangement itself. She adds: “There is a need for longitudinal studies to see how employees adapt over time. There may be savings in terms of space but this may be coming out in terms of performance and turnover. “The key thing is for architects, designers and managers to be flexible in their approach and to allow change if it is necessary.”


12 PROFILE

Moving forward This summer, Professor Caroline Gipps retires from her role as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton after six years of successful leadership. The University has enjoyed many successes, as well as faced challenges, during this period and the higher education landscape looks very different from her early years at the helm. Here Professor Gipps reflects on the various achievements and looks ahead to a new era. Situated in the centre of Wolverhampton, the University is at the heart of the city. The view from Professor Caroline Gipps’ office window looks out over the landmark St Peter’s Church and across to the council Civic Centre. But Caroline admits that before she joined the University, she knew little about the city, and was pleasantly surprised. “I first looked at Wolverhampton the night before the informal visiting day. My husband and I walked around and I thought ‘this looks like a nice place’. When I first started at the University I was surprised at how big it was and how good the facilities were. I also felt that it was very well managed.” Now, six years on, Caroline holds a pivotal role in the city and has built strong partnerships with other leading organisations, such as Wolverhampton City Council, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, City of Wolverhampton College and the Primary Care Trust. “I think the University is a key player in the city. In fact, after the City Council, we are the biggest institution. Our fortunes are inextricably linked with the fortunes of the city. I work closely with the Chief Executives or Chairmen of the other organisations to ensure we are pulling in the same direction,” she says. “There is no doubt that the University brings a lot to the city. For many years we were the only organisation doing any building and our students bring a significant amount of income into the region. The West Midlands has a low percentage of people with higher skills and that is where we play the most important role. That said, there needs to be the right sort of job available for our graduates to be able to stay in the region.”

Innovation and opportunity Caroline believes the great strengths of the University have remained consistent for the last 50 years. The University’s crest features the words ‘innovation and opportunity’ and she feels this is absolutely relevant. “We provide opportunities for young people and adults to get a higher education qualification where otherwise they might not have thought of coming to university. We give them a good practical degree that changes their lives. Another strength is the way we work with business to innovate and support their aims,” she explains. The needs of the University’s graduates and students are at the very core of its mission, and they remain the best ambassadors for what the institution seeks to achieve. Caroline is extremely positive about the thousands of students who have collected their degree scrolls during her time. “Every experience I have had of Wolverhampton students shows me they are confident and able to speak for themselves. Whether it is the Students’ Union sabbatical officers or other students giving a presentation, I am always impressed. Our students never let us down. Recently the Students’ Union gave a presentation of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) audit, and it was so professional that the auditors wished they had videoed it to use in training. “I have really enjoyed getting to know the Students’ Union Presidents every year. I have always had a monthly meeting with the President and watching them grow in confidence and voice throughout their year in office has been a delight.”

Highlights Looking back over the last six years, there have been many successes and achievements. The University itself looks different, with a number of new buildings opening their doors. The Administration and Teaching building opened at City Campus North in 2007, providing excellent space for learning and teaching as well as offices for administration staff. Within the last year, the University of Wolverhampton Business School relocated to refurbished accommodation at the City Campus. Over at Walsall, a new Education and Teaching building opened in 2008 and The Performance Hub, a new multi-million pound performing arts centre, will be completed this summer, ready for the next academic year. “We have very good teaching facilities. We are very lucky to have finished them as universities that need to do building work in future will find the money hard to find. The one building we still need to do is a new science facility. The plans are quite well advanced and we will find a way of doing that.” Professor Gipps lists another highlight as the University’s improved research performance. The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 rated elements of research as world leading. “As a lifelong researcher, I was very pleased about that, and it put to bed the myth that we are a teaching only institution. It feeds our knowledge transfer activity, at which we have always been good, and now I think we are excellent.”


PROFILE 13

There is no doubt the University brings a lot to the city


14 PROFILE

Turning to the student experience, under Caroline the University has reviewed the undergraduate portfolio and is in the process of reworking postgraduate courses. The aim was to prepare students for the world of work. A new position of Dean of Students was created and a range of services brought together under this unit. The University has increased social learning spaces, which are extremely popular with the student body. The Students’ Union was transformed into the Ambika Paul Student Union Centre, which opened last year offering a coffee bar area with comfortable seats and plasma screens, a study zone with computers, meeting rooms and offices.

