Great Future

94.5% of our undergraduate students go on to work and/or further study within six months of graduating

(Destinations of Leavers Survey 2014/15)

DNA researchers show true path of early farming in Europe


Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:22:00 GMT

New research shows spread of agriculture throughout Europe followed migration into the Mediterranean from the Near East thousands of years earlier than widely believed

Professor Martin Richards A NEW article co-authored by experts at the University of Huddersfield bolsters a theory that the spread of agriculture throughout Europe followed migration into the Mediterranean from the Near East more than 13,000 years ago – thousands of years earlier than widely believed.

This was during the Late Glacial period and initially the migrants were hunter-gatherers.  But they later developed a knowledge of agriculture from further newly-arrived populations from the Near East – where farming began – and during the Neolithic, approximately 8,000 years ago, they began to colonise other parts of Europe, taking their farming practices with them.

The University of Huddersfield is home to the Archaeogenetics Research Group, which uses DNA analysis to solve questions from archaeology, anthropology and history.  It is headed by Professor Martin Richards (pictured left), and the issue of the genetic ancestry of Europeans has been one of his major research areas for many years.

Now he is a principal contributor to the article that appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  It describes how the researchers used almost 1,500 mitochondrial genome lineages to date the arrival of people in different regions of Europe.

It was found that in central Europe and Iberia, these could mainly be traced to the Neolithic.  However, in the central and eastern Mediterranean, they predominantly dated to the much earlier Late Glacial period.

The authors write that: “This supports a scenario in which the genetic pool of Mediterranean Europe was partly a result of Late Glacial expansions from a Near Eastern refuge, and that this formed an important source pool for subsequent Neolithic expansions into the rest of Europe”.

DNA Professor Richards explained that he and his co-researchers carried out their latest investigations using modern DNA samples because in Italy and Greece there is an acute shortage of pre-Neolithic skeletal remains from which ancient samples can be taken.  The warmth of the climate has resulted in low levels of preservation. 

“We haven’t been able to fill the gap with ancient DNA, so we found a way to get round that by looking at modern samples.  Instead of dating the lineages across Europe as a whole we have dated them firstly in the Mediterranean area and then we have looked at what happens if you assume that they have arrived in that area and then moved on,” said Professor Richards.

Now he hopes that new sources of ancient DNA in Italy and Greece will be discovered, so that his migration scenario can be tested more directly.

“In the past, it’s been difficult to recover DNA from these kinds of environments but there have been so many technical developments in the recovery of ancient DNA in the last few years that I think it will happen soon.”  In fact, another team of researchers has already confirmed one of the paper’s main predictions, by looking at pre-Neolithic DNA from Sardinia, just one week ago.

The research was carried out primarily by Dr Joana Pereira as part of her PhD project, supervised jointly by Professor Richards and Dr Luisa Pereira of the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology at the University of Porto, alongside Dr Pedro Soares of the University of Minho, in Portugal.  The authors of the new article – titled Reconciling evidence from ancient and contemporary genomes: a major source for the European Neolithic within Mediterranean Europe – also include Dr Maria Pala, who is Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and a key member of the archaeogenetics group. 

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Silence of Suicide event attracts huge audience

silence of suicide

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 15:46:00 GMT

The event shattered the stigma surrounding suicide by providing an open forum for people who have attempted suicide or those affected by suicide of someone close

Michael Mansfield QC with Ms Yvette GreenwayThe pioneers behind the Silence of Suicide campaign, Michael Mansfield and his partner Yvette Greenway

WE need opportunities to come together and talk about suicide more freely if we are to breakdown the stigma surrounding it, said top barrister Michael Mansfield QC at an event held at the University of Huddersfield.

The event was part of the SOS Silence of Suicide campaign launched by Michael Mansfield and his partner Yvette Greenway after his own daughter Anna tragically took her own life in May 2015.   It was through this personal loss they experienced the taboo surrounding suicide and how nobody dares to talk about it.

Since then the pair have toured the country holding stigma-free networking meetings to give people a platform to come together and talk about their experiences whether they have contemplated or attempted suicide, suffer from mental illness, or been bereaved when a loved one did take the tragic step.   

Mr Mansfield expressed the need for spaces in communities and workplaces where people can come together and talk without the fear of judgement or stigma.  He implored the audience to continue talking about suicide and Ms Greenway suggested the audience take the SOS idea of networking into the future by holding their own local meetings.

