Catch-up with the latest news and insights on education in the UK.

News

Dundee comic book artists illustrate diverse range of creative careers
Thu
1
Jul 2021

Two University of Dundee graduates are challenging stereotypes surrounding careers in creative industries in their newest comic venture.

Ashling Larkin and Cat Laird, both graduates of the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), plan to launch their second comic anthology ‘Working In: The Arts’ in September following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The collaborative comic includes interviews with nine creatives working professionally in the arts, a number of whom are also Dundee graduates, giving an insight into their different careers and how they entered the field.

Ashling and Cat hope the comic will show that there's more than one way to break into the field and to break stigmas and negative stereotypes attached to creative careers.

“There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding artists that have led to the ‘starving artist’ trope, and this isn’t the case for all creatives,” said Cat, who graduated with a degree in Illustration from DJCAD in 2016.

“People still tend to view a career in the arts as risky because of tropes like this. That’s why I think it’s really important to get out this kind of information. A career in the arts doesn’t need to be a scary thing, it doesn’t need to be risky.”

The comic looks at careers in animation, comics, games, graphic design, illustration, jewellery, textiles, photography and fashion photography, highlighting the variety of potential career paths and opportunities available to other aspiring creatives.

Each story is illustrated by a different comic artist who also has a page in the book to tell their story about how they found their way into their artistic careers.

The pair want the comic to reach anyone with an interest in knowing the behind-the-scenes workings of the professional art world, from students thinking about studying a creative subject to parents and schools wanting to better understand to give support.

Ashling, who graduated with a degree in Animation from DJCAD in 2016, said, “It’s important to shine the light on just how diverse these careers can be because a lot of people who haven't had much exposure to the creative field don’t understand it.

“We’re particularly interested in helping younger people who are interested in pursuing a creative career and in helping their parents. This comic is an informative resource that can offer a more solid idea and give peace of mind.”

DEFORESTATION THREATENS ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST EAGLES
Thu
1
Jul 2021

One of the world’s largest and most endangered eagle species face further risk from rainforest destruction, new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) finds. 

Harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), which are arguably the world’s largest eagle species, struggle to feed offspring in heavily deforested areas of the Amazon, according to a new study from researchers at UEA and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. 

Dr Everton Miranda and colleagues found that harpy eagles rely on specific mammal prey that live in the forest canopy, including sloths and monkeys – but these mammals are also dwindling in numbers because of habitat loss. 

The authors observed prey species, how frequently prey was delivered, and estimated the weight of prey arriving at 16 harpy eagle nests in Amazonian forests in Mato Grosso, Brazil, using cameras and meticulously identifying prey bone fragments. They also referenced maps and high-resolution satellite imagery to calculate deforestation levels and estimate forest disturbance around each nest. 

The authors identified 306 prey items, nearly half (49.7 per cent) of which were two-toed sloths, brown capuchin monkeys and grey woolly monkeys. The authors’ observations indicated that harpy eagles in deforested areas did not switch to alternative non-forest prey, and delivered canopy-based prey less frequently and with lower estimated body mass. 

Eaglets starve to death in areas of high deforestation where canopy-based prey items are limited, and the study calculates the maximum deforestation threshold that precludes reproductive viability in rearing young.

In landscapes with 50-70 per cent deforestation, eaglets died from starvation, and no active nests were found in areas that had been deforested by over 70 per cent.

The authors calculated that areas with over 50 per cent deforestation are unsuitable for harpy eagles to successfully raise offspring and estimate that around 35 per cent of northern Mato Grosso is already unsuitable for breeding harpy eagles. This may have caused a decline in numbers of breeding pairs by 3,256 since 1985.

The authors conclude that as breeding harpy eagles rely on specific food and rarely hunt in deforested areas, harpy eagle survival critically depends on forest conservation.

Prof Carlos Peres, a Professor of Conservation Biology at UEA and an author in the study, said: “The geographic range of many forest species in the Amazon, including harpy eagles, is rapidly declining, but this is aggravated in apex predator populations sustained by large areas of suitable habitat.” 

Dr Miranda, who recently concluded his PhD in South Africa, said: “Considering that harpy eagles have the slowest life cycle of all birds, their chances of adapting to fragmented forest landscapes are nearly zero. Retaining forest connectivity, translocating juveniles and food supplementation to eaglets then become critical if they are to persist in these human-modified landscapes.”