Beryl Feely and Louise Tonks, and the Senior Management Group including the Deans and Directors.

Strategic thinking On a personal note, Caroline says she has enjoyed the people the most, and setting up and managing teams in particular. She

“We really have no idea what is going to happen in applications for September 2012 and the years following. There could be a downturn nationally, but then I think it will pick up again as people realise the importance of getting a degree.”

highlights working with the Executive team and the Board of Governors, who have always been supportive. She also mentions her PAs

“I will miss the people the most, and thinking about strategy. Over the last six to nine months, the changes we have had to think about are bigger, more significant and less thought through than in any other era of education I can think of. I have really enjoyed the challenge of thinking through how we should respond and react to them.” This is, of course, a reference to the changes to tuition fees and the withdrawal of Government funding. Professor Gipps states this is the biggest challenge facing the University and the sector as a whole.

This is a theme Caroline picked up on in a public lecture in June, titled Who Goes to University? And Why it Matters. She explained that being educated to degree level offers benefits to the individual in terms of career, interesting work, increased income and a range of other non-financial benefits. “But it also benefits society, in having people educated to a higher skills level. I am not trying to say that everybody should go to university – far from it. I am pleased the Government is encouraging more apprentices and more vocational routes into the professions but I do believe that people who have the ability and motivation to go to university should be able to.”

Looking ahead Caroline retires from her position as ViceChancellor this summer. Professor Geoff Layer, who was previously Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at the University of Bradford, has been appointed to the role. Looking ahead,


PROFILE 15

As well as travelling, Caroline says she will still be doing a few things related to higher education. She will continue to Chair the Higher Education Academy national fellowship scheme and she will be assisting the Frank Buttle Trust. She would also like to write a book, which would be a biography, and she and her husband are renovating a house in London. Until recently, Caroline would have listed being President of the British Educational Research Association as her greatest achievement. But she has received the good news that her book, Beyond Testing, will be republished as a special edition because it is considered to be a classic in its field. “I would have to say that is my highlight now, and I’m tickled pink,” she adds. And she still has an ambition to fulfil. Caroline will become a grandparent for the first time this summer, and she says she would like to teach her grandchildren to sail, as she taught both her sons. When asked if she has a favourite memory from her time as Vice-Chancellor, Caroline recalls a striking incident involving a group of students.

Caroline feels she is leaving the University in a strong position. “I think our reputation locally and regionally is strong and we have excellent courses. We are in a great financial position and have good reserves and cash flow. Given the future costs of higher education, we are in a good position having a large travel-to-study population. The next few years will be choppy, but we are in as good a position as we can be.” And what is Professor Gipps looking forward to most about her retirement? “Not getting up early!” she says. “I am also looking forward to travelling slowly. I have travelled a lot with work, but I have never really seen places because of being busy.” Caroline cites Hong Kong as being her favourite place she has visited during her time at Wolverhampton, and her last overseas trip for the University was for the conferment of honorary degrees to three significant figures in India, which included her first visit to Chennai.

I will miss the people the most, and thinking about strategy. “About four years ago, I was walking through the Harrison Learning Centre entrance to the campus, probably to get a coffee, and I walked past a rather rowdy group of students. I slowed down to listen to what was going on. “One young woman was telling the others about a fantastic lecture she had been to. She said, ‘I have just been to the most fantastic lecture – it was on the Enlightenment. It was mind blowing.’ I just thought that was wonderful. It encapsulated what we do – we get people to think. “What I like about that is the motto of that period of history, the Enlightenment, was ‘Dare to Think’ and that is exactly what this lecture had got this young woman to do.”


16 Feature

SPEED stars As Lord Alan Sugar would no doubt tell you, launching a business is no mean feat. But a programme at the University of Wolverhampton is enabling budding entrepreneurs to launch a business idea alongside their studies. SPEED WM offers students and graduates from any course the opportunity to develop their business ideas while receiving specialist advice and support.

Partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund, SPEED WM provides students with experienced mentoring support, tailored training, networking opportunities and a limited amount of financial support. Here we meet some of the students and graduates benefitting from the programme.

