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Breaking down barriers

6th December 2018

An award-winning arts project from Solent University has today been named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.

The innovative arts project from the University’s Showcase Gallery is honoured in the UK’s Best Breakthroughs list for its pioneering work in removing barriers to creativity and engaging diverse audiences.

The Small Faces Exhibition invited people to be part of a large collective artwork made up of thousands of individual ‘postcard portraits’. Notably, all submissions would not be ‘judged’; selected or rejected, by a panel. All work would be shown, and all work would be valued. By relinquishing curatorial control, the gallery was solely reliant on participants to make the exhibition a success.

The response was overwhelming; over 7000 portraits were received. The exhibition was packed with personal stories: a teenage girl with terminal cancer had the opportunity to debut her artwork in a public space; a 90-year-old created artwork for the first time in 40 years; and a group of refugees remembered those they'd left behind. Over 5,267 people visited the exhibition and for many, it was their first time in an art gallery.

The list of breakthroughs demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, including the creation of the internet, work tackling plastic pollution, ultrasound scans to check the health of unborn babies and the establishment of the Living Wage.

The list also highlights the less celebrated breakthroughs that transform lives, including a specially-designed bra to help women undergoing radiotherapy; a toilet that flushes human waste without the need for water; the development of a new scrum technique to make rugby safer; a sports initiative that aims to use football to resolve conflict in divided communities; - and even work to protect the quality of the chocolate we eat.

The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.

It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching. The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.

Solent University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Baldwin, says: “It is a fantastic achievement for the university to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. We’re extremely proud of differences our staff and students are making to people, lives and communities.

“The MadeAtUni campaign is an incredibly important initiative for Solent University as it allows students, alumni, the local community and the wider population to understand the work that we do and the impact it has.”

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics.

“The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”

The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list: 100+ Ways Universities Have Improved Everyday Life was put together in partnership with universities across the UK. As part of the MadeAtUni campaign, every university in the country was invited to nominate the one thing from their institution which they believe has had the biggest impact on people, lives or communities. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination. The entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community, and culture and sport.

You can find out more about the UK’s Best Breakthroughs and the MadeAtUni campaign here

About the Britain Thinks research

Britain Thinks polled 2,063 UK adults online between 30 May and 31 May 2018. Data was weighted to be representative of all UK adults.