Michael Mansfield QC This idea was also reiterated later by members of the audience when they spoke about the lack of provisions outside Leeds and Bradford for group discussions on suicide and mental illness.

A university student who knows only too well the benefits of speaking out is Celine Balantine. She was invited to be a guest speaker at the event by Ms Greenway after recently appearing in a BBC interview talking about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

“The first time I opened up on Facebook about my struggles,” said Celine, “I was worried I was going to be called a psycho and a looney, but this wasn’t the case at all.  I have received nothing but unconditional support and messages on how my speaking out has helped others in the same situation,” she said.

Celine BalantineCeline Balantine

Celine told the audience about her recent stay in a local mental health unit and how she mistakenly thought of a gloomy and dark place with patients in straitjackets.  “But it couldn’t have been more different,” she said.

Ms Greenway then opened the floor to the audience and asked if there was anyone, who had attempted suicide, willing to speak.

A female said how as a teenager she had made two unsuccessful attempts to take her own life but had also experienced the emotion as a bereaved relative after losing her father to suicide.  On both occasions, support was lacking, she said.

The charitable voluntary organisation Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) explained how they had a national helpline number open daily.  However, agreed about the lack of self-help support groups available in Kirklees as they only had three Yorkshire offices; in Sheffield, Bradford and Hull.

Ms Yvette Greenway The viewpoint of adults and children not being used to failure because society only applauds success, was raised by a mother whose son had tragically taken his own life and how men were harder to reach than women at talking about their emotions.

Mr Mansfield said the internet had become a social issue with children becoming isolated because of the ironically named ‘social’ media and quoted statistics that children as young as eight years old are now contemplating suicide.

Speaking from the University was Dr Sarah Kendal and Steven Lyons.  They spoke about how the three concerns people have on loss, identity and belonging, can be overcome by sharing with others in the same situation and the support strategies the University teaches its students in training to be mental health nurses.

Nearly two hundred people attended Yorkshire's first SOS networking event organised with the assistance of Senior Law Lecturer Phil Drake.

He said: “It was an incredibly moving event that started off as a discussion about a taboo subject and ended with people sharing their stories and being heard in a supportive and caring environment.”

  • You can watch the SOS Silence of Suicide film, which was shown at the beginning of the meeting and was co-produced and directed by Jasper Warry and Yvette Greenway of Anna Christian Productions.
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Dr Rowan Williams to speak at the University

Dr Rowan Williams

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 11:31:00 GMT

The former Archbishop of Canterbury will speak at both the spirituality in healthcare conference and at the annual Harold Wilson Lecture

Dr Rowan Williams ON a visit to the University of Huddersfield, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams (pictured left) will – in the course of a single day – provide a keynote address to hundreds of delegates at a special conference dealing with the issue of spirituality in healthcare, and later deliver the annual Harold Wilson Lecture, a prestigious event open to the public.

The 11 July conference is the second to be organised by the University’s well-established Spirituality Special Interest Group, which researches and teaches all aspects of spirituality in health and social care and how it can lead to increased compassion from health and social care practitioners, and higher levels of hope, meaning and purpose among patients.

Top to bottom - Wilf McSherry, Kevin Bond, Fiona Venner When the group organised its first conference, two years ago, it attracted more than 200 delegates from around the UK and similar numbers are expected at the 2017 event, which focuses on the role of spirituality in mental health care.

‌Dr Melanie Rogers (pictured left) , an Advanced Nurse Practitioner and a Senior Lecturer at the University, is chair of the Spirituality SIG and she was delighted when Dr Williams agreed to be one of the keynote speakers.

Dr Melanie Rogers “He is deeply passionate about spirituality and about compassionate approaches to supporting people,” said Dr Rogers.  She added that spirituality was distinct from religious faith, although for many people there was an overlap.

Rowan Williams – who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002-2012 – is best known as a religious leader, but is also a noted poet and writer on a wide range of themes.  At the University of Huddersfield conference he will focus on the links between spirituality and compassion in a talk titled Nourishing the spirit: relations, stories, rhythms.

After he was confirmed as a speaker at the Spirituality and Mental Health Conference, Dr Williams was invited by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan, to deliver the 2017 Harold Wilson Lecture.  Commemorating the Huddersfield-born former Prime Minister, the event has attracted a series of famous lecturers from the fields of politics, science and religion.