Psychologists urge employers to make the workplace fit for the post-pandemic future
Thu
1
Jul 2021

Research findings unveiled at British Psychology Society conference

With one in ten people facing a psychological barrier when returning to the office, employers must take action to help make workplaces fit for the new normal, psychologists from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and University of Chester and the have found.

Dr Sarita Robinson from UCLan and Christina Buxton from the University of Chester, have concluded that while childcare and transport can be a barrier to employees returning to the office, this was not the only driving force.

An analysis of research into psychological responses to public health incidents found that many people are still likely to be anxious about returning to their workspaces.

For some people this could be perceptions of their employer or whether they felt their job role was still important, while for others, their general personal perception of risk was a consideration.

The pair found that some people were naturally more risk averse and became anxious more easily, while others had a higher level of risk tolerance and could cope more easily with working during the pandemic.

During today’s British Psychology Society conference, the pair will highlight their suggestions for ways that employers can play their part in helping colleagues get back to work:

  • Provide support to remove practical barriers to returning to work, such as help and advice regarding childcare and transport;
  • Recognise some people may have anxiety about returning to work and build trust with employees;
  • Provide timely, accurate and relevant information relating to employees around their return to work and make sure appropriate training is given to alleviate concerns about workplace risks;
  • Ensure employees are still clear about their job role;
  • Offer financial incentives and additional leave in recognition of the extra effort/duties/hours undertaken during difficult times.

Their findings relate to research carried out last year, where both experts analysed people’s responses to previous major public health incidents, such as SARS, Chernobyl and 9/11, and explored what motivated – and stopped – people returning to work.

Their paper was informally submitted to SPI-B (the behavioural subgroup of SAGE,) ahead of publication to aide its understanding of factors that influence public willingness to return to work.

UCLan’s Dr Sarita Robinson, Deputy Head for the School of Psychology and Computer Science, said: “The word ‘unprecedented’ has perhaps been overused over the last year – but for good reason. Everyone has experienced varying degrees of stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s important for employers to recognise this and adapt to the needs of individuals. With care, compassion and clear communication, employers can make the transition to post-pandemic working life much smoother for their employees.”

Christina Buxton, programme leader in Psychological Trauma at the University of Chester, added: “Understanding the psychological and physical barriers and interventions that can help overcome these will enable a fuller return to the workplace, and therefore the circulation of labour and commerce that ultimately assist in creating a more effective return to economic recovery.”


Study shows links between ‘emptiness’ and suicidal behaviour
Wed
30
Jun 2021

Researchers from the University of Dundee and University College London have found a strong link between feelings of ‘emptiness’ and suicidal behaviour, providing the first definition of this common but poorly understood experience of mental distress.

The number of patients describing feelings of emptiness has risen in parallel with an increase in mental health problems globally. Persistent feelings of emptiness characterise a range of mental health difficulties, but many people fail to report it to health professionals due to the difficulties of describing it.

In response, the Dundee-UCL team sought to create a working definition of emptiness by carrying out the first research examining the lived experiences of patients who had reported these feelings.

They collected hundreds of testimonies from people who felt empty in an attempt to capture the essence of this experience. Participants described a sense of an inner void that nothing can fill, and a profound sense of detachment from other people and from the world around them. Furthermore, they talked about an inability to connect, to join in, to be seen, and to be an integral part of the social world.

The researchers found that 79% of people who felt empty all of the time had thought about suicide, with 27% having attempted to take their own life at some point. For people who felt empty less often, 45% had thought about suicide, and 8% had attempted to end their life. This suggests a highly important, and previously ignored link between feeling empty and suicidality.

Fabio Sani, Professor of Psychology at Dundee, said, “Emptiness appears to be on the increase, but this raises several important questions because nobody knows exactly what the term means. We felt the simplest way of arriving at a definition was to ask people to provide detailed descriptions using their own words, analogies and metaphors.

“The link between feelings of intense emptiness and suicidal behaviour is extremely worrying, but it may also help us to identify those most likely to attempt suicide. It shows the importance of better understanding this commonly described feeling.

“An increasing number of people, with or without a psychiatric diagnosis, experience feelings of emptiness but this raises several questions. What exactly is emptiness? What does it mean to feel empty? The challenge for future research is to understand why emptiness is becoming so widespread, and how to tackle it clinically and socially. Addressing these questions successfully might save lives.”