Lynsey Harris Launching a quirky jewellery business through SPEED WM has helped Lynsey Harris to increase her self confidence while doing something she loves. Her business Lynsey Luu includes items such as bracelets and necklaces with comical elements inspired by things she enjoys like Monty Python and Terry Pratchett. The Textiles graduate is now hoping to expand into prints for stationery and clothing. She says: “You can get jewellery from anywhere on the high street but I wanted to offer something quirky and a bit different. I wanted to offer people things that I like. “I had produced the brand myself but SPEED WM helped me to get business cards and other materials. It also paid for the moulds so I can produce my items in mass quantities. My mentor really helped as she is always there but does not sugarcoat things – she tells me the truth. “The benefits of doing this alongside your studies are that you can use things like the School of Art & Design studio space. I also used my modules towards my business, for example my final major project is about using print for stationery and shoes. “My self-confidence was very low before I did SPEED WM. We had a talk from business mentor Ian James and it was so inspiring. The programme has changed my life.”


Feature 17

Luke Mills After working for other people for ten years, Luke Mills felt it was time to give running his own business a go. Set to graduate from the School of Technology in 2012 with a Masters in Computer Science, Luke launched Computer and Information Systems, a business focused on software development and background software for e-commerce websites. Luke says the help from mentors has been really beneficial. “I’m a software developer, not a businessman, so SPEED WM has helped me to build up the business side. It encourages you to manage your expectations of what you are going to get out of your business and the work you need to put in. The last three months I have been working seven-day weeks but it is for a good cause. “My mentor Phil Oakley really helped me to focus, and it is good being able to ask questions. I wanted to submit a proposal for a tender so I emailed SPEED WM and the mentors for advice. They came back to me with the information to put together a proposal.” And Luke hopes to expand his business in the future by employing someone from a college part-time, to enable him to focus on research and development to build and advance his products.

Gavin Phillips Freelance animator and illustrator Gavin Phillips found SPEED WM enabled him to think big with his business plans. Producing bespoke content for the educational, commercial and cultural sectors, Gavin completed a year out before starting on the SPEED WM programme in 2010. SPEED WM has helped Gavin’s business Cyberdonk Developments to work in partnership with other companies, enabling him to take on bigger projects. One partnership has been with a company called Igloo working on using 360 projector screens with the Xbox Connect. He hopes to produce a full animated film in 360 in the future. Gavin, who graduated with a BA (Hons) Animation in 2009, says: “The mentoring has been excellent. You have the framework around you, so when you get into an area you don’t understand there is someone there to help you through it. The main support has been the advice and guidance. “It has helped me to have the confidence to branch out into other areas and begin to turn those potentials into reality. As an artist you only have two hands so you can reach capacity really quickly. SPEED WM has enabled me to create strong partnerships with other companies that can help me take on bigger projects and ideas.”

Duduzile Moyo Whilst growing up in southern Africa, Duduzile Moyo always enjoyed looking at beautiful objects and finding out how they were made. Now she is able to put that passion to good use through her business, Chic Exotik Interiors Limited, which sells home accessories with a contemporary African twist. Duduzile, who is about to start her third year of an Interior Design course, says: “My vision is to have a design studio. I want to source as many creative things as possible from Africa – it has so much to give and I want to be the person that will be the link. “SPEED WM helped me in terms of the knowledge, the expertise, the contacts and the funding. The best thing is that it has developed me as a person. I am able to deal with situations and challenges which is what you need in a business but also as an individual. “I think it helps to link what we are studying with our business, as we need to look at the bigger picture. It has helped me focus on what I want to be doing – designing beautiful spaces.”

For more information, visit www.wlv.ac.uk/speed


18 INTERNATIONAL

Global view The benefits for international students of coming to the UK to study are well documented. Degrees from this country remain highly regarded, and students experience a different culture and way of life. But it is not always possible for students to travel overseas to study, and the development of transnational education (TNE) is enabling them to reap the rewards of a university degree developed in the UK. TNE refers to education provision from one country delivered in another, and the University of Wolverhampton has been a key exponent of this mode of study for some years. The University delivers programmes in a range of subjects at partner institutions all over the world, from China to Cyprus and from Russia to Sri Lanka. In most cases, the students are working to the same programme as their counterparts in the UK. And at the end of it all, the students have the choice of collecting their degree scrolls close to home or travelling to the UK to attend graduation ceremonies in Wolverhampton. Long-standing partners include the School of Computing and Professional Education (SCOPE) in Hong Kong, which offers courses in law, business and construction and Asia Pacific School of Sports and Business (APSSB) in Singapore, which has a partnership with the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure and provides courses in sports management and sports coaching. A more recent addition includes Sri Lankan-based Columbo International Nautical and Engineering College (CINEC), where students can enrol on engineering courses, with a suite of other courses starting in September 2011.

