- How your University is responding to the Covid-19 challenge
- Record donation will support disadvantaged students and pioneering medical research
- We’re pioneering gene therapy
- University pledges carbon neutral campus by 2030
- Recognition for our impact on society and the economy
- Long-lost castle reveals Sheffield’s roots in the Middle Ages
- Changes in Archaeology
- New blast laboratory to help protect against attacks by terrorists
- Campus update
- Regional skills high on agenda with nationally leading partnership
- Happy anniversary
- What’s new at the SU?
How your University is responding to the Covid-19 challenge
We’ve had to make significant changes to the way we operate in order to keep our students, staff and wider community safe during the pandemic – this has been our priority throughout. Since the outbreak began, we’ve continued to deliver teaching and carry out research in new and innovative ways. We’re incredibly proud of our community response.
Of course, this has been an incredibly challenging time for our students, and we’ve been working hard to ensure they receive all the support they need.
A £3 million Covid-19 Support Fund has been established for students who need financial assistance. We’re providing packages of practical and wellbeing support to students who need to self-isolate. And we’re continuing to enhance our mental health provision. To give students and their families some reassurance when they returned home for the Christmas break, we set up our own Covid-19 Testing Centre in under two weeks.
As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to work in line with the latest government guidance and advice to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff. We plan to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as possible as soon as it is safe to do so. We look forward to welcoming our new students to Sheffield later this year and providing them with an on-campus Sheffield experience.
WE REFOCUSED OUR RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
Our academics have researched and advised on almost every aspect of the pandemic:
- Our researchers supported the pioneering Oxford vaccine trial, working with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to recruit hundreds of volunteers to assess its effectiveness.
- The University of Sheffield Health Centre started administering the Covid-19 vaccine to residents in the city in January after it became one of the latest vaccination hubs. A team of 35 workers from the University Health Service including GPs, nurses, pharmacists and healthcare assistants began to roll out the vaccine to high priority groups, such as community health workers and the over-80s.
- Our academics have also played a key role in the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium. Their research is helping us understand immune responses to the virus, the long-term health impacts of Covid-19 and the psychological impact of lockdowns.
- Our researchers have worked with Sheffield City Council and Sheffield City Region to assess the impact of the pandemic on the region’s cultural sector. They’ve submitted evidence to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to inform how creative industries are supported.
- Our Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC played a pivotal role in the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium, responding to the Prime Minister’s call for thousands of medical ventilators. The AMRC Cymru facility in North Wales was completely transformed to become the main ventilator manufacturing facility – 10 years’ production of life-saving equipment was delivered in 10 weeks.
Record donation will support disadvantaged students and pioneering medical research
The University has been given £5.85 million – the largest single gift from an individual alumnus in its history – to launch a new student support programme and search for new therapies for a range of incurable and debilitating diseases.
The record donation has been made by The Law Family Charitable Foundation, established by Andrew and Zoë Law. Andrew Law is Chairman and CEO of Caxton Associates, a global macro hedge fund. He studied Economics at the University and graduated with a first-class honours degree in 1987.
£2.85 million of this donation has been earmarked to launch a new programme of initiatives to help students from demographic areas with low progression to higher education access university. The student support initiative will be named The Law Family Ambition Programme. It will run over a five-year period and have three main aims: to help more students from low participation backgrounds access university, to support their success in higher education, and to help students develop the skills, confidence and social abilities that can help to boost graduate employability.
Andrew Law said, “The Law Family Charitable Foundation (LFCF) is delighted to support the University of Sheffield with the grant award. Since being established in 2011, LFCF has focused on education and health, together with social mobility and the environment. The country will prosper only if all of society has access to participating fully in leading education opportunities, and supporting the disadvantaged is central to this. I owe a large part of my success to the University of Sheffield, and we would like others to have equal opportunities. We are providing £2.85 million to launch a range of activities to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds gain access to and also be supported at the University.”
I owe a large part of my success to the University of Sheffield, and we would like others to have equal opportunities.”
– Andrew Law
A further £3 million of the donation has been gifted to fund crucial medical research that could lead to the development of medical therapies for a range of genetic and neurodegenerative disorders.
This gift from the LFCF will build on the University’s existing research strengths in advanced therapies for genetic and neurodegenerative disorders. The donation will help speed up the development of much-needed treatments for multiple incurable diseases which cannot be treated by conventional drug compounds. More details on this research can be found in the following story.
Andrew Law said, “It is imperative that more leading UK universities expand their research, exploit their immense expertise for the greater good, and commercialise their success thus creating further growth.