Nine components of emptiness were identified as part of the research, and these were used to produce a definition of the typical manifestation of emptiness. Participants in a second survey judged this definition as a highly accurate reflection of their personal feelings of emptiness.

Participants highlighted a sense of going through life mechanically, purposelessly and numbly, with a psychological and bodily felt inner void, together with a sense of disconnectedness from others, and of not contributing to an unchanged but distant and remote world.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition lists a chronic sense of emptiness as a diagnostic criterion for borderline personality disorder (BPD) but fails to explain what emptiness actually is. The Dundee-UCL team also found that people with lived experience of emptiness were not confined to those who had been diagnosed with BPD.

Given the uniformity of descriptions given by participants, the researchers concluded that emptiness does not take a distinctly different form or quality depending on a person’s diagnoses.

Shona Herron, Trainee Clinical Psychologist at UCL, said, “Emptiness, as experienced by our participants, constituted an all-encompassing prison – a sort of bubble which prevents them from fully connecting to themselves, other people and the world around them.

“Importantly, our research confirmed that a sense of emptiness can be experienced by individuals with a variety of mental health difficulties, as well as by individuals who have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem and may never have sought support for their mental wellbeing.

“Emptiness was described in extremely uniform terms across participants, regardless of type or number of diagnoses. A tentative conclusion is that emptiness can be understood as an experience of distress, present across the spectrum of those with and without histories of mental health difficulties.

“At the moment, we have no way of knowing how many people are struggling with feelings of emptiness in our communities, or how many people are suffering in silence having never been asked about feeling empty.

“We hope that our findings will spark interest and debate throughout the clinical, psychiatric and philosophical research communities, about the nature of this common yet under-researched experience, as well as its implications for individuals and societies.”

Students’ business idea to support elderly wins prize funding
Tue
29
Jun 2021

A business idea from two University of Derby students to increase online interaction and activity among older people has been backed by a prize worth £4,000 in mentoring and support.

Claudia Jaunco Espejo and Veron Medic came up with the concept of Fundarely (Fun – Dare Live – Elderly) after speaking with relatives and conducting a survey of older people, discovering very similar issues were affecting their lives.

Veron, who is studying Interior Architecture and Venue Design at the University, said: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact on elderly people, and I know from talking to my own grandmother at home in Croatia how terrible she was feeling during lockdown because she had been unable to do so many things. Her main problem was that each day was the same for her, and she wasn’t feeling motivated, focused or passionate about anything.

“We thought ‘Is there anything we can do? Can we create something that will entertain the elderly, but which at the same can make a real difference to them?’

“We carried out a survey of elderly people and found that over 70 per cent of them were experiencing the same problems. One of the key issues was that they weren’t engaging with younger relatives as much as usual because they had problems using technology.

“So we came up with Fundarely, which is a technological innovation that will offer an interactive platform for the elderly people seeking community belonging, learning, and support in their daily tasks at home from a virtual personal assistant.”

Veron and Claudia first hit upon the idea while taking part in the University of Derby’s award-winning Be The Boss enterprise support initiative, designed for students and graduates who aim to become self-employed.

The idea was one of four Be The Boss projects pitched recently to the Ingenuity Programme, a national enterprise scheme based at the University of Nottingham, which helps create start-up companies that deliver sustainable social and environmental impact across the UK.

Fundarely secured the prize in the Centre for Ageing Better Challenge category at Ingenuity’s annual national awards. Claudia and Veron will receive support and mentoring from the Ingenuity team to develop their idea.

Claudia, who came to Derby from Spain to study Analytics and Business Management, explained that Fundarely also aimed to offer employment opportunities to people from disadvantaged groups.

“Our goal is to help society to move towards accepting equality and diversity. Our customers are people over the age of 70, living alone, interested in engaging in a community, excited for learning and looking to improve their health and wellness.

“But we also plan to work with people from ethnic minorities, refugees, and the homeless , who have also been disadvantaged due to Covid-19, training them to deliver this service, which is what makes us different in a growing market.

“The Fundarely team in the future will consist of three main ‘organs’, with Veron and myself as the brain, our Fundarely trainees as the heart, and our customers as the lungs of this company.”

