University of Birmingham

  1. Union in dispute with university over Covid safety concern

    Kathryn Stanczyszyn

    Political Reporter, BBC WM

    The University and College Union (UCU) has declared a formal trade dispute with the University of Birmingham over "serious health and safety concerns" after students returned to campus.

    University of Birmingham

    "Our members are increasingly alarmed at the rapidly rising number of infections amongst students," said branch president Dr David Bailey.

    "Amongst students at the University, the rate of infection now equates to over 1,000 cases per 100,000 students, in just one week."

    The areas with the highest rate of coronavirus infections in Birmingham are Selly Oak and Edgbaston - both areas have large numbers of student accommodation.

    UCU is calling on the University to move all teaching online, except where it is "practically impossible", and restrict the number of staff and students on campus to "essential only".

    The University said it was "extremely disappointed" with the action and accused the UCU of "persisting in unsubstantiated allegations and inaccurate statements".

    "The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students is our priority," a university spokesperson said. "The University adheres to all government and Public Health England guidance."

  2. Student's birthday 'will be like a Zoom call'

    Student Bella Stanley, who will be living with five others, says she is disappointed about the tougher lockdown measures in Birmingham, but added: "I completely understand."

    University of Birmingham

    The 21-year-old third-year student, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, will move back to the city in a week's time for her international relations course at the University of Birmingham.

    She said: "I feel like I'm getting my degree from my bedroom.

    "I'd rather people be safe... but I'd been looking forward to seeing friends all summer.

    "[It's] my birthday coming up. It'll be like a Zoom call."

    As it stands, lectures are online and seminars in person, Bella said.

    But the Tesco worker, whose year in California got cancelled, believes sharing accommodation with friends would help to keep her motivated, adding: "We can still have fun."

  3. Coronavirus testing rationed amid outbreaks

    Prioritising coronavirus testing in high-risk areas has led to shortages in other places, as some people with symptoms are being asked to drive more than 100 miles for a swab.

    Coronavirus testing centre

    Ministers have unveiled a £500m fund to trial a 20-minute saliva test, but Prof Alan McNally, from the University of Birmingham, said scaling up of testing should have been done over the summer.

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "I think the time was right to think about scaling up testing to the wider community and asymptomatic testing over the summer when we were relatively Covid-secure, knowing that autumn and winter would come."

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast there were "operational challenges", adding the trial of new rapid tests could "solve the problem".

  4. West Midlands universities in top 150 rankings

    Two West Midlands universities have been ranked within the top 150 in an international league table.

    The University of Oxford has been ranked first for the fifth time in a row, in the Times Higher Education world rankings.

    The University of Warwick has held its place at 77, while the University of Birmingham has risen five places from 112 last year to 107.

    Overall, the UK has 29 universities in the top 200, up slightly from 28 last year.

    University of Warwick
    Image caption: University of Warwick
  5. Robots used to clean airport in coronavirus fight

    Robots that can clean door handles and seats are being trialed at a Yorkshire airport to see if they can help in the fight against the coronavirus.

    Robot cleaner

    The University of Leeds has been using the machines at Leeds Bradford Airport and in Leeds city centre where they spray objects with a mist of diluted alcohol.

    The robots use artificial intelligence to identify objects that need regular cleaning, like seats, bike stands or doors.

    They then work together to avoid crashing into things or people.

    The project, which involves the universities of Leeds and Birmingham, and University College London, was set up in May to look at how robots can help slow the spread of the virus.

    Dr Mohammed Shaqura, from the University of Leeds, said: “The aim is to have robots that can regularly disinfect those spaces, doing away with the need for people to clean them and the risks they would face in becoming contaminated themselves.

    “We are using machine learning techniques to have the robots fully autonomous, so they "know" which objects need cleaning – and will only require high-level supervision from operators.”

  6. Covid-19 trial to test existing drugs for effectiveness

    Drugs used to treat diseases like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis are going to be tested to see if they can make a difference to hospital patients with Covid-19.

    Scientist holding drugs

    The University of Birmingham is working on the trial alongside Oxford University as well two drug firms.

    The scientists involved say they hope by using a range of new drugs to target Covid-19's most serious symptoms, they can reduce how badly it affects patients.

  7. Study highlights risk of post-surgery complications in coronavirus patients

    More than 50% of coronavirus patients who underwent surgery suffered from post-operative pulmonary complications, a new study suggests.

    Surgery - generic image

    In the study, published in The Lancet, post-operative pulmonary complications occurred in 51.2% of coronavirus patients who underwent surgery.

    These complications included conditions such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and/or unexpected postoperative ventilation.

