Category Archives: students

The success of TickBox

 

TickBox – a website set up by Exeter student Matt Morley to help people compare election candidates and decide who to vote for – picked up two awards at this year’s SETSquared Student Enterprise Awards. TickBox Head of Marketing Alex Scott-Malden tells us about their awards experience…

Sometimes it takes a nudge from the outside to look up and realise what you have done.

In the run up to the SetSquared awards we were hardly aware they were happening. All four of us were feverishly writing proposals, meeting investors and planning the next stage of TickBox. Our stall for the event was put together in the minutes we could find in between sending emails and general working. It may sound a little self-congratulatory but I think it was when we turned up at the evening that we realised what we’d done might just have worked.

We spent a good hour talking to people about TickBox, seeing their interest pique as we mentioned the 41,000 people who’d used the site or the articles written about us, including one in the Independent. It was great to watch people having a go on our touch screen computer and seeing who they were matched with. A moment of comedy occurred when a member of the Conservative party was recommended he shouldn’t vote for himself…

The awards dinner itself was wonderful, there’s something really quite magical about going up on stage. Under the lights we ended up collecting both the Best Student Start – Up and the People’s Choice award.

From the bottom of our hearts we’d like to thank Ignite, the Students Guild, the University and everyone who came and voted for us. You all made us feel special.

2014 SETsquared Student Enterprise Awards

The SETsquared Student Enterprise awards took place at University of Exeter on 5 June; Innovation Centre Business Support Manager Joe Pearce went to the awards ceremony and has written this blog about the ceremony.

The University of Exeter played host to invited special guests, staff and students from the SETsquared partnership to celebrate the best enterprise activity from across the five Universities.

The event was a chance for everyone to recognise the great work done by the staff who support student and graduate entrepreneurs and also to celebrate the best businesses which have spun out of SETsquared in the last year.

The Exeter delegation.
Image courtesy of Exeter Students’ Guild.

The evening started with the usual networking and catching up with colleagues and friends from the different Universities, but there was also a chance for the student and graduate businesses who had been nominated for awards to exhibit what they had been up to. Every guest was given a ping pong ball and asked to drop it into the vase for the business they thought best, with the winner being given the “Peoples’ Choice” award later in the evening.

It is always great at this event to hear from the guest speakers and this year was no different, with Phil Cameron, Exeter alum and Founder of No 1 Traveller delivering the keynote. Phil‘s background was in theatre, having graduated in Drama – he is an Olivier & Tony award winning producer! – and he has been able to take the lessons learned in that tough sector and transfer them into his new business. As Phil pointed out, the key to his, and indeed most businesses, is in understanding what your customers want and making sure they get it – hopefully lessons which the budding entrepreneurs in the audience were taking on board!

And so to the awards.

Awards

Each Uni had the opportunity to recognise the invaluable work done by students and mentors who they work with to encourage, nurture and support entrepreneurship, and it is great to be able to publicly thank those who offer so much.

But the awards which really count are those which are voted for, and the judges decisions were…

Dave Jarman and his team at University of Bristol once again showed that they are leading the way in Enterprise Education, with their Spark event picking up the award for “Best Student Experience” for the second year running.

Tiqa Adinin from University of Southampton won the Social Enterprise Award for the incredible work which she has done with her business SanEco, impacting on some 11,000 people in Kenya with products and services to improve sanitary conditions and drive social change through entrepreneurship. It is another great example of how Enactus projects can spinout and take on a life of their own.

But the big winners of the night were the University of Exeter, picking up three awards. Tickbox won both the Best Student Start-Up and the Peoples’ Choice Award for the work they are doing to change the way people interact with democracy, helping them to understand which candidate in an election best represents their views.

Award winning team Tickbox with Ben Bradshaw MP and VIP guest Phil Cameron.
Image courtesy of Exeter Students’ Guild

Launched for the Euro elections in May, Tickbox attracted over 40,000 unique visitors in the days before the election. They are now getting set up to tackle the general election next year, so watch this space.

