Annual Review 2014/15

Review of the year

A selection of the news from the University year 2014/15.

The past year has been a busy and eventful one in which the University has been much in the spotlight as it continues to make new advances in research, teaching and innovation.


Old College quad illuminated by film

Old College film screening Annual Review 2014_15
The Old College quad was transformed into an open-air cinema in August for a week-long series of film screenings. As well as enjoying the atmospheric surrounding of the Old College, festival-goers had the opportunity to bring a picnic and watch classic films under the stars on the quad lawn. There were themed evenings throughout the week, including a night dedicated to films directed by the Coen brothers, an Edinburgh-themed evening with Danny Boyle’s infamous Trainspotting, dark comedy Restless Natives and romantic comedy One Day. There were also free family matinees showing Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon. Short films by ECA students were also screened each evening. 


India and South Asia Week celebrated

A bhangra performer playing a drum Annual Review 2014_15
A week of celebrations began with a vibrant dance and music performance by the Edinburgh Bhangra Crew. Other events included a photography exhibition by Hermann Rodrigues examining the integration into wider society of Asian ethnic groups in Scotland, and the University’s Centre for Research Collections display of its rare manuscripts from the Indian subcontinent. A highlight of the week was a lecture by Lord Meghnad Desai MP, recipient of the Padma Bhushan, who delivered a lecture entitled ‘India in South Asia: the unfinished agenda’. Edinburgh’s annual Namaste party provided an opportunity for new students from India and South Asia to meet fellow students and staff. The week concluded with the Muslim festival, Bakri-Eid, with a grand biryani dinner organised by the Centre for South Asian Studies, the India Institute, the South Asian Students Association and the University’s International Office.


Football MOOC launched

Didier Drogba footballer Annual Review 2014_15
Football – More than a Game is a successful six-week online course, first run in October 2014, which examines football’s ability to bring people together, improve lives and raise educational attainment. The Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, open to everyone, involved a mix of teaching styles, including video presentations, online debates and discussions about the most popular sport on Earth. Topics covered club rivalries, corruption and politics with one section of the course given over to Didier Drogba and his contribution to the peace process in the Ivory Coast. Developed in conjunction with the Homeless World Cup, contributors included TV presenter Alan Hansen and Homeless World Cup founder Mel Young. World Cup winner Pelé, who received an honorary degree from the University, also made an appearance.


First World War remembered

Edinburgh University Music Society choir singing
University staff and students took part in a range of events to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. The events, which will continue to take place over the next four years, aim to offer fresh insight into the conflict and reflect on the impact of the Great War on the people of Scotland and the wider world. November brought a new exhibition, ‘War and Deeds, Weapons and Wounding’ developed by Ms Yvonne McEwen, exploring women’s role in warfare. Professor Jolyon Mitchell introduced a screening of Wooden Crosses, a film chronicling the life of a student in the trenches, and Edinburgh University Music Society concert reflected on themes of war and peace through music – from Haydn’s interpretation in the 18th century, to Edinburgh composer Ken Johnston’s in the 21st.


Research Excellence Framework results revealed

View of University of Edinburgh Old College quad
Edinburgh’s position as one of Britain’s leading research universities was reaffirmed by the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF placed Edinburgh as Scotland’s top-ranked research institution, with each of the University’s three Colleges having at least one research area ranked top in the UK. The results revealed that 83% of the University’s research activity is  in the highest categories – 4* and 3* – which are classified as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Based on the quality and breadth of its research,

Edinburgh has been rated fourth in the UK. Shortly after this announcement, the University’s reputation as a world-leading institution was also reaffirmed when it came 29th in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, which surveys the top 100 most powerful university brands.


Scholarships for young scientists announced

Female student scientists in a lab annual review 2014_15
Some 70 students from around the world will be able to study for undergraduate degrees at the University thanks to a new scheme, funded by global logistics company Deutsche Post DHL through the DHL UK Foundation. The initiative is intended to support aspiring young people of limited means to pursue a world-class education in science. These young talented scientists and engineers of the future will benefit from a £750,000 scholarship fund. Students selected to take part may also benefit from placement opportunities and exchange programmes at DHL’s UK business divisions. Students who qualify for the scholarships will receive £2,000 each year for up to five years of their course. The scheme is scheduled to support 14 or 15 science and engineering students each year, and will operate for 10 years in total, beginning in autumn 2015.