Traditionally popular courses have been those focused on business, engineering, computing, leisure and tourism, but new markets are being developed. A BA (Hons) in Broadcasting and Journalism will be available at Han Chiang in Malaysia and work is under way to deliver one focused on Applied (Occupational) Psychology in Singapore. Rishma Dattani, Deputy Director, International Centre, says the courses are ones that serve that particular market or region, and the University is striving to build up its portfolio to include some form of partnership with each of its eight Academic Schools. There are two modes of delivery in TNE. The ‘flying faculty’ refers to academic staff travelling to the partner institution to deliver the particular course and modules, usually on a block basis. This has been the core method of teaching until recently, with a move towards ‘supported delivery’. This shifts focus onto the partner institution providing the teaching and assessment, and the University supporting in a quality assurance and monitoring role.

Internationalisation agenda Rishma explains one of the reasons for the University’s commitment to TNE is that it supports the internationalisation agenda. “Our strategy is not simply about students coming here or us having partnerships overseas. There is such a lot of value in terms of the benefits for staff. They learn from staff at our partner institutions about the different learning and teaching pedagogies, cultural aspects and building international case studies that can be used with students studying at home.

“Some of the work we are doing currently is looking at ways of supporting students more directly at the TNE institution so students here and over there can learn from one another.” There have already been examples of students working together on projects with international partners. A small group of School of Technology students on the BSc (Hons) Construction Management course worked with students in Hong Kong and both reported that it broadened their understanding. With technology such as Skype, there are further opportunities for interaction between students in Wolverhampton and those studying the same courses overseas. Rishma adds: “Wider internationalisation is about more than recruitment strategies. It is something that makes a difference in terms of the curriculum and the mindset of the student, so when they graduate they are going to be more employable.”


INTERNATIONAL 19

Russia

Wolverhampton

France

Cyprus

China

Qatar

Hong Kong Malaysia

Sri Lanka Singapore

Global context The academic staff ensure that teaching material is contextualised, so it is not UK centric and is relevant to the international students’ experiences and knowledge. They use local examples to support concepts, theories and processes and in turn the lecturers bring that information back and weave it into their teaching in the UK. Aside from the wealth of knowledge brought by the University’s academic experts, there are further benefits for students at the partner institutions. “We have found that although we have over 2,500 international students studying here in Wolverhampton, there are still a proportion that are not able to come. This could be due to costs or other commitments. By delivering courses more locally to them, the fees are going

to be slightly lower, as are the living expenses and travel costs, and they may have the option to combine work or other responsibilities with studying part-time. As an institution, we support the widening participation agenda, and this is similar, but in a global context.” Rishma explains the University is investigating ways to support partner institutions further, for example with recruitment. “We are looking at delivering transnational education in a more strategic and multidimensional way. The next stage in our thinking and development is a Global Hub. Students would spend a semester or year at one place and then travel to another for the following semester. For example, students could enrol in Cyprus and complete their first year there, their second in Wolverhampton and return home for their third.”

Pivotal role The International Centre at the University has a pivotal role in the plans to develop transnational education. The team strives to provide central support to the Academic Schools offering the courses, and continues to investigate opportunities for further collaboration with current and potential partners. There are also plans to expand provision beyond undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to include short courses, staff development and continuous professional development (CPD). With a strong vision and an excellent trackrecord in the delivery of transnational education, the University of Wolverhampton is well placed to take on the challenges posed by a new era in higher education. The international market is broad and diverse, and exciting opportunities for collaboration are never far away. For more information, visit www.wlv.ac.uk/tne


20 BUSINESS

Pebble power Pebble Learning, an innovative business based at the University’s Telford Campus, was recently named Shropshire Company of the Year. The business has a long and successful relationship with the University, which is continuing to develop through the employment of talented graduates and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

