The African Prisons Project: Student blog

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The following blog post is part of a series of blogs on the Pro Bono Offering at UWE Bristol: 

One of the many strands of activity students can undertakes as part of the UWE Pro Bono Unit is with the African Prisons Project, led by Kathy Brown. This summer several students received the opportunity to travel to Kenya and Uganda to work directly with the prisoners in the prisons. This has provided valuable life experience for both the prisoners and the students. Here, LLB student Nakita Hedges reflects on her thoughts and experiences:

When driving from the airport I could see the corruption which segregated the rich from the poor almost immediately. The rich drove past me on their way to their gated houses, whilst the poor begged at my window and lay on the edge of the street. This is something I felt so detached from as my experience of this type of lifestyle only seemed to appear behind a TV screen. For me to see this as an actual problem was a hit of harsh reality and I didn’t know whether to feel thankful for my privileged life or awful that these people will never experience anything like it.

A similar feeling of contradicting emotions hit me when arriving at the prisons for the first time. I was aware these people were separated from the world by society who had reformed their identity with a label. Nevertheless, despite their injustice, every single student I met kindly greeted me with a handshake and smile. They were polite and insisted on me taking their seats even if it meant they would be standing for the duration of the lesson. I found it difficult to look into their eyes and accept their gratitude without feeling guilty that our little time here meant so much to them.

Their determination to learn was honestly such an empowering feeling to witness. Their level of dedication to their studies was something I had not ever seen before. If they have been set a task, each person exceeds expectations. Regardless of their lack of materials, each student would return with masses of information which they would provide examples and apply to the real world. After a few weeks of being here, our students were beginning to think like lawyers. They were analytical of their own and our work, challenging everything that was presented to them. Whenever we had a debate I almost wanted to remove their note sheet because they didn’t need a piece of paper to dictate their thoughts, it came so naturally to them. I soon learnt that their positive mental outlook was derived from their motivation to learn and make a difference for themselves seeing as nobody else was going to do it for them.

We were constantly reminded that we were “improving [their] lives” and “reforming [their] dignity”, however, for me I never thought of our students as criminals and it saddened me that it was only our presence which allowed them to feel like normal human beings. I have never thought so highly of anyone before, and I am honoured to have spent my summer with these people. They are human beings trying to achieve the same dreams as me. I hope to reassure them that they have not been neglected by humanity and despite their circumstances are recognised as human beings and not by their label.

For more information on the African Prisons Project, please see here. To find out more about the UWE Pro Bono Unit please see here.

 

 

 

 

UWE Bristol moves into top 10 in UK for student satisfaction

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The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has climbed into the top 10 universities in the UK for student satisfaction.

Results from the latest National Student Survey (NSS) have revealed a record 89 per cent of UWE Bristol final year students were satisfied with their course overall, an increase of one percentage point on 2017.

The rise – the fourth consecutive annual increase recorded at the University – comes as the average overall satisfaction score across the higher education sector dipped from 84 per cent to 83 per cent.

UWE Bristol is now the highest ranked university for overall student satisfaction of all 18 institutions in the University Alliance, a group of British universities focused on technical and professional education.

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol, said: “I’m absolutely delighted our overall score has increased to 89 per cent. This is outstanding in its own right and even more impressive in a year where the sector has declined to 83 per cent.

“This is a really tremendous achievement and one that has only been achieved by hard work, focus and a genuinely collaborative effort.”

The 2018 National Student Survey, carried out by the Office for Students and the UK higher education funding bodies, captured the views of more than 320,000 students

The annual survey sees students reflect on their time at university, offering their verdict on topics ranging from teaching and assessment to resources and academic support. It was introduced in 2005 to help inform the choices of prospective students and assist universities in enhancing student experience.

In this year’s results, UWE Bristol’s scores were above the UK average on 26 of the 27 survey questions. Some 56 programmes achieved a score of 92 per cent or above with 12 achieving 100 per cent: Architecture and Environmental EngineeringArchitecture and PlanningCriminology and SociologyDrawing and PrintEarly ChildhoodGeographyInformation Technology Management for BusinessIntegrated Wildlife ConservationInterior ArchitectureNursing (Children’s)Nursing (Learning Disabilities) and Robotics.

Find out more about UWE Bristol rankings and reputation.