Also from Exeter and winning the Best Graduate Start up award, were Instabear. Having started as a service to print your instagram photos, the Instabear team have moved into events, providing the link between social reach and real physical interaction by offering their live photo printing service to clients such as Jaguar Land Rover, Jack Wills and Ford.

Next year promises to be a big year for them as they look to grow and establish themselves with more international clients. Also, you might be seeing much more of founder, Solly Akhtar, who is currently involved in a secret project you will hear more of later this year!

All in all a fun night, congrats to the winners, hard luck to those who walked away empty handed but do stick with your businesses because there were some great ones there.

I’m already looking forward to next year and seeing if Exeter can make it three big years in a row – but I know the teams at the other unis will have something say about it.

Also, looking forward to Uni Pop Shop  – check it out and make sure you drop in if you are in London at the end of the month.

Robin Williams reports on his Paralympics experience

This summer current University of Exeter student Robin Williams (PhD. Statistics) competed for Team GB in the blind five-a-side football event at the 2012 Paralympic games. Robin reports on his rollercoaster experience at the ‘Greatest show on Earth’.

Robin Williams - London 2012

Robin Williams (right) competed for Team GB in the 5-a-side (blind) football tournament at London 2012

I competed in the London Paralympics as a member of the GB 5-a-side (blind) football team. After two years of dedication to the sport, training both here in Exeter where three Team GB members are based, and travelling to GB squad training on a frequent basis, my selection for the Paralympics was confirmed in April. We had targeted a medal for the games, an ambitious target given that we were yet to win a major trophy and came third in the European Championships last year. However, we felt there was enough potential in the team to realise this ambition, and it would be a matter of whether that potential could be harnessed in time for London.

After drawing our first game with Spain in a fairly disappointing performance (not least from myself), we took a point from Argentina for the first time in the sixteen years that international blind football has existed. The Argentina game was my best performance in the group stage; I got some joy running at them without ever really threatening the goal. These results meant that we had to win our next game against Iran by two clear goals to make the semi-finals. Sadly we played as though this was the case, the first half was a very nervy affair, we conceded several fouls and Iran capitalised, scoring from a long penalty. We dominated the second half, hitting the woodwork twice and forcing an outstanding performance from the Iranian keeper, but sadly couldn’t find the net. In a cruel twist of fate, having been a game away from a shot at a medal, we found ourselves playing the 2008 silver medallists China in a match for the minor placings. China themselves were expected to make the semi-finals, and after an exciting 1-1 draw (probably our best team performance) we lost on penalties – as you can only expect from a GB team! In the 7-8 place play offs we beat Turkey convincingly 2-0, in a match where I enjoyed my best performance.

Brazil were worthy tournament winners, their number 10, Ricardo Steinmetz Alves is probably the best player in the world and lit up the final with a fantastic display. He is certainly something for me to aspire to.

I left the Paralympics with mixed feelings over my personal performance. I had played some of my best and worst football throughout the tournament, an inconsistency that I feel is a result of being fairly new to the game. Playing at international level was also a real challenge. There is a domestic league in this country, but the step up to international level is so large that it’s almost like playing a different sport. I have a lot to work on, not least my game awareness, speed of thought, and of course the constant drive to improve skill.

Our support throughout the games was superb; the 3,500 River Bank Stadium was full for all of our group games, and nearing capacity for the 7th place playoff. All our games were shown live on the Channel4 network, I believe three were shown on Channel4 itself with the others on a temporary Sky channel. London 2012 has raised the profile of the blind 5-a-side football no end, hopefully we will reap the rewards of this by encouraging young players for future.

Stepping outside of our football bubble, it was a fantastic privilege to be a part of the London 2012, which were certainly the best games ever and pushed Paralympic sport far beyond anything previously, both in terms of profile and sporting ability. I hope to compete in Rio2016.