In addition to the mentoring from Ingenuity, the University of Derby will be continuing to support the Fundarely team on the next stage of their business journey through the Innovation Hothouse, a co-working space and support network at the University’s Enterprise Centre, open to Derby’s self-employed students and graduates

Oliver Stonier, the University of Derby’s Enterprise Manager, said: “Be The Boss has enabled our students and graduates to experience the reality of starting and running their own businesses, and it’s fantastic news that Claudia and Veron have been given this boost to their idea.

“To have their proposal recognised and supported through the Ingenuity Awards demonstrates that they have identified a niche for developing services and opportunities for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and I wish them every success.”

Family Friendly Staycations at Ulster University
Mon
28
Jun 2021

With staycation availability booking up on the North Coast, the University is opening its doors over the summer to welcome families and groups to stay on their self-catering accommodation on the Coleraine campus.

What can I book?

Over July and August, the Coleraine campus’s five-bedroom self-catering apartments are available for rent for 7 nights, from Saturday – Friday.

The Tourism NI approved accommodation is situated on the banks of the River Bann, with easy access to Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart making it the perfect base to explore the North Coast.

Cost of accommodation:

Choose from apartments comprising of five single, en-suite rooms for £525p/w or one double/twin and four single en-suite rooms for £575p/w, all including a fully equipped kitchen-diner, bedlinen and towels, high speed WIFI and complimentary tea/coffee on arrival. Accessible rooms are also available.

Staff discount:

Staff will receive a 10% discount off their accommodation booking.

Campus Perks

The site offers safe and secure accommodation with access control and CCTV, free parking and self-service laundry. The campus is packed with things to do including tennis, disk golf, Sports Centre with gym, as well as grass and 3G pitches.*

There are lots of outdoor space, picnic tables and woodland walks right on your doorstep.

(*some costs apply).

Junior Sports Camps:

You could also book the children into the university’s Junior Sports Camps (for children age 8 – 14 year olds) – camp options include multi-sports, athletics and dance with sessions running between 10.00 am and 4.00pm. 

Explore the North Coast

Take advantage of all the North Coast has to offer. Walk in the steps of giants with a visit to the famous Giants Causeway, World Heritage Site, dare to walk the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge or relive the magical Game of Thrones with a tour of the filming locations.

Whether you’re an adrenalin junkie or prefer a slower pace of life, the North Coast has something for everyone. With water sports, picture perfect beaches, relaxing walks and seaside town fun, your week will be packed with memory making activities for all the family.

Off the Beaten Track

Even if you’ve been to the North Coast before, this is your opportunity to try something completely different. Coleraine campus makes the perfect gateway to the unexplored.

Start your adventure with our very own Coleraine Campus Woodland Trail for big and small kids, make a stop at Rosepark Farm in Ballymoney, board the ferry to Rathlin Island and explore the amazing Caves of Cushendun. Did you know the North Coast is also home to spectacular Cranny Falls and Gleno Waterfall, providing the perfect holiday snaps background.

With limited availability, make sure you don’t miss out – book now at www.ulster.ac.uk/staycation

Kingston University psychologists investigate impact of Covid-19 pandemic on mental health of young people with behavioural issues
Mon
21
Jun 2021

Psychologists at Kingston University are exploring how the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people with behavioural issues and their families – and how it could be mitigated.

As part of the study, researchers are surveying adolescents aged 11-18 years old with long-term conduct disorder who may be prone to violence against their peers or their parents, running away from home, or committing crimes such as vandalism. They are also interviewing parents to find out how the UK lockdowns have affected family dynamics and parenting practice.

Senior lecturer in psychology Dr Maria Livanou, who is conducting the study with forensic psychology Phd student Marcus Bull, said they hope it will further understanding on the impact of Covid-19 on parenting young people with challenging behaviour and help improve access to support.

"Recent reports have shown that behavioural problems are the second fastest growing category among young girls and boys. We know that these young people and their parents have been affected tremendously by the pandemic, so we wanted to examine this," Dr Livanou said.

Bull's research focuses on risk factors affecting young people's behaviour and whether these can be mitigated against. "Covid-19 has had such a big situational effect on individuals and the lockdowns have imposed so many different issues – such as financial strain on the family and all having to stay at home at once. These are extra triggers for these young people, some of who might have already been at risk of behavioural problems," Bull said.

While lockdown restrictions have eased in the UK, it is anticipated that the impact on mental health will be long lasting. "What we are looking into is the complex trauma arising as a result of Covid-19 and lockdown," Bull said. "Trauma works in an extremely complex way and will go on for quite some time. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning – the pandemic is going to have a huge impact on people's wellbeing," he added.