“The University of Sheffield is developing a national and global reputation in gene therapy. Investing in new medical technology is very capital intensive but is critical to combat rare genetic diseases and cancers. With this in mind we are contributing £3 million to fund the next phase of the gene centre’s growth.”
We’re pioneering gene therapy
A pioneering gene therapy innovation centre at the University is set to advance scientific discoveries into promising treatment options for millions of patients with life-threatening diseases.
Gene therapy is a promising treatment option for more than 7,000 rare diseases that currently have no cure. It aims to treat these conditions by engineering another gene to replace, silence or manipulate the faulty one. The UK has a world-class genetics research base; however, to date, academics have found it difficult to get access to the clinical materials, facilities and expertise required to progress gene therapy research into clinical trials.
The Sheffield Gene Therapy Innovation and Manufacturing Centre (GTIMC) will be one of three cutting-edge hubs in the UK dedicated to advancing the clinical development of new genetic treatments. The Sheffield Hub is part of an £18 million network created by LifeArc and the Medical Research Council (MRC), with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Professor Mimoun Azzouz, Director of the GTIMC and Chair of Translational Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, said, “Sheffield has emerged as one of the leading players in cell and gene therapy, and this national network of partners, facilities and training programmes will allow us to keep pace with translational discoveries for new and potentially life-changing treatments. This is a momentous milestone for revolutionary medical advances not only for Sheffield and South Yorkshire, but also for the UK.”
The state-of-the-art centre will bring together academic institutions, NHS Trusts, non-profit and industry partners across the North of England, the Midlands and Wales, enabling academic-led clinical trials of novel gene therapies. The GTIMC will deliver essential translational and regulatory support alongside extensive training and skills programmes, to enable upskilling and address the shortage of skills in Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) manufacturing.
Professor Dame Pamela Shaw, Director of the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre and co-applicant on the GTIMC application, said, “Alongside the national network funding from LifeArc, the MRC and BBSRC, the GTIMC was made possible thanks to a £3 million donation from The Law Family Charitable Foundation, established by alumnus Andrew Law and his wife Zoë. This funding was part of a record £5.85 million donation which will also see the launch of a new student support programme” (see earlier story).
University pledges carbon neutral campus by 2030
The University has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions on campus by 2030 and across all activities by 2038.
These commitments, set out in the new five-year sustainability strategy, are informed by academic research, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) call for comprehensive climate action and the Tyndall Centre’s 2019 report, ‘Setting Climate Commitments for the City of Sheffield’.
The strategy is the latest step in the University’s sustainability journey. Earlier this year, student representatives played a key role alongside staff in the decision to switch procured campus electricity to a renewable supplier, Bryt Energy, ensuring that 100 per cent of procured electricity on campus will come from wind, solar and hydro sources.
Between 2005 and 2019, the University cut its carbon emissions by 35 per cent. And in 2019, the University announced it had fully divested its endowment from fossil fuel investments. The new sustainability strategy takes these commitments further. It includes pledges to embed Education for Sustainable Development into all taught courses, maintain a 100 per cent renewable procured electricity supply and tackle high-carbon travel practices.
The strategy summarises the University’s thinking on research and innovation, education, and campus and City Region sustainability challenges. In bringing together this work, sustainability leads have drawn upon the whole University community, from student climate campaigners to senior academics. Both academic staff and students continue to engage cooperatively to map out the University’s path to net-zero.
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts said, “We aim to become one of the most sustainable research-intensive universities in the country by aligning our research, teaching and campus to ensure sustainable practice across everything we do. We will become net carbon neutral on campus by 2030 and across all activities by 2038.
“The challenges we face are multifaceted and any action we take to overcome them requires a careful balance between environmental, economic and social factors to understand their full impact. But we will never lose sight of the urgent need to cut emissions, restore habitats and secure our planet for the future.”
Dr Rachael Rothman, Co-Director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and Academic Lead for Sustainability, added, “The science is showing us that bold and decisive action is needed to combat the climate emergency. As highlighted by the IPCC, the next ten years will be crucial. At Sheffield, we are stepping up to the challenge by setting ourselves ambitious but achievable targets for emissions reductions.
“Underpinning our strategy lies an action plan which will ensure that we are being transparent by showing how we aim to achieve our ambitious targets. We will be providing regular updates to ensure we are making progress towards our targets and continually assessing whether our strategy remains in line with the science.”
The University of Sheffield is in the top 10 per cent of universities in England for working with businesses to find solutions to problems in industry and society, according to a new framework published in March this year.
