Postgraduate: Iraq-Bangor collaboration; town planning qualifications; design partnerships

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The Independent Online

An academic from Baghdad travelled to Wales last month in a bid to develop postgraduate education in post-war Iraq. Dr Wail Al-Rifaie, the president of the University of Technology, Baghdad, signed an agreement with Bangor University's Centre for Arid Zone Studies, which will promote the exchange of expertise, and support Iraq's postgraduate and professional training in environmental studies, water resource management and related fields. "It is hoped that this memorandum of understanding will reinvigorate our research and development in various areas and reintegrate Iraqi students and academics into the international intellectual community," he says. The intention is to expand the collaboration with Bangor to cover computer science and information technology.

* The UK is suffering from a shortage of town planners, but numbers are about to be boosted by a new qualification. A raft of intensive, one-year masters courses in town planning will be available at 13 universities from this September. There will also be a distance-learning version. The idea is to cut the time it takes to qualify as a planner while opening up the profession to people from a range of backgrounds. "We know geography graduates will be interested, and wouldn't rule out graduates of any discipline - economics, history," says Stephanie Singer of the Royal Town Planning Institute (www.rtpi.org.uk). People from a diversity of career backgrounds are also expected to sign up. "I know of a journalist who worked on Planning magazine who has decided that he wants to do what he's been writing about," says Singer. The qualification will also be ideal for town planners who qualified outside the UK. Each of the new courses has been accredited by the institute, which is proud of the rigorous procedures it has used to evaluate the programmes. "Not all applications were successful, which reflects our quality standards," says the institute's Dr Dory Reeves. Two of the universities will offer various specialist masters in planning: London South Bank University is launching six, including planning in developing countries; and Oxford Brookes is launching seven, including one in transport planning and one in historic conservation.

* A device that would allow snowboarders to master flash moves quickly is being developed by a student at the Royal College of Art, with the help of MBAs at Cranfield School of Management. In an innovative partnership, design students at the college are showing their inventions to MBAs, who are deciding which have market potential and then helping to get them launched. The "Snowbone" has caused particular excitement at Cranfield. Its designer, Nick Rawcliffe, thinks it could launch a new winter sport. The MBA students are considering this and five other inventions, including a digital clock that uses heating elements and ink to allow graphics, words and numbers to be displayed in concrete.

g.mccann@independent.co.uk

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