Interviews are being carried out with individuals already accessing mental health services and those who are at risk of developing conduct disorder. Parents sometimes do not seek medical help for their child due the social stigma attached to mental health problems, which means they go undetected until the problem escalates, Dr Livanou explained.

The study is the first stage of the research as the psychologists are also designing a smartphone app that will provide information about mental health issues and signpost families to mental health services. "As a result of emergency resources going to the NHS to look after Covid-19 patients, these other services have been impacted and long waiting lists have increased even more. We hope the development of this app will help people who haven't been unable to access these services," Bull said. 

Dr Livanou, of the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences at Kingston, said they will be working closely with young people and their parents in the design and development of the app to ensure it meets their needs. "Our study is not just for now, but for future pandemics and lockdowns so we can examine how we can move forward and give young people and their parents a voice," Dr Livanou added.

Game-changing UK forensic science centre of excellence officially opened
Mon
21
Jun 2021

A new forensic science ‘centre of excellence’ has been officially opened at Cranfield University. The facilities at Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) are among some of the very best in the world and investment has been targeted in the fields of crime scene investigation, digital forensic investigation and forensic materials analysis, amongst others. The new facilities are considered vital in boosting the role science plays in the criminal justice system, enabling the transfer of the latest leading academic knowledge to criminal investigators and training the next generation of forensic scientists.

In May 2019, a report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee highlighted a critical national shortfall in forensic science research and development. The new facilities at Cranfield are set to be game-changing for the nation’s capabilities and greatly enhance the UK’s position in these fields.

Students and staff will have access to new facilities such as a virtual reality autopsy table, digital forensics laboratory, crime scene investigation rooms and a simulated mass grave excavation site. The development of the facilities has been made possible with £3.6 million of funding from SEMLEP through the Local Growth Fund, alongside investment from Cranfield University.

The facilities were officially opened by Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick.

Recently, Cranfield announced a strategic partnership with experienced digital forensic practitioners CCL Solutions Group. CCL and Cranfield have partnered to create a new MSc in Digital Forensics and are working on a number of research proposals to address emerging issues and opportunities in the field.

Professor Andrew Shortland, Director of Cranfield Forensic Institute, said: “Forensic science plays a critical part in the criminal justice system and we are proud to be playing our part in enhancing the nation’s capabilities in this field.

“The investment in these new technologies will create unparalleled facilities for our students and staff, as we develop the next generation of forensic scientists and, through our research,  expand the possibilities of forensic science.

“Together with our partnership with CCL, these facilities have the potential to transform the UK’s forensic science education and research.”

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, said: “Our thanks go to SEMLEP and the staff at Cranfield Defence and Security for realising this vision of a leading forensic science facility. We are deeply honoured to be playing our part supporting the nation’s policing and security, through our research and education."

Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive at SEMLEP, said: “Alongside the value that work happening in this new institute will bring to the criminal justice system, it provides a great platform for fostering the development of, and accelerating the commercial opportunities for, local businesses working in the forensic space and therefore providing opportunities for employment for people with digital skills."

De Montfort University proud to be part of Leicester Innovation Week
Mon
21
Jun 2021

One of Britain’s most powerful business women and the director of New York’s Female Innovators Lab will discuss how female leaders drive change as part of Leicester Innovation Week.

Female Leadership and Innovation is one of three events being hosted by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) as part of the week which aims to inspire businesses of every size and sector to embrace innovation.

DMU is proud to be supporting Leicester Innovation Week, which kicks off today (Monday June 21) with an event at Leicester’s Space Park featuring astronaut Susie Imber. Throughout the week DMU will be showcasing how businesses can work with academics to explore new ways of working and create change.

The free event on Wednesday, June 23 has been organised by Professor Rachel Granger. She said: “Women represent a powerful segment of business – a market more than twice as big as China and India combined, representing $20tr in consumer spending – but why is it that few businesses still leverage female talent, especially when research shows that innovation, more likely than not, emerges from female managers and directors?

“Research shows us that leaders who are willing to change direction on women’s input are more than twice as likely to tap into winning ideas. In today’s climate, where innovating can be a matter of business survival, we explore the role of female leadership in this.”

