School of CS newsletterPublished: Monday, 16 May 2016
Weekly newsletter for the School of CS
[ top ]News from Head of School
The Government is due to publish its white paper on the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) today. According to THES the white paper will recommend that the maximum tuition fee that a university can charge will be linked to that university's performance in the teaching excellence framework (TEF). Teaching excellence will therefor become of increasing practical importance to the School and the University.
The Shadbolt review has been published. The review (91 pages) is wide-ranging and comprehensive, some of its recommendations include: greater availability of placements or other work experience; that core curriculum should reference the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) curriculum recommendations; and that SMEs' requirements for Computer Science graduate skills are captured and are adequately reflected in the curriculum. The report is and extensive but will be influential in what we teach and how we teach it. We will need to urgently consider how we respond to this in advance of the upcoming accreditation visit in November 2016.
Steve Furber has been asked by The Royal Society to lead a study, funded by Google and Microsoft, to understand the challenges faced by schoolteachers delivering the new English computing curriculum that was introduced in 2014 following the previous "Shut down or Restart" report published by the Royal Society following a previous review led by Steve.
The Department for Education has extended funding for our pioneering contribution to supporting computing in schools across the region with a 2-year funded project. This award recognises the tremendous activity led by David Rydeheard and strongly supported by many staff and students that has placed us at the forefront of supporting the teaching of Computer Science in Schools.
We have been appointed the Computing At School (CAS) Regional Centre with a responsibility to over 2,200 teachers, both Primary and Secondary, to help them develop and deliver high-quality and exciting computing in their schools. We are doing this directly with activities for teachers and for schoolchildren, and indirectly through developing a support network across the region, so that teachers can support others and also form groups of good practice. You can find out more about the Centre here.
As well as a focus on improving the quality of computing in schools, we are also attempting to tackle the gender imbalance in our subject. This imbalance happens at school and it is with schools that we are working to develop effective ways of making the subject attractive to girls. We know some things work (indeed some schools are so successful that they have more girls than boys taking CS qualifications!) and have tried these in girls-only days here in the Kilburn Building. These deliver computing as you have never seen it, with algorithmic dance, creating wearable technology, music making and textile design as example activities. We are planning to inform all schools nationwide with guidance on how to improve the gender balance in our subject.
The DfE award will enable Carol Murray and Sarah Zaman (shown left and right in the photos), who are currently with us, to develop a 2-year programme to improve the experience of computing in schools and to ensure that an effective infrastructure is in place to enable all schools to deliver high-quality computing.
If you are interested in our public engagement, including our support for schools, please contact David Rydeheard.
I've previously mentioned at School Board that there will be some changes to the courtyard. This arises because IT Services are refurbishing the ground floor, and they would like to have a light well that provides some natural light and a view of the sky from the middle of the ground floor. The ground floor has no central courtyard and consequently only has natural light from the windows around the outer perimeter of the building, and so it is reasonable for them to have some additional source of natural light.
The courtyard already has many things in it - concrete benches, brick ventilation blocks etc that make it rather difficult to get around and to fully use. The plan for the future of the courtyard is in the figure, which shows the plan view with the 1st floor lobby on the right, the disused walkway at the top and the common room on the left.
The large square in the figure is the lightwell. It will be a glazed structure around 1m high and is shown surrounded by planting that screens it from view and prevents people from staring down into IT Services from above.
You will notice that the rest of the courtyard is blank, which is intentional. The lightwell has to go where it is drawn in order to avoid the pillars supporting the 1st floor, and in that location it would have significantly intersected the current garden creating an illogical structure that would have prevented movement around the courtyard. That means that as well as all of the upstanding concrete and brick items in the courtyard the garden will be removed, and that includes the floating point zero. It is not intended to leave it a blank sea of concrete paving. There will be planters, tables, chairs in as-yet unspecified locations/arrangements with the aim of making it good to look at and pleasant to be in (sorry, there will not be any rain protection though).
In addition, as part of the reglazing of the building all of the glass around the courtyard will be replaced with double glazing. The door from the 1st floor lobby will be realigned to be more central and ramps will be provided on the door from the 1st floor lobby and the walkway.
The section of walkway adjacent to the courtyard will be brought into use by provision of light, power, heating and ventilation etc, and for that section the glazing will be moved outwards to the edge of the building to create space inside for tables and chairs. Provided that a pleasing design for the courtyard can be created the aim is that this should be a pleasant place to sit with a view of outside.
There will be consultation about details of furniture in the walkway and arrangements of planters, furniture etc within the courtyard in due course, at this stage the work that is being finalised is what is shown on the plan. At this stage it is difficult to make major changes to plans, and the existence, location and size of the lightwell are not negotiable. I would like to hear suggestions for any other aspects shown on the plan or any questions about it during this week.
I would have preferred to have a wider discussion before this stage, unfortunately the planning process for the refurbishment of the ground floor hasn't been straightforward and has been repeatedly delayed which means that certainty that this will go ahead has come too close to the point where Estates want to go out to tender for the work. We will have a more comprehensive consultation about what will go into the courtyard following the work.
[ top ]Events
An ERC Advanced Grant Information Session will be held on Thursday 19th May, 12-2pm, Samuel Alexander Buildning, Room A7.
An ERC Advanced Grant is aimed at providing exceptional established research leaders of any nationality and any age to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects that open new directions in their respective research fields or other domains. The scheme targets researchers who have already established themselves as independent research leaders in their own right and who have a track record of significant research achievements in the last 10 years.
Following the success of a similar session last year, we are holding an information session for PIs who are intending to apply to the 2016 call for this scheme. This session will include case studies from ERC Advanced Grant holders:
Professor Matt Lambon Ralph - MHS
Professor Georgina Waylen - Humanities
Professor Terry Brown - FLS
Professor Ben Stappers - EPS
A sandwich lunch will be provided from 11:30 before a prompt 12:00 start
The 2016 ERC Advanced Grant call is due to open on 24th May 2016 and has a deadline of 1st September 2016.
[ top ]Funding Opportunities
Deadline for applications: 8th June 2016
“The Fellowships provide opportunities for people employed in industry, commerce, the public sector, third sector, other professional services, or who are self-employed to undertake a fixed-term placement within the University. The Fellowship may be used for activities such as capacity building, or to scout and develop opportunities for business engagement, research impact, knowledge exchange or other activities of strategic importance identified by the University.”
These are usually short, 4-12 week placements and the fellow is paid a day rate rather than a salary. The Fellows are nominated by the School and usually one is appointed per faculty. Please see further information at this link (requires UoM login): http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=28747
[ top ]Featured Research Outcomes
Gavin Brown and Co-Investigator Mikel Lujan have been awarded a 4 year, £500k grant from EPSRC to conduct research in "Learning Algorithms for Broad and Deep Architectures" (LAMBDA).
"The LAMBDA project explores an approach to deep learning which is not just deep, but also broad - hence "Learning Algorithms for Broad and Deep Architectures". We aim to (1) make "broad" models that are faster/easier to learn, and as a consequence (2) reduce the energy consumption. If successful, we will be able to reproduce the same abilities as current deep neural networks, but with a significantly reduced energy consumption, and whilst learning such architectures a significantly easier task for scientists."
[ top ]Tech Support News
Research IT are pleased to announce the release of the new University of Manchester Research IT blog. Keeping you up to date with the latest IT technology, resources, developments and training to help you achieve your research outcomes, the blog will be regularly updated with the latest news relevant to researchers at the University of Manchester.
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