The Spirituality and Mental Health Conference is open to all health and social care professionals, community and voluntary sector workers, plus service users and carers.  In addition to Dr Williams, the keynote speakers will include Wilf McSherry, who is Professor of Dignity in Care at Staffordshire University; Kevin Bond, the ex-chief executive of innovative NHS mental health provider NAVIGO; and Fiona Venner, Chief Executive of Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service.

The conference will also see the launch of a new book titled Spiritually Competent Practice in Health Care, edited by Dr Rogers, alongside her University of Huddersfield colleagues Professor John Wattis and Professor Stephen Curran.  The book has eight chapters from a range of experts and deals with what the editors describe as “the considerable real evidence for the benefit of spirituality and spiritually competent care”.

The publishers state that the book will be “ideal for practitioners, educators, trainees and managers in nursing and healthcare” and it “is also relevant reading for occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers and psychologists”. 

Pictured above are keynote speakers Wilf McSherry, Kevin Bond and Fiona Venner

  • More information about the Spirituality Conference and place bookings can be found online or by phone at 01484 472541 or email
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Digital version of the Duke of Edinburgh Award launched

Inspiring digital enterprise award

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:06:00 GMT

Professor Rupert Ward led the project on behalf of HRH The Duke of York to create the bronze level of The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award

Professor Rupert Ward FOR more than 60 years, the awards scheme founded by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has rewarded the endurance and enterprise of hundreds of thousands of young people.  Now, an innovative educational programme fostered by his son, HRH The Duke of York, and developed at Buckingham Palace by a team including the University of Huddersfield’s Professor Rupert Ward (pictured left) will also offer participants the chance to earn bronze, silver and gold awards – this time by burnishing their skills and knowledge in ways that will aid their careers and boost the UK economy.

iDEA badges It is named The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award and its Bronze Award is now launched online.  After a quick and simple registration, anybody is free to go through the interactive, informative and educationally-innovative process of acquiring virtual badges in categories dubbed Citizen, Worker, Maker and Entrepreneur.

The badges are described as “bite-sized challenges that help you learn digital and enterprise skills” and once enough have been passed to acquire a total of 250 points, a Bronze Award is earned.  Over the next couple of years, the range of Bronze Award badges will grow and more challenging silver and gold awards will be launched.   

Rupert Ward, who is Professor of Learning Innovation and Associate Dean (International) within the University of Huddersfield’s School of Computing and Engineering, was Project Lead for iDEA.  He served for eighteen months as Special Adviser to The Duke of York – who is the University’s Chancellor and a passionate advocate for developing digital and entrepreneurial skills among young people.

HRH The Duke of York Professor Ward was on secondment at Buckingham Palace for the period, heading a team that created the Bronze Award.

“The Bronze Award is particularly relevant and useful to pupils of secondary school age,” said Professor Ward, “and it can be used in the classroom.  It is designed so that anyone could do it anywhere, and do it independently.  You are not reliant on your teacher introducing you to it,” he added.

Professor Ward is delighted by early feedback from people who have visited the iDEA website and begun to explore the badges, each of which takes approximately 20 minutes to complete and is usually worth 10 or 20 points.  Acquiring sufficient badges to earn a Bronze Award will probably require around nine hours of online interaction, carried out whenever and wherever a participant wishes.

“It’s a fundamentally different way of learning.  It is telling young people that education is something that’s exploratory and inspiring.  They can follow their own interests and combine these into something that is relevant and coherent,” said Professor Ward.

Long-established formal educational structures can be demotivating for many people, he added. 

“But with iDEA, because it’s badge based and because it’s informal, you can find the things that interest you and also find the careers that interest you.”

“In today’s society, there are lots of new digital jobs that have only been out there in the last few years.  By the time students leave school there will be further new jobs.  It is more and more important that people know what’s going on, so what is needed is informal learning that supports formal education.  That is what iDEA does,” said Professor Ward.

The scheme’s flexibility is such that companies wishing to recruit employees with special skills and aptitudes could set up their own badges in order to find the best candidates.  This would “allow the badge store to grow to its full potential” although an accreditation system will ensure that quality is maintained, said Professor Ward.

Now that iDEA is up and running, he expects that the project – a digital equivalent to the long –established Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme – will grow organically over the next five to ten years,  until it becomes established as a national standard.

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