Pro Bono – The African Prisons Project

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A new initiative, started this academic year by the UWE Pro Bono Unit, has been our link up with the African Prisons Project.  Through this our law students work remotely assisting prisoners and warders in Uganda and Kenya. Kathy Brown explains more in this blog:

Following a volunteer trip by Kathy Brown to teach law in Kenyan prisons in December 2016, a new UWE pro bono activity was created.  Her role in Kenya was to support Kenyan law tutors employed by a UK based charity called African Prisons Project (APP) to teach law to APP sponsored University of London (UOL) external LLB students.  She described the experience as life affirming but realised her position as a law lecturer at UWE put her in a position to share her access to legal resources with the Kenyan (and Ugandan) prison LLB community.  She realised too that this was something she should take to and share with her own LLB students.

In September 2017, supported by her FBL Librarian colleague Julie Hamley and Bristol Law School colleague, Dr Thomas Webber she launched  APP.  Together with the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School lead for pro bono, Marcus Keppel-Palmer. They agreed to principally target Level 1 students, filling a gap in terms of the pro bono activities offered to new students.  Kathy’s other priority was to make the activity as inclusive as possible – and this has become central to the pro bono activity. Selection for the activity was based on a willingness to try rather than academic excellence or pre-existing skills.

The focus of the activity was to provide APP LLB tutors and students with all the materials they would otherwise be able to access for themselves were they based at a university.  In return, students would be able to develop their own legal research skills as well as develop soft skills such as confidence building, working with different year groups and interacting with international tutor colleagues. In addition, students could make the project they wanted it to be, responding to the needs of APP tutors and adapting their roles on the basis of their experience as law students.

Nine months on the main objectives of the activity have been met. UWE students have been able to talk about the outcomes of their learning and development through the UWE Student Research conference and the UWE (staff) Learning and Teaching Conference.

In terms of their direct involvement and engagement with the APP students in Kenya and Uganda, they’ve shared in the excitement of APP’s first LLB graduation ceremony in Luzira Men’s prison in Uganda (live streaming). Consistent with the activity’s inclusive values, five UWE students from three year groups have been given the opportunity to work in three Kenyan prisons during July and August.

To find out more about the APP please click here https://africanprisons.org/

Give us your feedback on the Bristol Law School

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As part of an exciting new research project, the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School are looking to gather opinions on their new building.

Opened in April 2017, Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School is a flagship space to attract international and home students, facilitate links with businesses, and provide collaborative spaces for staff to work together.

Stride Treglown (the building architects), ISG (building contractors) and Godfrey Syrett (furniture suppliers) and UWE Bristol Business School are collaborating on this research project to explore personal, emotional and sensory user experiences of the building through the use of social media and photography.

They want to hear from staff, students and visitors on how they have used the building.  Over the next year, they are asking everyone to take photos to show how they are using the building and how they feel about the building.

Participants can then post their pictures on Instagram using #myUWEBBSview or you can email your pictures and comments to myUWEBBSview@uwe.ac.uk

The research project is led by Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor in Organisation Studies at UWE Bristol.

Take a look at the project website for more details.

Bar Professional Training Course Qualifying Session Dinner

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On Thursday 7th June, the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) hosted the annual qualifying session Dinner to mark the end of the BPTC calendar.

Guests included The Hon Mr Justice Warby ( a High Court Judge), Vice Treasurer Gray’s Inn, William Clegg QC, Donna Whitehead and a number of other members of the Judiciary, Inns, Local Bar and Faculty staff.

The atmosphere was formal and yet jolly with the students pleased and relieved to have completed their intensive academic program.

Speeches were from Anna Vigars QC (Head of Guildhall Chambers, Bristol) who offered the students inspiring words of wisdom and from David Forster, BPTC student who offered his amusing and inclusive reflections on the BPTC year. Both speakers were very well received by the audience.

Students and some guests continued their celebrations at the after dinner party hosted by the students at the Square Bar.

Top Patent Attorney Firm Is Latest To Join UWE’s Business Advice Clinic

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The next blog post in our series on Pro-bono. Written by Marcus Keppel-Palmer:

Leading Patent and Trade Mark firm, EIP has signed up to be mentors for UWE’s pro bono initiative the Business Advice Clinic. Attorneys from EIP’s office in Bath will assist UWE students working in the Business Advice Clinic and UWE IP supervisor Gill Ford. The Business Advice Clinic provides advice to start-up businesses across a range of legal and business topics, such as businesses based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the LaunchSpace incubator and the Network for Creative Industries.