The first ever Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), published by Research England, also places Sheffield in the top 10 per cent of universities for working with the public and third sectors, as well as commercialising its research and intellectual property (IP), and for public and community engagement.
The KEF is a new analysis of data showing the contribution that higher education institutions make to society. It reveals how universities work with partners locally, nationally and internationally to find solutions to economic and social challenges – known as knowledge exchange.
Stimulating local growth
The new KEF paints a picture of how higher education providers can stimulate local growth, highlighting Sheffield’s strength in this field.
- Over the last 20 years, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has shown how effective the model of an academic-business partnership can be to the local economy, attracting global brands like McLaren and Boeing to open new facilities in the North.
- Based in Sheffield city centre, District Eating develops horticulture projects that utilise waste heat and CO2. They partnered with the University of Sheffield to increase their knowledge of commercialisation of low carbon combustion equipment. They also worked with the Translational Energy Research Centre, which is part of the University’s Energy Institute, to develop tools for attracting client investment.
- Through the RISE initiative, the University works in collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region to provide access to graduate talent, skills and innovation while also providing graduates with access to local employment opportunities and career progression.
- Diurnal Group, a University-spin out, is a global pharmaceutical company that develops treatments for patients with hormone deficiencies to aid lifelong treatment for rare and chronic endocrine conditions.
“The University has strong partnerships throughout the region, and beyond, and makes a rich contribution both economically and socially, on local and national levels.”
– Professor Dave Petley, Vice-President for Innovation
A city of culture
Knowledge exchange also includes public engagement activities where academics communicate their research with the public through festivals, cultural celebrations, open events, lectures and school activities. The University collaborates with groups and organisations from across the city to co-create projects and activities which contribute to the city’s cultural vibrancy.
- Festival of the Mind showcases local creative talent and world class academic research through a series of events held across the city every two years.
- The University also brings Off the Shelf, one of the largest literary festivals in the UK, to the city of Sheffield each year, adding to the city’s cultural vibrancy.
Professor Dave Petley, Vice-President for Innovation at the University of Sheffield, said: “At Sheffield, we have a strong track record of knowledge exchange, working with a large range of businesses, organisations and groups from multiple sectors. We’re very enthusiastic about the ways in which we can help the city, the North and the country recover from the pandemic.”
Long-lost castle reveals Sheffield’s roots in the Middle Ages
Sheffield is known around the world for its musical and industrial heritage. However, its castle – once one of the most powerful political and cultural centres in medieval England – deserves a place in the history books too, according to archaeologists.
For the first time, findings from all of the major excavations of the castle – conducted in the 1920s, 1950s, 1990s and 2018 – have been collected in a book. Sheffield Castle: Archaeology, Archives, Regeneration, 1927-2018, is authored by Professor John Moreland from the Department of Archaeology, Professor Dawn Hadley from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, and Ashley Tuck and Milica Rajic from Wessex Archaeology. This new, definitive account reveals that Sheffield Castle played a major role in local, national and international affairs in the medieval era.
Professor John Moreland said, “Since the castle was largely destroyed following the English Civil War and multiple developments have been built on its site since, Sheffield’s rich medieval history has largely been forgotten.”
Now, archaeologists are calling for the castle, and Sheffield’s significance in the Middle Ages, to be recognised in the redevelopment of the Castlegate area of the city centre. The team is working with Sheffield City Council to explore how best to use the city’s new-found medieval heritage in future regeneration.
“Our studies have revealed Sheffield’s importance on the national and international stage, well before the steel boom. This deep history reveals the persistence of Sheffield as a place of some importance over centuries.
Changes in Archaeology
The University’s Council has recently approved a recommendation by the University Executive Board (UEB) to retain and invest in key areas of archaeological teaching and research strength by moving them into other related University departments. The decision was taken in response to challenges the Department has been facing.
This means that the Department of Archaeology will no longer be a separate academic and administrative unit. However, it does not mean the end of archaeology at Sheffield. Building on its commitment to invest in areas of excellence, the University will continue to develop archaeological research, knowledge exchange and teaching and learning, as well as collaborations with other universities and communities.
New blast laboratory to help protect against attacks by terrorists
A new world-class laboratory to develop unprecedented insight into the behaviour of explosives – and improve our ability to protect against terrorist attacks – is being launched by engineers at the University.
The first of its kind facility, led by Dr Sam Clarke from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, will help academia and industry to better engineer materials capable of resisting or mitigating the effects of explosions.
Thanks to £1.3 million of government funding from the World Class Labs initiative announced in January, the Sheffield researchers are building a new laboratory that will provide a safe environment in which explosive, fragment and ballistic tests can be conducted whilst allowing the highest possible spectrum of data to be collected.
