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More evidence of universities boosting their research profile comes at Nottingham Trent, where Bob Rees, who was formerly deputy director of the Institute of Cancer Studies at Sheffield University, has been made a research professor. He is hunting for a cancer vaccine, and Nottingham Trent has given him the money and freedom to pursue his search, which involves treating skin cancer patients with a vaccine. His thinking is that such a vaccine will be able to stop suppression of the immune system and help to get rid of the cancer. "We hope some of the research councils will look favourably on this initiative," he says.

The University of North London is looking favourably on green issues with the appointment of an officer whose job is to implement the agreement reached at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. In short, Frances Browne's role is to save the planet, albeit in a small way, in the grimy and polluted London borough of Islington. The university has entered into a partnership with the local council with the aim of improving the environment and encouraging what is known as "sustainable development". Ms Browne will be working with local residents, businesses and voluntary organisations. Anyone who has gasped their way up the Holloway Road will know what an awesome task she has ahead of her.

With education such a hot topic, universities are taking new interest in their education departments. Sussex University has appointed Joan Bliss, formerly of King's College, London, to the chair in education in succession to Tony Becher. Professor Bliss, a cognitive development psychologist, will also be director of Sussex's Institute of Education. Her research area - how children and adults learn - might be thought somewhat old-fashioned. But Professor Bliss hastens to explain that, although she was a student of Piaget's, she is no disciple. Her interests are to do with the nuts and bolts of learning and assessment. She has no plans to be drawn into a duel with Chief Inspector Chris Woodhead, as have some of her colleagues. "I don't think I want to take on the Government on anything at this particular moment," she says. Later, perhaps?