School playground transformed

preston street primary playground Annual Review 2014_15
Edinburgh’s smallest playground was transformed when University staff and students gave it a major overhaul in early spring. Working with parents and teachers from Preston Street Primary School, and environmental charity and social enterprise Greenworks, they created new places to hide and climb, and added a splash of vibrant colour to the playground. A team from the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Moray House School of Education were challenged to design and implement a range of creative renovations in one week, as part of Innovative Learning Week, a week-long programme of events that replace regular timetables with opportunities for students to develop new skills, prepare for employment and work in the community. The students worked together to build a range of outdoor furniture and play equipment, based on a wish list created by pupils.


Future of fashion previewed

Space-age holidays, old family photographs and vintage Parisienne couture provided some of the inspiration for the University’s fashion students, whose designs were showcased in the Edinburgh College of Art’s SHOW 2015. The College’s sculpture court was transformed to provide a striking backdrop for the seven multimedia catwalk shows, giving local audiences the chance to see the work of some of Scotland’s most talented new designers. Fashion students at Edinburgh College of Art are the only ones in Scotland to showcase their work on the catwalk at the annual Graduate Fashion Week in London. In 2013, final-year student Lauren Smith was awarded one of the world’s top awards for graduates at London Fashion Week, the Graduate Fashion Week George Gold Award for best collection.


£25.7 million funding boost secured

Researcher looking down a microscope in the Universityof Edinburgh Centre for regenerative medicine
A £25.7 million investment by the UK Government will enable the University to create a new biology complex with world-leading laboratory space for 350 researchers, and establish a new Centre for Tissue Repair. The two projects were the only Scottish bids to secure funding in a fiercely competitive round of awards from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund. More than £50 million has been leveraged from industry, charity and philanthropic funds to double-match the investment. £15 million will help to create a research complex that integrates three research areas: infection and global health, synthetic biology and epigenetics. The new biology complex will also include facilities for community engagement. £10.7 million will enable the creation of a Centre for Tissue Repair, bringing together experts in inflammation and scarring, and tissue regeneration.


Secrets of espionage uncovered

Author signing books in Spy Week Annual review 2014_15
The twists and turns of espionage throughout history were examined and celebrated during a literary Spy Week at the University in May. Screenings of classic spy films, including adaptations of Graham Greene’s classic espionage novels, took place at Edinburgh Filmhouse, with introductions from Edinburgh department of English literature staff. Academics also examined the place of secrecy in our social lives and the role of fiction during and after the Cold War. Scots-born spy novelist Charles Cumming, who studied English literature at the University, and was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2012, also gave a talk. The week was organised in partnership with the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Filmhouse, and Blackwell’s Bookshop. A Publish Your Own Spy Fiction workshop by best-selling writer Tim Stevens, the author of 14 espionage thrillers, was particularly well attended.


World-class sporting stars welcomed

Linnea gustafsson Swedish orienteering champion at WOC sprint final annual review 2014_15
A world champion, an archery star and one of Britain’s most successful hockey players joined the list of sporting greats in the University’s Sports Hall of Fame. Swedish orienteering world champion Linnea Gustafsson was the first international student to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Joining her in June were European archery champion Naomi Jones, who took up the sport while a student at the University, and hockey player Stephen Dick, who has 149 caps for Scotland and Great Britain and has scored more than 25 goals during his international career. The Hall of Fame newcomers were welcomed by the Principal, alongside current students and fellow athletes, at the University’s annual celebration of sporting excellence, the Blues and Colours sports dinner.


Mysteries of deep space unveiled

Westerlund composite galaxy annual review 2014_15
New images of deep space are helping shed light on dark matter, the invisible material that accounts for more than 80% of all the matter in the universe, but is little understood. The images are the first from an international project, co-led by staff in the School of Physics & Astronomy, which seeks to understand how much dark matter is contained in groups of galaxies. Researchers analysed images of more than two million galaxies, typically 5.5 billion light years away, and used their results to calculate precise measurements of the influence of dark matter. They examined how light emitted by galaxies is distorted by the pull of gravity as it passes massive clumps of dark matter. They also showed that the brightest galaxy in each group nearly always sits at the centre of the dark matter clump that surrounds it. This is the clearest demonstration to date of this phenomenon, predicted by theories of galaxy formation.