    Lead author Dr Aneel Bhangu, from the University of Birmingham, said: "Medical teams should consider postponing non-critical procedures and promoting other treatment options, which may delay the need for surgery or sometimes avoid it altogether."

  8. 'I'm doing my university year abroad in Australia online'

    Ella Wills

    BBC News

    University lecture theatres have fallen silent and campus nightlife is on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, but some students are still pulling all-nighters.

    Luke when in Australia

    These are the students facing a virtual year abroad dealing with Zoom lectures, presentations at 03:00 and missing out on life-changing experiences.

    BBC News has spoken to a University of Warwick student finishing a year abroad in Australia from his home in south London and a University of Birmingham student aiming to keep up her German skills via online classes.

    You can read their stories and more here on the BBC website.

  9. University gives students Photoshopped farewells

    Allen Cook

    BBC News

    For many university students, handing in their dissertation is often their last visit to campus and a final chance to get some farewell photos.

    But then came lockdown.

    However, the University of Birmingham's come to its students' aid by asking them where'd they like to be and then Photoshopping them onto their favourite spots:

    One Photoshopped student
    Another Photoshopped image
  10. Video content

    Video caption: University of Birmingham's Old Joe clock tower has 7,000 Twitter followers

    Old Joe has stood at the heart of the University of Birmingham since 1905.

  11. Scan reveals oldest known record of amphibian tracks in UK

    The oldest known record of amphibian tracks in the UK has been discovered in a sandstone fossil.

    A block of sandstone from the base of Hardraw Force Waterfall in Wensleydale

    New research has revealed an ancient trackway, found imprinted on a block of sandstone from the base of Hardraw Force Waterfall, in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire.

    Dating back 340 million years, it is the oldest record of amphibian tracks in the UK.

    The tracks belong to the earliest relatives of modern amphibians, called temnospondyls, specifically the edopoids, or "glutton-faced animals".

    In order to see it in further detail, the trace fossil, currently on display at the Natural History Museum, was 3D scanned.

    This was done as part of a research project by a previous undergraduate student from the University of Birmingham, Hannah Bird, who said: "We used scanning and photography to make a 3D digital model, allowing us to better visualise and identify the footprints and invertebrate traces."

  12. University workers vote for eight day strike

    BBC Midlands Today

    Lecturers and support staff at three universities in the West Midlands are to strike for eight days in disputes over pay and pensions.

    University of Warwick

    Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will walk out between 25 November and 4 December, following votes in favour of industrial action.

    Aston University, the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick are among 60 across the UK which will be affected by the strikes, UCU says.

    The group Universities UK said it hoped the action would not go ahead, but said plans were in place to ensure disruption to students is minimal.

    As well as the eight days of strike action, union members will begin other forms of industrial action when they return to work, such as working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

  13. Retired train to be used for cutting-edge research

    Peter Plisner

    BBC Midlands Today

    A 40-year-old train has become the centrepiece of a cutting-edge railway research project, pioneered by the University of Birmingham.


    The recently-retired high-speed model is being used to find new ways of modernising the railway, including moves to do away with diesel-powered engines.

    Alex Burrows from the university said the train would allow research to be carried out in a "real-life test environment".

    He said the research would primarily be around the decarbonisation of the railway system such as hydrogen fuel cells and battery technology.

    "Our research is world-leading," he added. "We are one of the largest specialist railway research and innovation centres, and what we're doing is going to shape the railways of the future."

  14. University support staff take further strike action

    A second day of strike action is being held by union members at the University of Birmingham.

    University of Birmingham Unison banner

    Caterers, cleaners and security guards also walked out on Monday, with the Unison union calling for them to be paid the living wage.

    View more on twitter

    Unison has rejected an offer by the university for a 1% lump sum payment.

    The university said it's the tenth year support staff pay awards have been in line with, or above, those negotiated nationally and the fourth consecutive year it has matched the voluntary living wage.

  15. Four-in-one pill prevents third of heart problems

    James Gallagher

    Health and science correspondent, BBC News

    A daily pill containing four medicines can cut the number of heart attacks and strokes by a third, a study shows.

    Woman taking pill

    The polypill contains blood-thinning aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin and two drugs to lower blood pressure.

    Researchers - in Birmingham, Iran and the USA - said the pill had a huge impact but cost just pennies a day.

    They suggest giving it to everyone over a certain age in poorer countries, where doctors have fewer options and are less able to assess individuals.

    Quote Message: We've provided evidence in a developing or middle-income country - and that's a lot of countries - that this is a strategy worth considering." from Professor Tom Marshall University of Birmingham
    Professor Tom MarshallUniversity of Birmingham