Month: June 2016

20 Jun 2016


The UK has three of Europe’s most innovative universities with Imperial College London leading the way in the top ten, according to a new ranking.

Belgium’s KU Leuven has taken the top spot, with Cambridge coming third in Reuters’ first-ever top 100 list which aims to identify which institutions throughout the continent contribute the most to science and technology.

The list also aims to highlight which universities have the greatest impact on the global economy.

Top 10 most innovative universities in Europe:

KU Leuven – Belgium

Imperial College London – UK

Cambridge – UK

EPFL – Switzerland

TU Munich – Germany

Erlangen Nuremberg – Germany

Delft University of Technology – Netherlands

Oxford – UK

Munich – Germany

Zurich – Switzerland

Other key findings of the rankings have highlighted the strong performance of universities in Western Europe, with 60 institutions featuring in the top 100. Germany accounts for 24 of 100 – more than any other country – while the UK comes in second with a total of 17 institutions.

Top 10 most innovative universities in the UK:

Imperial College London










Arlyn Tobias Gajilan, co-editor of the rankings and Reuters deputy editor for professional news, said the biggest thing the results have shown is that “innovation can originate almost anywhere.”What matters most is a school’s technical focus and the practical application of its research into real world products and solutions.

“Innovation means different things to different people, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s been so difficult to measure. By taking an empirical approach that incorporates a broad set of ten metrics, we have provided new insights into how universities are impacting both the European and global economies.”

Click here to see the complete 100 list

20 Jun 2016

Building Up Your Brain

The brain is often described as being “like a muscle”. We judge literacy and numeracy exercises as more beneficial for your brain than running, playing and learning on the move. But the brain-as-muscle analogy doesn’t quite work. To build up your biceps you can’t avoid flexing them. When it comes to your brain, an oblique approach can be surprisingly effective.

Brain training: should you believe the hype?


Scientists are showing that the runner’s high can have profound effects on your brain. Moreover, specific physical activities can markedly alter its structure in precise ways.

A wave of studies exploring the unexpected links between mental and bodily fitness is emerging from labs. This research might give you the nudge to get more active. It can also help you choose the best ways to prepare physically for mental challenges such as exams, interviews and creative projects.

Boost your memory

The part of the brain that responds strongly to aerobic exercise is the hippocampus. Well-controlled experiments in children, adults and the elderly show that this brain structure grows as people get fitter. Since the hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems, this finding partly explains the memory-boosting effects of improved cardiovascular fitness.

As well as slowly improving your memory hardware, exercise can have a more immediate positive impact on your memory. German researchers showed that walking or cycling during, but not before, learning helped new foreign language vocabulary to stick. So exercise while you revise. Don’t push it too hard, though: vigorous workouts can raise your stress levels!

Improve your concentration

Besides making memories stickier, exercise can help you focus and stay on task. The best scientific evidence comes from testing school children, but the same most likely applies to us all. Interspersing lessons with 20-minute bouts of aerobics-style exercise improved the attention spans of Dutch school pupils. Meanwhile, a large randomised controlled trial in the US looked at the effects of daily after-school sports classes over a school year. The children, of course, got fitter. Less predictably, their executive control improved. They became more adept at ignoring distractions, multitasking, and holding and manipulating information in their minds.

And if that all sounds like hard work, you may not have to get out of breath to reap the attention-honing effects of exercise! Just 10 minutes of playful coordination skills, like bouncing two balls at the same time, improved the attention of a large group of German teenagers.

Improve your mental health

Love it or hate it, bouts of physical activity can have potent effects on your mood. The runner’s high – that feeling of elation that follows intense exercise – is good for the brain.

Don’t sit still

The cognitive spillover from exercise reminds us that our brains and bodies and don’t operate in isolation. What you do with your body impinges on your mental faculties. Sitting still all day, every day, is dangerous. So don’t dither about what form of exercise you do. Find something you enjoy, then get up and do it!

08 Jun 2016

Angelina Jolie-Pitt appointed visiting professor at London School of Economics

The US actress, film director and special envoy for the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency has been appointed visiting professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), where she will teach a Masters in gender and human rights.

The Oscar-winning actress will join former foreign secretary William Hague as a lecturer at the university’s Centre for Women, Peace and Security where she will help to teach students studying for a Master’s degree.

Jolie-Pitt, who has been a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency and is currently one of its special envoys, has been a vocal campaigner on refugee rights and gender based violence. Jolie-Pitt will serve as a guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour later this month to be aired on 17th June, where she will explore the refugee crisis in the lead-up to World Refugee Day the following Monday.

Jolie-Pitt said “I am looking forward to teaching and to learning from the students as well as to sharing my own experiences of working alongside governments and the United Nations”.

Hague said: “This course will help underpin our work in preventing violence in conflict, developing expertise and research to assist us in tackling the culture of impunity. I look forward to working with the LSE students and my fellow visiting professors.”

The one year course will include modules on Women, Peace and Security, Gender and Militarisation and Gender and Human Rights.


07 Jun 2016


Africa Writes is the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival. Celebrating its 5th year, Africa Writes 2016 brings together over 50 distinguished authors, poets, publishers and experts for a stimulating and inspiring three days. Every year Africa Writes showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing taking place over an exciting summer weekend. The festival features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions, youth and children’s workshop among other thought-provoking happenings and engaging activities.

Click here to find out more about the festival!



03 Jun 2016

Boys Who Live With Books ‘Earn More as Adults’

“A room without books is like a body without a soul,” words of Roman philosopher, Cicero.

New research has uncovered a strong correlation between the earnings of adults and whether they grew up surrounded by books as children.

Three economists at the University of Padua studied 6,000 men born in nine European countries and concluded that children with access to books could expect to earn materially more than those who grow up with few or no books.

They studied the period from 1920 to 1956, when school reforms saw the minimum school leaving age raised across Europe. They looked at whether, at the age of 10, a child lived in a house with fewer than 10 books, a shelf of books, a bookcase with up to 100 books, two bookcases, or more than two bookcases.

Over the period studied, the research, published in the Economic Journal, found that an additional year of education increased a man’s average lifetime earnings by 9%.

Men brought up in households with less than a shelf of books earned only 5% more as a result of the extra year’s education, compared with 21% more for those who had access to a lot of books. And those that had access to books were more likely to move to the better-earning opportunities in cities than those without books.

The men’s first job was also much more likely to be a white-collar job.

Books matter because they encourage children to read more and reading can have positive effects on school performance. A home filled with books indicates advantageous socio-economic conditions.  This may indicate that a home with books encourages cognitive and socio-emotional skills, which are important for economic success in life.