In the last ten years, the way students learn has transformed. While books and written exams still have their place in the lecture theatres of a modern university or college, online learning has a central role in the teaching and assessment process. Pebble Learning, based in the University’s e-Innovation Centre, has been at the forefront of developments in this field. In 2004, the company identified a gap in the market for an e-portfolio tool and developed the online personal system PebblePad that allows individuals to record and plan activities and create presentations. Principally used by the education sector, the business has the capacity to expand into other markets, and is already making significant in-roads internationally. This success story was recognised recently when Pebble Learning won the Shropshire Company of the Year Award. The company was also a finalist in the Technology, Enterprise and Innovation category of the awards, organised by Shropshire Chamber of Commerce. This achievement follows on from a highly prestigious platinum award at the Instructional Management Systems (IMS) Learning Impact Awards in California last year, as a result of a joint submission with the University’s Blended Learning Unit. “We were excited and elated to win the Shropshire Company of the Year Award. It was a surprise as we were up against stiff competition from big organisations so we were genuinely delighted to pick up the top prize,” says Colin Dalziel, co-founder and Operations Director of Pebble Learning. The Company of the Year award recognised all-round performance, and Colin believes that contributing factors to its success are a quality product that meets the needs of customers combined with a focus on providing a high level

of service. He adds: “We have a great product and good relationships with our customers. We also have a sound strategy for moving forward with the company and a good financial track record despite the recession. PebblePad is principally used in education but can be used in business and professional organisations. We still have lots of potential for the future and I think the judges liked that. I also think they were impressed with our range of marketing activities and the way we have worked with our customers to develop our product. Internationally we have already expanded into Australia as a market, picking up 15 customers and we now have an employee there, so they saw the global potential.” PebblePad is an online personal system that allows people to record and plan their activities, put them together on a structured website and create presentations. For example, if a student has a 3,000 word essay, the tutor could ask for an action plan about what they are planning to write and then record how they have reacted to feedback. The lecturer may then see a first draft of the essay and give feedback before the student submits the final version. As well as universities, PebblePad is used by professional bodies for continuous professional development (CPD) which requires participants to record aspects such as the time spent on CPD. The benefits for students are clear, as Colin explains: “By recording and reflecting on activities, individuals develop a deeper level of understanding. Learners often say that only by stepping back can they fully understand the bigger picture of what they are learning. With PebblePad being an internet-based system, students can access it from anywhere and on a range of devices such as mobile phones. It also lasts the whole time the student is at the institution and beyond so individuals can

develop a rich picture of their learning and see the journey they have made. We often hear of students creating a portfolio of themselves to send to potential employers to support their job applications.” Pebble Learning has had a long relationship with the University. Colin and co-founder and Development Director Shane Sutherland both worked at the University previously, and the first version of PebblePad was piloted at Wolverhampton during 2005/06. This pilot allowed the company to gain valuable feedback to help develop it into a commercial product. Pebble Learning also has strong recruitment links with the University. Of the 17 people currently working at the firm, 13 are Wolverhampton graduates, and Colin stresses this is because of the high calibre of students at the University. They also work closely with the Blended Learning Unit and IT Services to continue to develop PebblePad so it can meet the educational needs of students at Wolverhampton and beyond. In addition, the company is based at the Telford Campus, located in a grow on space at the e-Innovation Centre. The Centre provides start-up and growing businesses with state-ofthe-art accommodation in a modern building with hi-tech support. As Pebble Learning has grown, the company has taken on more and more space within the landmark building. “We are a technology company so a fundamental requirement is for a computer infrastructure that works, as is having a modern, comfortable working environment. Having a University address was particularly helpful when we were starting as it gave us credibility with potential customers.” The relationship has developed further through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University. KTPs are a threeway partnership between a company, a


BUSINESS 21

highly qualified graduate (or ‘Associate’) and University academics to work on a strategic project for the business. For Pebble Learning, the two-year project involves Associate Konstantinos Kourmpoglou investigating cloud technology and how this could support the company’s development, alongside academic Steve Garner from the School of Technology. Colin explains: “One of the services we offer is for Pebblepad to be supplied as a fully hosted and managed service. The role of the KTP Associate is to reseach how we provide this service better by researching server technologies. The aim is to make recommendations for improving our current provision as well as investigating options for the future. “Traditionally our model is to own and manage our own servers, but now cloud computing

is increasingly popular, where the server is provided by a collection of servers usually made available by a large specialist organisation. “Part of the role of the KTP is to look at how PebblePad could take advantage of this technology. There may be a cost benefit, but what is more likely is that we can capitalise on higher capacity and improve resilience. For example if a server we are using reaches capacity because of heavy load, rather than the system slowing down, it switches over to the cloud and uses capacity outside the normal Pebblepad. This would be particularly useful at peak times, for example when 10,000 students are all trying to submit assignments on the same day.” Although it is early days for the KTP, Colin says the benefits include accessing the rich resources of skills and facilities at the University.