Students take the lead in researching and presenting advice, whilst the mentors and supervisors provide support and ensure the advice is reflective of current practice. Gill Ford said: “IP is very important to start-up businesses and the Business Advice Clinic has received a range of queries from those involving confidential information to patent applications. Students value the opportunity to put their classroom knowledge to real world use.”

Matt Lawman from EIP said: “EIP is delighted to be joining UWE’s Business Advice Clinic initiative. Intellectual Property is widely misunderstood, yet is an essential consideration for many start-up businesses.  And, it is often true that the time when a business needs the advice the most is in the early stage when they can afford it the least.  So, the service provided by The Business Advice Clinic will prove invaluable for many business. EIP specialises in helping start-ups formulate an IP strategy and we love seeing clients use their IP to prosper and grow. We very much look forward to working with Marcus, Gill and the UWE students!”

EIP is an award-winning firm with offices in the UK, US and Germany giving specialist IP advice on patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. In 2018 EIP was named “UK Patent and Trademark Attorney Firm of the Year for Patent Litigation”.  Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Director of the Business Advice Clinic, said: “We are delighted to welcome EIP as a mentor to the UWE Business Advice Clinic. We are very grateful for the time and assistance the firm is prepared to commit on a pro bono basis to the Clinic and to the students. We look forward to increasing opportunities with a prestigious international firm.”

Institute of Directors award for Bristol Law School Executive Dean

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Donna Whitehead, Executive Dean of UWE Bristol’s Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School, was named New Director of the Year at the 2018 IoD South West awards.

Leading a team of nearly 300 staff and more than 6,000 students, Donna manages a budget of £55 million. She also leads the work on enterprise across the University. In winning the inaugural New Director award, she was singled out for achieving transformational change for the organisation in an impressively short period of time.

Donna said: “I am delighted to win this award. I’m incredibly proud to lead the Faculty, and enjoy and value working with all our talented staff. This award reflects their great work.”

A total of 14 directors from across the region were shortlisted for the awards, presented yesterday at a ceremony near Exeter. The awards were sponsored by accountants Bishop Fleming, which has offices throughout the South West. Guest speaker was Roy Kinnear, COO of South West-based airline Flybe.

Nick Sturge, South West chair of the IoD, said: “The South West has a well-deserved reputation for creativity, leadership and entrepreneurship. The diversity of awards this year served to demonstrate just this. We had a record number of entries this year so to be even shortlisted was an achievement. I want to congratulate not just our winners but our runners up too.”

All the winners will now go forward for a chance to represent the South West at the IoD National Director of the Year Awards in the autumn.

Pro Bono works: Network For Creative Enterprise

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The second blog in our series on Pro Bono: 

The Business Advice Clinic, one of UWE’s Pro Bono initiative, has been providing legal assistance to the members of the Network for Creative Enterprise over the past academic year. The NFCE is a collaboration between the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio, Knowle West Media Centre, Spike Island, and The Guild based in Bath. UWE is also a partner in the Network. In each of the centres, residents have the opportunity to join the NFCE to receive a mixture of support to turn their ideas into economically sustainable businesses, including free work space and a package of business development support. As part of that support, residents from the hubs are able to make appointments with Business Advice Clinic students, supervised by Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Director of Pro Bono.

Marcus said: “the businesses at NFCE are those working in the creative and cultural arena, often at the very outset of their business life, and so many of the questions are around intellectual property protection, putting together terms and conditions of business, and data protection, although we have been asked about all kinds of matters, including regulations affecting drones!”. Clinics have been held at the Watershed, Spike Island and Knowle West Media Centre with plans to venture over to Bath underway. Each client has a one-hour appointment with students taking instructions, undertaking any research and providing assistance as a follow-up.

One of the students on the team, Lucie Wickens said: “these regular drop-in sessions at Spike Island, Watershed, The Guild and Knowle West Media Centre have provided students with excellent exposure of working with clients, and has assisted in the development of start-up businesses (many of which are UWE graduates) across Bristol and Bath. The work I have undertaken on the Business Advice Clinic, through the Network for Creative Enterprise has been invaluable as a discussion point in interviews, and in building my confidence of working with clients.”

