2017 was another great year for Varsity Education and for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which were recognised by Times Higher Education as the world’s best universities. Here are some of the key Oxbridge stories which hit the headlines last year.
Festive Carbon Dating
In December, it was announced that a bone thought to belong to St Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus, has been dated by Oxford University scientists to the 4th century. While this doesn’t prove the bones do belong to St Nicholas, it does at least prove they are from the right era, as Saint Nicholas is believed to have died in 343AD. The saint is said to have lived in modern-day Turkey, and was renowned for his generosity.
Malala goes to Oxford
Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Prize-winning activist who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012, revealed she had been accepted into Oxford University in August. Malala is now studying philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). She has lived and studied in Birmingham since receiving treatment at a hospital in the city, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at just 17 years old.
Malala grew up in Swat, Pakistan, where the Taliban had been active and had destroyed many girls’ schools back in 2009. Her activism led to her becoming nationally and internationally recognised, until the Taliban attempted to murder her on a bus as she returned home from an exam. Despite being shot, Malala survived and is now at one of the world’s best universities!
Cambridge engineer selected by Canadian Space Agency
Canadian engineer Dr Jenni Sidey, a combustion specialist who gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge and has lived there for seven years, was selected in July to complete a two-year astronaut candidate training programme at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. If Dr Sidey does go into space, she’ll be the third astronaut to be associated with Cambridge University, following former Queens’ College student Michael Foale and future CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques, who gained his PhD from the Cavendish Astrophysics Group.
Oxford Fellow Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, honoured with Turing Award for Computing
The award is known as the ‘Nobel Prize of Computing’, and was given to Sir Berners-Lee in April to recognise his key contribution to the creation of the internet, an invention which has transformed our world like few others. Sir Berners-Lee developed key components of the internet such as URLs and web browsers. He launched the first website on 6 August 1991. Today, there are more than a billion of them!
Sir Tim Berners-Lee graduated from Oxford with a first-class degree in Physics in 1976, and has been a Professorial Research Fellow in the university’s Department of Computer Science since 2016. Sir Bernes-Lee is the third University of Oxford professor to receive the Turing Award.
New £115 million biomedical research centre opens in Oxford
The world’s largest big data institute for health, the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, opened in May and incorporates two related research institutes at the heart of Oxford University’s Headington biomedical campus. More than 600 scientists are now based there, including molecular and cell biologists, statisticians, computer scientists, epidemiologists and more.
19th century violin lent by Oxford University to young Syrian refugee
The violin was restored in Oxford before being sent to Aboud Kaplo, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon. The story begins with Susie Attwood, a film-maker, violinist, and alumna of Oxford’s Music Faculty. She met Aboud and his parents while filming a documentary in Lebanon, and was struck by his dedication to music. However, he had no access to a music teacher and learned by watching YouTube videos and practising on a cheap child-sized violin. Susie contacted Andy Lamb, curator of the Bate Collection, to see if he could help.
The Bate Collection holds more than 2,000 instruments dating from medieval times to the present. This is the first time the collection has lent out an instrument in these circumstances. The violin they gave to Aboud is a 19th century instrument manufactured in Germany. Aboud is reportedly delighted by his new violin and hopes to study music and become a professional violinist in the future.
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