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From QI to ARU Peterborough: Sandi Toksvig opens cutting edge centre


From QI to ARU Peterborough: Sandi Toksvig opens cutting edge centre

Broadcaster delivers inspiring guest lecture during her visit to ARU Peterborough

XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough has been officially opened by writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig OBE.

The new facilities at ARU Peterborough, which combine elements of the virtual and the real world to create an immersive educational experience, have been opened thanks to £5.7 million of funding from the Office for Students (Ofs) to support simulated learning in Peterborough and the ARU campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford.

As part of her visit to ARU Peterborough, Ms Toksvig, who is also the founder of the Women’s Equality Party, delivered a guest lecture about the new Mappa Mundi project, which she is leading at Cambridge University.

Ms Toksvig has been awarded the inaugural Q+ Fellowship for 2023-24 by the LGBTQ+ research programme at Cambridge University, and her Mappa Mundi project aims to create a new digital resource documenting women’s position, achievements and struggles across the globe.

As well as sharing details of her new digital resource, Ms Toksvig, the presenter of the BBC’s QI programme, also enjoyed a hands-on demonstration of the digital technology on offer at Peterborough’s new university.

XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough allows students to become active participants in their learning thanks to technology that lets users feel they’ve stepped inside a giant VR headset.

The state-of-the-art facilities will help students to perfect skills, and practice and repeat techniques, in a safe environment. The specialist technology can simulate workplace environments such as hospital wards, labs, and engineering workshops, and there are also plans to open the facilities to local employers, to assist with staff training.

The future Centre of Excellence is on the ground floor of the Innovation and Research Centre at ARU Peterborough. The three-storey facility has been majority funded with £13.78 million from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board’s Get Building Fund, while “The Lab”, the third phase of ARU Peterborough, is due to open this summer.

Ms Toksvig, who presented ARU with the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2023 prize at a ceremony in December, said:

“My new Mappa Mundi project will be a three-dimensional, interactive view of the globe from a female perspective, with the goal of changing the world by learning to see it differently.

“It will be story-led, data driven and allow women from all countries to present their stories, their hardships, and their triumphs. I’m delighted to see that ARU Peterborough is also doing things very differently, and the fabulous new technology on offer to students is quite breathtaking.”

Professor Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, said:

“It has been an honour to welcome Sandi Toksvig to ARU Peterborough and hear about her important new project, which aligns with the inclusive values of the University. We were also delighted that Sandi was able to officially open our fantastic new facilities.

“ARU Peterborough is being purpose built with the very latest technology to equip our students for the workplaces of the future. Instead of traditional ‘chalk and talk’, XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough puts students front and centre of their learning, giving them the opportunity to try new skills and techniques in a safe but realistic environment.

“The complexity of 21st century problems requires a diversity of thought that can only be addressed by diverse teams of people with a variety skills, experience and backgrounds.  As a university we strive to attract a diverse range of people and therefore inclusivity and equality of opportunity is at the heart of everything we do.

“With ‘The Lab’, the third phase of ARU Peterborough, also opening this year, students at ARU Peterborough have access to some most exciting, cutting-edge facilities in the country.”

Chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board, Al Kingsley, said:

“Sandi’s visit marks another step forward for ARU Peterborough with the official unveiling of this state of the art technology centre in our Innovation and Research Centre building, funded through the Business Board.

“With the facilities set to be available to the wider business community to improve workforce skills, this is yet another example of the wider impact and benefit this fantastic new university is having.”

Councillor Mohammed Farooq, Peterborough City Council Leader, said:
“XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough at ARU Peterborough is another fantastic achievement of the university for residents and employers alike. The new facilities will provide students with real-world opportunities to experience and understand cutting edge extended reality skills, invaluable as they graduate and move into the workforce.

“The field of virtual and augmented reality are rapidly growing and being applied into a wide range of sectors. Through continued partnership working, the university continues to deliver growth and opportunities for everyone.”

ARU Peterborough is a partnership between Anglia Ruskin University, Peterborough City Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.