Lego professor: Cambridge University hires 'professor of play'

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LegoImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The play research centre and professor post will be funded by £4m from the Lego Foundation

The University of Cambridge has appointed its first "Lego professor of play".

Paul Ramchandani, an expert in child mental health with Imperial College, London, will take up the post in January.

He beat off a global field of applicants and is expected to earn around £84,000 a year, the average for Cambridge professors.

Funding for the new role will come from a £4m grant from the Lego Foundation.

It has also paid for a specialist play research centre (PEDAL), built in 2015 and based in the Faculty of Education.

Image source, Morris Zwi
Image caption,
Lego Professor of Play, Paul Ramchandani, takes up the post in January

Professor Ramchandani currently leads the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Research Unit at Imperial College, and has spent the last 15 years specialising in child development research.

He will officially become Lego Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning, and study the role of play - and playfulness - in young children.

"Everyone has an opinion about what role play should have in early education and there is some wonderful research, but there are also big gaps in our knowledge," he said.

"We need the best evidence possible in order to inform the vital decisions that are made about children's education and development and I look forward to taking that work forward together with colleagues at Cambridge."

Image caption,
The University of Cambridge has appointed the first 'Lego professor of play'

The team at PEDAL say the priority for their research will be equipping children with 21st century skills like problem solving, team work and self-control.

Cambridge University began the search for a professor of play in June 2015. The process closed in January 2017.

The job description specified a candidate with an "outstanding research record of international stature" and "vision, leadership, experience and enthusiasm".

Image source, ALAMY
Image caption,
The Lego Foundation is funding the new professor of play post at Cambridge University

It is not the first time the prestigious university has invited unusual job applications.

In 2014, the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology advertised for a doctor of chocolate - to study how and why the substance melts.

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