It also enables them to dedicate someone to a potential area of growth for the business. Looking ahead, the company is working on redesigning the system to enable organisations to create bespoke forms for their learners in any learning situation and expanding into other sectors. The international market offers areas for growth, and the new version of PebblePad will provide multi-language support to enable local versions anywhere in the world. With the support of the University of Wolverhampton, Pebble Learning is looking forward to continued growth. For more information about Pebble Learning, please visit www.pebblepad.co.uk


22 people

Putting students first Ken Harris is the University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union President. In April, Ken won a second term as President, only the fifth person since 1931 to do so at the University. Ken is a mature student, having spent 14 years working in sales before deciding to take his interest in British Sign Language to the next level by applying to the University. During his first year as President, the Students’ Union was completely refurbished thanks to a donation from the Ambika Paul Foundation and HEFCE’s Matched Funding scheme. The success of the fundraising project resulted in the University receiving an award at the recent CASE Europe 2011 Leadership, Matched Funding and Volunteer awards.

1

What is the role of the Students’ Union President?

I am the direct link between students and the University. One of the things I do is update the Vice-Chancellor about student matters such as any needs or problems the students have. Representation is the main thing we do, and that can be at a local or national level. It can also be for students that need advocacy or support at a University hearing, general advice on their studies or the social side of the University. I also lead the Union Executive team, which includes the Vice-Presidents and the part-time officers.

2

Why did you decide to run for a second year?

It has been an amazing year and I have been able to achieve so many positive things with the rest of the team. Some of the projects couldn’t be realised in a year, for example the re-opening of the Students’ Union at Walsall, which will happen in September. I want to cement what we have done in the first year and carry it through to the second year.

3

What are your plans for the year ahead?

We have been discussing how the Learning Centres’ opening hours could be adapted to further meet student needs. I also want to focus on helping students to get better access to grants and other funding that is available. There is money set aside to help students so we want to make them aware of alternative sources of funding. I also hope to spend more time at Walsall and increase the Students’ Union presence.

4

The Students’ Union has been transformed in the last year thanks to the Ambika Paul Foundation and the Matched Funding scheme – how has this made a difference to students?

It has made us more visible and accessible to students. We went out and spoke to students and asked them what they wanted from their Students’ Union. One of the main things was social space where they can relax and study. We took that on board and that has helped us to create the new SU. Before we were hidden away from students, but they are the reason we are here. It is really important that we are right at the heart of where students are. People know who we are and where we are now, so we have seen an increase in the numbers of students using our services, coming to us for representation and getting involved in our activities and volunteering. People come to the union now and use us, even just to have a coffee between lectures.

come over to get advice about all sorts of things, from their course or graduation or even where the prayer room is.

6

The cultural diversity. There are lots of people from different cultures and backgrounds and everyone just gets along. I studied a BA (Hons) in Deaf Studies with History and that course has a great reputation, especially among the Deaf community. I am doing a Masters in Conflict Studies and the lecturers are experts in their field.

7

What sort of feedback have you received from students about the new-look Students’ Union?

They have said it is relaxing, vibrant and a place they want to spend time in. I have people

What are your plans and ambitions after this year?

I’d like to either continue with research in Deaf Studies or working for a Deaf organisation. At the moment I do a lot of work related to international students and student employability and I am finding that really interesting so maybe something in that area. But I would definitely like to put my sign language to use.

8

If you were going to sum up the University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union in three words, what would they be?

Putting students first.

9 5

You have studied an undergraduate and a postgraduate course at Wolverhampton – what do you think are the strengths of the University?

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Every day is different. I get to work with a team of officers and staff to make positive changes for current and future students. It is never a dull day! I am never bored – there is always something new.


people 23


24 success story

Graduate success story

Raw Games Name: Matt Clark, Sam Cobley, John Tearle Course: BA (Hons) Computer Games Design Year of Graduation: 2010 formal qualifications in the area and saw the University offered a degree to give me the best chance of breaking into the industry.”