Nearly 20 of the residents have so far taken advantage of the sessions. These residents have reported that the advice and the access to advice has been invaluable. One resident said: “Thank you so much for all the support and advice from you and your team. The conversations and the draft contracts you have drawn up have been an invaluable contribution to our development. Without this free service offered through the Network for Creative Enterprise we would have struggled to access let alone pay for legal advice and support of this kind.”

Rachael Burton, one of the NFCE Producers based at the Pervasive Media Studio, said: “It’s been great to work with Bristol Business and Law School at UWE through the legal advice clinics run by Marcus and his students. Having access to free legal advice in a familiar setting has been really valuable to the artists and small creative businesses we are supporting through Network for Creative Enterprise. We look forward to developing this ongoing relationship.”

 

UWE Bristol rated GOLD in Government assessment

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The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has been awarded gold status in the latest Government rankings for higher education providers.

UWE Bristol has been recognised with the highest possible rating in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) 2018. Gold-standard institutions have provision that is consistently outstanding and of the highest quality found in the sector.

Advancing from the silver rating awarded in 2017, the University has been praised by assessors for outstanding graduate employability outcomes and successful approaches to personalised learning.

The framework led by the Office for Students (OfS) measures the performance of all UK universities and higher education providers based on a wide range of factors including graduate employability, National Student Survey (NSS) results and learning environment.

Introduced two years ago to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching, the TEF has been designed to help students choose where to study by providing clear information about teaching provision and student outcomes.

In its 2018 assessment, UWE Bristol received recognition for:

* Outstanding performance with regard to sustained employment and graduate earnings

* Students from all backgrounds achieving consistently outstanding outcomes

* Student satisfaction with academic support, and the rate of progression to highly skilled employment or further study, being above the University’s benchmarks

* Outstanding learning resources with extensive facilities for lecture capture

* Successful approaches to personalised learning, with effective support arrangements for specific student groups, that secure the highest levels of student engagement with learning.

Overall, the TEF panel of assessors judged that the combination of UWE Bristol’s performance data and its submission met the criteria for a gold award, which is valid for up to three years.

The University is ranked in the top quartile of all higher education providers in the UK and is among only five universities in the South West to hold gold TEF status.

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this gold award. It recognises the importance we place on the student experience and teaching, and how our practice orientated and professionally accredited courses consistently equip our students for graduate level jobs.

“A huge thank you goes to all our staff on what is a very proud day for the University. Their hard work and commitment has made a vital contribution by ensuring students receive the best possible higher education experience.”

The award of a gold rating in the TEF comes one week after UWE Bristol was named in the top 40 of the annual university league table compiled by the Guardian. The University climbed to its highest ever position of 37th out of 121 UK institutions following strong performance in the NSS and an increase in spend per student.

Bristol Law School students bring characters of award winning novel to life in mock murder trial

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On Thursday 24 May and Friday 25 May, students on our Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) acted as counsel for the prosecution and defence in a two-day mock murder trial on Frenchay campus.

The mock trial was based on the plot of the award winning novel Infinite Sky by CJ Flood.

Infinite Sky, a story about a teenage girl trying to come to terms with the abandonment of her mother when a family of gypsies set up an illegal camp in the paddock by her house, contains a violent death. It is this violent death that was explored in the mock trial.

His Honour Judge Johnson, a Circuit Judge who sits at Isleworth Crown Court, presided over the trial and the witnesses were played by a combination of professional actors, together with amateur actors from UWE Bristol’s Drama School, Law School and a local high school.

CJ Flood, the author, also attended the trial to find out the verdict for for the characters she had created. Read her account of the trial on her blog.

The prosecution

Members of the BPTC teaching team acted as ushers, jury bailiffs and court clerks, whilst the jury was made up of students.

The mock trial was open to members of the public as well as staff and students.

After all the witnesses had been cross examined and re-examined, the two day trial culminated in closing speeches from both sides before the jury went out to make their decision. Returning after an hour or so, they found the defendant not guilty of murder.

The trial was an incredible learning experience for our students and gave them the opportunity experience first hand what a real trial would be like.

Thank you to everyone involved who helped bring Infinite Sky to life for the purpose of the trial and a massive thank you to CJ Flood for agreeing to let us host the trial.