Special guests will be Heather Melville OBE, head of global client experience at PwC – who is also chair of CMI Women, Katie Palencsar, Director of the Female Innovators Lab in New York; Eileen Richards MBE, Chair of the East Midlands Chamber and Heather McLaughlin, Dean of Business and Law at DMU. You can book your free place here

Tomorrow, DMU’s creative tech experts will look at the opportunities technologies like VR and AI offer businesses – with practical examples. It is designed for manufacturers, programmers, designers and creatives. https://bizgateway.org.uk/events/creative-technologies-for-game-changing-business-ideas-leicsiw2021/

On Thursday, Dr Andrew Reeves of DMU’s sustainable development team will be looking at how businesses can cut carbon use and adopt greener business methods to positively impact climate change.

And DMU’s Innovation Centre is in the spotlight at an event which aims to showcase all the vibrant spaces available to start-ups in Leicester and Leicestershire, led by James Burkmar of the LCB Depot.

Other highlights of the week include a focus on innovations in the way we travel, featuring HORIBA MIRA’s Head of Horizon Scanning, Anthony Baxendale.  This event explores the connections between hydrogen vehicles, cyber security, the issues around electric cars and how these emerging questions affect the skills agenda.  

Dr Nik Kotecha OBE, Chairman of Morningside Pharmaceuticals and Chair of the Leicester Innovation Board explains: “Innovation is about thinking differently, developing ideas and identifying new opportunities, which often fulfil a gap in the market and in individual businesses.

“The Leicester Innovation Board was established this year to bring together leaders from the public and private sectors, as well as academia. Its aim is to create a long term Innovation Strategy for Leicestershire, which builds collaborations, growth and opportunities, and safeguards the future prosperity and productivity of our businesses, workforce and communities.

“Innovation takes many forms, but often it’s as simple as making day to day changes within an organisation to improve efficiency, productivity and performance. Building an ‘ideas culture’ within an organisation is also key, so every person has a role to play.

“Innovation alongside continuous improvement is something that every business, no matter how small, needs to embrace as a core part of its operations, in order to be competitive and continue to grow.”

Helen Donnellan, Director of Enterprise and Business Services at DMU, will join Dr Kotecha at an event on Thursday discussing innovation in Leicestershire. She is a member of the new Leicester Innovation Board.

Abundant Green Networks: Reimagining our Urban Space
Mon
21
Jun 2021

London Met rewilding expert to take part in panel to help cities go greener and healthier, by going pesticide-free.

London Met’s Senior Lecturer in sustainable design and urban biodiversity Sian Moxon will be speaking at an event as part of the Reassembling Our Cities initiative run by Pesticide Action Network UK. 

She will be on a panel entitled Abundant Green Networks: Reimagining our Urban Space, alongside environmental justice activist and founder of Nature is a Human Right and Dream Green, Ellen Miles, and barrister and founder of Lawyers for Nature, Paul Powlesland.

Pesticide Action Network UK explains, "In order to be greener, healthier and wilder, our cities need to be pesticide-free. But there is no easy single replacement for a weed killer or insecticide.

"Rather, each city or community needs to develop a patchwork of solutions to adapt to their own diverse needs. A holistic approach is the only solution to creating safe, green spaces in which people and wildlife can thrive."

LEEDS BECKETT STUDENTS HELP RAISE THOUSANDS FOR CHARITY
Mon
21
Jun 2021

Final year Leeds Beckett undergraduate students who completed the National Student Survey (NSS) helped raise more than £3,500 for three charities chosen by the University.

The annual NSS survey allows students across the UK the opportunity to provide feedback on their university experience, allowing university’s the chance to find out what they do well, plus what areas they can improve upon.

The survey rewards students who submit their feedback by allowing them to raise money for one of the three charities selected by the University. This year, Leeds Beckett students raised £3,549 for local charities Leeds Mind and St George’s Crypt, as well as Save the Children.

Read below to find out how the money raised will be used by each of the three charities.

Leeds Mind

Leeds Mind support the people of our city to discover their own resources, to ‘recover’ from periods of poor mental health, and to live life independently with their mental health condition. The charity promotes positive mental health and wellbeing as well as providing support to those who need it the most. You can find out more about the work Leeds Mind does by visiting their website.

The team at Leeds Mind have sent a special message to thank our students who have supported them this year:

“We honestly cannot thank you and everyone who chose to support Leeds Mind via the National Student Survey enough, this is such an amazing amount of money and really will make such a difference to the services and support we provide to people who are struggling with their mental health now and in the future, so “thank you.”