Video gaming has been a lucrative industry worldwide since the 1980s and Matt Clark, Sam Cobley and John Tearle are not alone in having spent a large part of their childhood engrossed in games consoles. However, few people can claim to have made a career out of their favourite pastime, let alone a successful business with financial backing from a major firm and interest from nearly a quarter of a million consumers – without actually having a product on the shelves. Raw Games is a computer games company which was formed in June 2010 by John, Matt and Sam. The three friends met at the University of Wolverhampton whilst studying the same course and had all wanted to get into the industry for some time, as Sam explains: “Computer Games Design is one of those dream jobs I always wanted to do but hadn’t seriously considered as a career. After I left school I got involved in the computer modifying community and realised that I wanted to make games for the rest of my life. I didn’t have any

Less than a year after it was founded Raw Games received the backing of AIM-listed Legendary Investments, which acquired an initial 42.5 per cent equity stake for an undisclosed sum. The company’s first game, which is currently under development, is called ‘The Spire’ and has already generated a rush of excitement in the market. A teaser trailer for the game received more than 230,000 views within the first week of release. Raw Games also works closely with universities in the region, including Wolverhampton and Birmingham, to help games development students and recent graduates get the right skills they need to break into the industry. John emphasises the trio is keen to acknowledge the skills and experiences they gained from undertaking their degree. “Our time at University gave us some great experience with project and resource management. As we did lots of group work we soon became an efficient team who met deadlines and produced results. Obviously this has proved invaluable when running our own company and managing a team of developers.” The team is also aware their success in the current financial climate is something of a rarity, especially in the notoriously competitive games industry and with very little business experience between them, as John adds: “Starting our own business seemed to be a

great way to break into the industry whilst maintaining creative control over the project we had worked so hard on during our final year.” Matt highlights that a big part of the group’s success is their working relationship and their shared history as students. “The immediate difference is that they aren’t just my work colleagues, they are my best friends. We get along like any close group of University mates would do, which makes the working atmosphere less tense and more productive. I’m a strong believer in a relaxed working environment when it comes to the creative industries. It’s very exciting to be working with people who are as passionate as you about making games.” Although the team is currently working on their eagerly anticipated release ‘The Spire’, their plans for the future reflect their enthusiasm for the constant advancements within the industry they are now a part of, as Matt says: “We want to continue to make top quality content for our games. Our team is highly skilled already, but there is always room for improvement. Having that positive attitude will hopefully attract more people with equally as much talent and commitment to developing content for current and future projects here at Raw Games.” Teamwork is ultimately what the three entrepreneurs credit the most for their success, and forms a major part of the advice they give to students wishing to follow in their footsteps, as Sam says: “Get involved with a group project as soon as possible, either with fellow students or one of the many computer modifying teams out there. It will provide you with great team working skills whilst teaching you the development process and make you attractive to employers. Finally, always strive to be the best and don’t give up!”


WHAT’s ON GUIDE 25

What’s on

Guide August

October

University of Wolverhampton Open Day – find out about a range of courses, meet the lecturers and current students and tour the excellent facilities.

University of Wolverhampton Open Day – find out about a range of courses, meet the lecturers and current students and tour the excellent facilities.

Date: Saturday, 20 August 2011

Date: Saturday, 8 October 2011

Time: 10am to 3pm

Time: 10am to 3pm

Location: Wolverhampton City and Walsall Campuses

Location: Wolverhampton City and Walsall Campuses

Contact: Enquiries Team

Contact: Enquiries Team

Website: www.wlv.ac.uk/opendays

Website: www.wlv.ac.uk/opendays

Call: 0800 953 3222*

Call: 0800 953 3222*

September 2011 University of Wolverhampton graduations – students from all Academic schools receive their awards. Date: Thursday, 1 September to Friday, 9 September 2011 Location: The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

The Crystal Lecture – an annual event for business people hosted jointly by the University of Wolverhampton Business School and Chartered Management Institute. This year’s speaker is Terry Last, CEO of Tarmac. Date: Tuesday, 18 October 2011 Time: 6pm to 8.30pm Location: MC001 Contact: Marie Porello Call: 01902 323874

MA Degree Show – students from the School of Art & Design exhibit their work. Date: Friday, 24 September to Sunday, 9 October 2011 Location: The Public, New Street, West Bromwich Email: art-design@wlv.ac.uk Call: 01902 322058 Website: www.thepublic.com

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WLV

dialogue

University of Wolverhampton Wulfruna Street Wolverhampton West Midlands WV1 1LY tel: 0800 953 3222* fax: 01902 32 25 17 web: www.wlv.ac.uk/dialogue

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WLV dialogue - Issue 13