Graduating isn’t the end of your time with Exeter – you’re now part of our alumni

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Watching everyone graduate this week has brought back loads of great memories of my own Exeter graduation a few years ago, from Floella’s enthusiastic embrace and encouragement and her never-ending smile, to the panic everyone has as their name is read out to go up and see her – will I be the one to trip-up in front of hundreds of people? Should I have worn heels? (I should say that I’ve never actually heard of anyone falling over while meeting Floella!)

There’s always the worries that accompany being seen in public with your family and about how your robe will look. And then there’s the weather to consider – we’re never guaranteed sunshine during the summer in the UK, even if Exeter normally does pretty well for it. It’s been a mix this year, but we’ve had some good sunshine, and even when it’s rained it hasn’t dampened spirits.

But all those worries melt away after Floella’s greeting, and once you’re out of the hall you can relax a bit, enjoy the Pimm’s tent and the College receptions across campus. It’s a wonderful chance to introduce your family to the close friends you made while you were here – and for them a chance to put faces to names at last. Celebrating together is wonderful, even if it can be a little poignant at times, coming to the end of an era.

I loved my time at Exeter so much that I now work here, and seeing the other side of graduation I realise how much effort the University puts in to make it such a special occasion. It’s a time of year that staff love too – watching students who have worked so hard really celebrate and mark their achievements. The atmosphere across the campuses during the whole week is terrific.

In Alumni Relations, where I work, it’s my job to make sure that though you may have graduated you never really leave the University community and the friends you made here behind. We look after a community of over 75,000 people in more than 170 countries. Our alumni include internationally-recognised businesspeople and lawyers, inspirational politicians and teachers, and critically-acclaimed journalists and artists. Every year we run a host of events to keep our alumni in contact with each other, from academic lectures on specific subjects like science and technology, to quiz nights and meet-ups for drinks in London pubs. Our next one is on August 4th – come along if you can make it!

So though you may have graduated this week and be heading off into pastures new, you’re still a big part of the University. If you want to find out more about how to stay in touch, have a look at our website or join us on Facebook, and be sure to let us know what the future holds for you.

Posted by Rachael Magee (English and Film, 2008; Development and Alumni Relations Office)

Regional science research collaboration

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The other Friday (July 8th) a group of academics and PhD students from our College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences came together with similar groups from the universities of Bath and Bristol, along with industry representatives, to discuss a new partnership and idea that we’ve been considering: a graduate training alliance.

This mixed group of physicists and engineers had two things in common; firstly, a shared interest in physics-based ‘-onics’ – photonics, plasmonics, magnonics, spintronics, electronics, etc (hence the name Onyx), and secondly, a desire to engage more effectively with, and prepare our PhD students more effectively for, business and industry.

We have three aims for our nascent alliance: to bridge the innovation gap between universities and business more effectively in order to benefit the economy, to offer students a richer PhD experience and better preparation for entering the workplace after graduating, and to provide a forum for developing regional research collaborations.

The day was effectively a brainstorming session; after a presentation from Myrddin Jones of the Technology Strategy Board (“Funding for innovation is complex. We need to build a more effective environment for innovation & reduce risk for business in research”) we split into four action groups and discussed the issues and how the Onyx alliance might address them.

Discussion was lively and several important topics were brought up. These ranged from timing issues for PhD students, to confidentiality needs of the industry partners, and the inherently different needs and ideas of universities and industry – for example, PhD students like the idea of two month internships, while business would prefer them to last closer to two years. Likewise industry also wants to recruit students who are broad, flexible, with transferable skills, and who can apply themselves to a range of tasks and areas; PhD-level research necessarily focuses people very tightly – are these incompatible?

Over lunch we had an extended poster session from the PhD students, which enabled a more detailed discussion of the findings presented than is normally the case at workshops. The afternoon saw us delve more deeply into the idea of stakeholder engagement and industry relations, before summing up and deciding what the best way to move forward might be.

With the aim of getting things going as quickly as possible we’re already talking about running a conference event in the Autumn term so we can start to develop just what the Onyx graduate teaching alliance can and should offer.

Most of all we want to see how we can develop added value by bringing the Universities closer, in conjunction with forging stronger, relevant relations with business.