The findings could inform ways to protect critical infrastructure and urban environments against explosive threats.
The grant provides a step-change in our capabilities to investigate the region very close to an explosive detonation.
– Dr Sam Clarke
Most experimental research on the impact of blasts uses highly simplified geometric scenarios. However, as real-world explosions often occur in more complex settings, such as densely populated cities and urban areas, there is a need to better understand how explosives interact with, and how their effects are influenced by, the materials and structures that surround them. This includes the detonation products and resulting fragments produced by an explosion that pose a major risk to life. The laboratory will be able to deliver this crucial insight using a new reinforced concrete blast chamber, capable of withstanding a 1kg explosive internal blast.
The testing facility will be able to fully quantify how an explosive interacts with its immediate confining materials and structures, which could be used to develop methods for mitigating and reducing the impact generated from explosives through the intelligent application of materials.
The laboratory will also be capable of testing the impact that explosives can have on cities under various scenarios, which will provide crucial data for engineering models that inform risk assessments for high-risk infrastructure projects.
Dr Clarke, Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering, said, “The grant provides a step-change in our capabilities to investigate the region very close to an explosive detonation. The combination of ultra-high speed cameras, thermal imaging and flash X-ray diagnostics, combined with our current capabilities in load characterisation, will give us a unique capability to push forward research into protecting people from devastating blast effects.”
While campus has seen less footfall than usual this year, we’ve kept it safe and accessible for students and staff.
During this time, we’ve completed the construction of three buildings. These will allow the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, and the Faculty of Engineering to carry out transformative research:
- The Sheffield PET-MRI facility, which was made possible thanks to the incredible support of over 11,000 donors, is attached to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. It houses a scanner which will provide unprecedented views of inside the human body by combining the power of both MRI and PET images in a single scan. The facility will enhance our medical research and allow us to take exciting therapeutic discoveries into clinical trials, giving patients in Yorkshire access to new treatments.
- Also completed is the Harry Brearley Building, home to the Faculty of Engineering’s Royce Discovery Centre, part of the Henry Royce Institute, which is a partnership of nine research institutions supporting world-recognised excellence in UK materials research. Researchers here will focus on fundamental research into the discovery of new materials and processing.
- The Faculty of Engineering’s Translational Energy Research Centre is in the final stages of installing equipment, and is set to become one of the largest research and development facilities in Europe for zero carbon energy; bioenergy; and carbon capture, utilisation and storage.
Work continues on the Social Sciences Hub building, which, following the contractor’s rectification of issues with the foundations, is now on track for completion in late 2022. The Transformer – an on-campus energy centre which will ensure business continuity for much of our Faculty of Science estate – is built and undergoing testing.
Two of the University’s recently completed developments have also been celebrated on a global scale. The transformation of the concourse, our civic space which runs between the Students’ Union and Alfred Denny building where so many graduations have been celebrated, has caught the eye of the global lighting elite. We scooped the Award of Excellence and Radiance Award at 2020’s International Lighting Design Awards, alongside a clutch of other trophies from national ceremonies.
The Engineering Heartspace, a state-of-the-art development housing teaching and social spaces under its impressive curved glass roof, which links the Grade II listed Sir Frederick Mappin Building and the 1885 Central Wing, has also won a number of awards for its design and sustainability credentials.
New art wall on campus
An art wall celebrating the University’s research excellence and the achievements of alumni and former academic colleagues, has been installed next to the Students’ Union.
Local design collective The Lost Line worked with Sheffield steel cutter Charles Day and academics at the University to create visual content. The wall is designed to create different reads and interpretations dependent upon a pedestrian’s direction of travel. When walking towards the Alfred Denny Building, they have drawn on the concept of ‘the power of ten’ – the cycle of carbon throughout the universe is represented, with endosymbiosis connecting all on Earth to the planets and all things living.
The other elevation, which passers-by see when walking towards the Students’ Union, features alumni including Lucy Prebble, Amal Al Qubaisi, Dame Hilary Mantel, Helen Sharman, Sir Richard Roberts and Sir Harry Kroto.
Regional skills high on agenda with nationally leading partnership
The University is part of a new regional skills partnership in the Sheffield City Region set up to tackle skills shortages in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The partnership aims to identify positive and practical actions which can help the most disadvantaged young people as they enter the post-18 system through education or work.
Secondary school pupils in the Sheffield region who receive free school meals for 80 per cent or more of their school lives are on average 25 months behind in their academic progress compared with their peers. This hardship has been compounded by the impact of Covid-19, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable hardest.
Believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the partnership will act as a forum for building a post-18 education and skills system in the Sheffield City Region and will focus on issues such as skills shortages, education progression routes, apprenticeship opportunities, outreach work with hard-to-reach communities and delivering lifelong learning.
The partnership brings together leaders from the Sheffield City Region’s further and higher education providers, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the Higher Education Progression Partnership.
Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said, ‘‘As a truly civic university and anchor institution, we take seriously our responsibility to the region’s people, economy, healthcare and education. This partnership brings together the region’s key educational institutions which have a collective responsibility to support the education of the most disadvantaged young people in the region. This collaborative work and the shared vision of the Partnership signals the beginning of what we hope will be lasting and demonstrable change to post-18 education routes for those who need it most.”
Department of French
The Department of French was established in 1901
Department of German
The Department of German was established in 1901
The Information School
The Information School was established in 1981
150 years of friendship
Sixty trees have been planted on campus to mark 150 years of Japan-UK friendship and continued cooperation. The project was organised and funded by the Japan-British Society.
The University has strong links with Japan through the School of East Asian Studies and a long tradition of welcoming students from the country to visit and study.
Cherry trees have been planted close to Goodwin Sports Centre on the main campus and at Norton
Professor Kate Taylor-Jones, Head of the School of East Asian Studies, said, “It’s wonderful to have a physical manifestation of Sheffield’s relationship with Japan here on campus.”
What’s new at the SU?
Sheffield Students’ Union’s Covid-19 journey
“On 20 March 2020, as the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic began to hit the UK, Sheffield Students’ Union (SU) closed its doors, ceasing all trading overnight. In the following days, we moved activity online, prioritising the Student Advice Centre to ensure advisors could continue helping students via remote appointments.
“Only a skeleton staff team remained to support our students, who showed great resilience, creativity and compassion throughout those challenging months. They rallied together to support one another, producing isolation podcasts, a virtual bake off, and videos on how to grow your own veg. Our SU Officers launched the Sheffield SU online community on Facebook, where 2,500 Sheffield students continued chatting and organising remote activities.
“As spring turned to summer, the SU was forced to reduce staff costs and restructure. It wasn’t until August that a solitary SU outlet reopened. Bar One welcomed students back with new safety measures including an app for socially distanced ordering.
“On 14 September our ‘Covid-19 safe’ SU building finally reopened its doors to a very different semester. Welcome events, including the annual Activities and Sports fairs, moved online. Much-loved club nights, like ‘Pop Tarts’, were reimagined as seated, socially distanced events in the SU’s beer garden. The SU building converted areas into much-needed study space, supporting students looking to get away from the confines of their accommodation.
“Our students continued to give back to the Sheffield community. They combated loneliness by volunteering with local charities, helping hundreds of isolated elderly neighbours to feel less alone with phone calls and letters. They joined national charity Action Tutoring, to support school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, delivering over 95 sessions in Maths and English. Sports teams took part in Movember, 24-hour club runs, and marathons to raise over £65,000 in a joint effort with Sheffield Hallam University.
“In November, as the country entered its second national lockdown, the SU produced a programme of online activity to support students through the period. We surveyed students to understand the impact Covid-19 was having on their student experience. We also launched the ‘Forgotten Students of 2020’ campaign, demanding better support for students through the pandemic. Over the next few months this campaign successfully secured rent refunds, a £3 million student Covid-19 relief fund, and academic protections for our students. We also set up a fundraiser for digital inequality in the city.
“2021 began in lockdown, and the SU building was forced to close once again, but that didn’t dampen our ambition.
“We ran our SU Officer Roles Review Referendum, passing proposals which brought about the biggest change to our student leadership in decades. Student clubs and societies developed innovative ways to support parents home schooling, from hockey tutorials filmed in the park to delivering digital lessons. Our fundraising continued with a Virtual Valentine’s Speed Dating event, and we held our SU Officer elections entirely online.
“As the government announced their reopening ‘roadmap’, we produced our own plans to support students out of lockdown, reopening spaces and increasing in-person activity. Despite the final roadmap date being delayed, we were still able to host in-person Activities Awards and Sports Awards on our concourse. It was an opportunity for some of our students to socialise and be recognised for their hard work during one of the most turbulent years of our Students’ Union’s history.
“Sheffield Students’ Union enters the summer bruised but with renewed spirit to improve the lives of our students, who have shown resilience and support to one another and the local community throughout the pandemic.”
Beth Eyre, SU President 2020-21