Posted by Professor Bill Barnes (Professor of Photonics, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences)

South Sudan independence: what does it mean?

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I’m writing to usher in the independence of South Sudan on 9th July 2011, when it will formally be declared a nation-state. This follows a referendum on 9th January 2011, in which 98.8% (against 1.7%) of South Sudanese people opted for secession from the north. What does this mean? For me it is my desired outcome to be free not only from socio-economic marginalisation but also from oppression, marking the end of ingrained inequality and second-class citizenship inflicted by successive northern governments since independence in 1956. Casting my ballot on the referendum day in January was a significant milestone in exercising my democratic rights and having my say on the future of Sudan. I prayed that God may make my dream come true. Now it has come true.

A child soldier in the SPLA
Seeking refuge in Ethiopia, my father brought the whole family to a refugee camp in 1985 when I was ten. My father had been a veteran Anya-Nya 1 fighter until the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, after which he became one of those forcefully retired by the northern government; they were called “left-hands”, meaning that they still held anti-north ideas, and were deemed harmful by the Nimeri regime in Khartoum.

In 1988, I moved to a military camp called “Tharpaam” in Itang Refugee Camp in Ethiopia, where nearly 1500 children between 8 and 13 years of age were being trained in preparation for recruitment into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s Jiec El Amer (Red Army). We were told that we were brought there to study, but soon realised this was just a pretext; we were nothing more than child soldiers. It didn’t take long for me to become motivated to be an SPLA soldier, though.

Dr John Garang, the SPLA chairman and commander-in-chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement, would lecture on the concept of new Sudan. We stood on parade, dressed in white uniform and cape, singing songs of liberation. We slept in grass-thatched huts, infested with cockroaches and jigger fleas. Diseases like dysentery, malaria, and typhoid were commonplace, with funerals almost every day.

Food was never enough. I was entitled to only 1 kg of white beans and quarter of a litre of oil a month food ration; this lasted only a few days. Many died of hunger and diseases, and the norm was for roommates to bury the dead. I buried seven of my thirty-three roommates, four of whom died of malnutrition and three of dysentery. The army officer reminded us often: “we are starving because of the north. They make us suffer and die…this is the reason why we are fighting them.” Education, the original purpose that brought me to the camp, was never discussed. The priority for the SPLA was to get soldiers to fight. When I asked about school, the officer would say: “you will go to school when we defeat the north.”

This dreadful situation continued until the downfall of the Mengistu Regime in Ethiopia in May 1991, and the subsequent dislodging of SPLA from Ethiopia as well as the splintering of SPLA/M into two. Consequently, all Sudanese refugees fled back into Southern Sudan. Not long after that, I returned to a refugee camp called Dimma in Ethiopia, where I pursued my primary and secondary education until 1996.

My sleepless night in Qadarif
I went to Khartoum in 1997 and enrolled in the University of Juba after completing secondary high school in Ethiopia. Now, with my family scattered by war, my siblings in Ethiopia and parents somewhere in Southern Sudan, hiding from the enemy, I decided to reunite the family. In doing so, I went to Ethiopia in April 2004 to bring my siblings who were living in a refugee camp. Things went well in Ethiopia, but in Sudan my sister was refused a room because sharia law banned hotel accommodation for girls. So my nine-year-old sister and I devastatingly spent the night outside the police station in Al Qadarif, despite hotels having rooms available and the fact that I was carrying enough money to afford a separate room for each of us. No one came to our help. We were like foreigners. Police looked at us with contempt. We lay at the gate, sleepless, until dawn.

Sudan that night became to me a place where the vast majority of citizens had no legal rights while a minority enjoyed unlimited liberty. I hated being Sudanese, preferring living as a refugee in a foreign land to being a second-class citizen without rights and freedoms. That night my sister and I spent outside the gate, chilly like no other, determined the box into which we cast our votes during the referendum early this year. On the voting day, my sister, living in Kenya said: “I can’t forget that sleepless night in Qadarif, brother; so I will vote wisely.”

She confirmed to me afterwards that she had done so; independence is the solution.

Voting
My roles in the Government and reason for studying MPA
Before joining the University of Exeter I have, since 2006, been diligently serving in the Government of Southern Sudan. I work in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, which is given clear mandate to build the capacity of legislatures both at national and subnational levels. The ministry is charged with the responsibility of building and nurturing democratic governance in nascent Southern Sudan.

I am involved in planning and implementing capacity-building training programmes for the ten Southern States Legislative assemblies and civil society organisations. The capacity-building programmes offered training in parliamentary principles and practices, and democratic governance.

I also became the Coordinator of government civic voter education programmes, designed and implemented, ahead of general elections in April 2010, to teach the southern populace their citizenship duties, responsibilities, and rights of democratic participation.

In addition, I’ve worked as Assistant editor-in-chief of the government-run newsletter, The Parliamentarian, which is oriented towards educating parliamentarians and government officials on managing legislative affairs and promoting good governance.

However, with prospects of independence and the challenges associated with a new nation-state, I decided to seek opportunities for further studies in Public Administration so that I may contribute even more to the development of an independent South Sudan. Consequently, I gratefully joined the Exeter MPA programme, and must give many thanks to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (CFO) and Chevening Scholarship Programme for sponsoring my postgraduate studies in the UK. The qualifications and knowledge I have attained will help me make significant impact in Southern Sudan, making me professionally competent in discharging my duties and responsibilities in the civil service, particularly in analysing, formulating, and administering public policies.

Finally, eventual separation from the north is, I believe, the best thing that South Sudanese people have ever attained, though lots of formidable challenges lie ahead of us in our nation-building efforts. These include combating corruption, eradicating tribalism, building the economy, making effective policies in all sectors. South Sudan’s new government will need further policy advice and help establishing its own higher education programmes if we are to achieve our goals: perhaps the University of Exeter will be able to help us on our journey into independence even more in future.

Posted by D Deng Gach Pal, MPA Postgraduate student (Chevening Scholar)

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

I spent yesterday afternoon (Saturday 5 February) taking in the Chinese New Year celebrations across the city as the year of the rabbit began.

Starting at the Buffet City restaurant at the top of Fore Street, a procession featuring a giant traditional Chinese Dragon and an energetic traditional Chinese Lion, plus dozens of dancers and musicians, worked its way up to Bedford Square in Princesshay, before heading for the recently-completed new Business School building.

At the new Business School building there was an even grander Dragon and Lion dance, plus a wealth of indoor activities (this is the South West, after all, and one needs to plan for inclement weather – which we luckily avoided for the most part!), from Chinese food to face-painting (allegedly for the kids, but I saw some suspiciously older-looking painted faces), plus origami, Tai Chi, Chinese knots, Chinese tea-making, and much, much more. The day was rounded off with a spectacular fireworks display and a Chinese variety performance at the Northcott Theatre.

Professor Neil Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International), gave a short address highlighting the increasing importance of Exeter’s Chinese community to both the city and the University. It’s worth noting that the entire event was presented by the Chinese Student Scholars Associations (CSSA), whose volunteers did everything from the impressive Dragon and Lion dancing to manning stalls, ushering the audience, painting faces, and, well, everything else.

A big audience in the city centre swelled through the afternoon to become several hundred strong by the main procession outside the new Business School building (the whole of the new plaza area between Streatham Court and XFI was thronged with people, and the inside activities were very busy at the same time), and included students both international and domestic, and University staff and their families. People directly connected with the University through work or study were far outnumbered, though, by members of the local community; a heartening sight which really reinforced the things Professor Armstrong had said about the value our Chinese students bring to the wider city as well as the University itself.

I can’t praise the enthusiasm, friendliness, and energy of our Chinese student community enough. My friends and I had a great day, thanks entirely to their efforts, and I’d thoroughly recommend going along next year if you can; I know I will be (for the pork dumplings as much as the Dragon and Lion dancing!).

Check out pictures from the day in this Flickr group that anyone can add to.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Posted by Nick Southall (Web Team)