Save the Children

Save the Children helps support younger members of society by providing access to education, food and medicine for those unable to do so. They ensure children stay safe, healthy and continue learning so they can become who they want to be, regardless of their background.

The charity works with children in more than 100 countries and have three ambitions for the future:

  1. By 2030 no child dies from preventable causes before their fifth birthday
  2. All children learn a quality basic education
  3. Violence against children is no longer tolerated

You can find out more about Save the Children via their website.

St. George’s Crypt

A Leeds based charity working with the homeless, vulnerable and those suffering with addiction. St. George's Crypt provide a safe sanctuary for those in need. The Crypt has 72 bed spaces available 365 days a year and offers practical support including food, clothing, and access to counselling. The charity’s main aims are:

  • To meet the basic needs of everyone in a safe, non-judgmental, and caring environment.
  • To support people who are living on the stree­ts into finding accommodation.
  • To help people gain skills and confidence so that they can take an active role in their futures.
  • To be good stewards of all that we receive in an open and transparent manner.
  • To enable people to make positive choices in their lifestyle by accessing employment and freedom from addiction.
  • To engage with local communities by identifying opportunities to share the Crypt’s resources.
  • To find the most appropriate solutions by creating effective partnerships across the city.

Thank you to all our final year students for their kind donations and for feeding back on their Leeds Beckett experience through the National Student Survey.


Writing can improve mental health – here’s how
Fri
18
Jun 2021

Ernest Hemingway famously said that writers should “write hard and clear about what hurts”. Although Hemingway may not have known it at the time, research has now shown that writing about “what hurts” can help improve our mental health.

There are more than 200 studies that show the positive effect of writing on mental health. But while the psychological benefits are consistent for many people, researchers don’t completely agree on why or how writing helps.

One theory suggests that bottling up emotions can lead to psychological distress. It stands to reason, then, that writing might increase mental health because it offers a safe, confidential and free way to disclose emotions that were previously bottled up.

However, recent studies have begun to show how an increase in self-awareness, rather than simply disclosing emotions, could be the key to these improvements in mental health.

In essence, self-awareness is being able to turn your attention inward towards the self. By turning our attention inward, we can become more aware of our traits, behaviour, feelings, beliefs, values and motivations.

Research suggests that becoming more self-aware can be beneficial in a variety of ways. It can increase our confidence and encourage us to be more accepting of others. It can lead to higher job satisfaction and push us to become more effective leaders. It can also help us to exercise more self-control and make better decisions aligned with our long-term goals.

Self-awareness is a spectrum and, with practice, we can all improve. Writing might be particularly helpful in increasing self-awareness because it can be practised dailyRereading our writing can also give us a deeper insight into our thoughts, feelings, behaviour and beliefs.

Here are three types of writing which can improve your self-awareness and, in turn, your mental health:

Expressive writing

Expressive writing is often used in therapeutic settings where people are asked to write about their thoughts and feelings related to a stressful life event. This type of writing aims to help emotionally process something difficult.

Research shows that expressive writing can enhance self-awareness, ultimately decreasing depressive symptomsanxious thoughts and perceived stress.

Reflective writing


Writing reflectively requires a person to ask themselves questions and continuously be open, curious and analytical. It can increase self-awareness by helping people learn from their experiences and interactions. This can improve professional and personal relationships as well as work performance, which are key indicators of good mental health.

Creative writing

Poems, short stories, novellas and novels are all considered forms of creative writing. Usually, creative writing employs the imagination as well as, or instead of, memory, and uses literary devices like imagery and metaphor to convey meaning.

Writing creatively offers a unique way to explore thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs. For instance, you could write a science fiction novel that represents your concerns about climate change or a children’s story that speaks to your beliefs about friendship. You could even write a poem from the perspective of an owl as a way to represent your insomnia.

Writing creatively about challenging experiences, like grief, can also offer a way to communicate to others something which you feel is too complicated or difficult to say directly.

Creative writing encourages people to choose their words, metaphors and images in a way that really captures what they’re trying to convey. This creative decision-making can lead to increased self-awareness and self-esteem as well as improved mental health.

Writing for self-awareness

Self-awareness is a key component for good mental health and writing is a great place to start.

Why not take some time to write down your feelings about a particularly stressful event that has happened during the pandemic? Or reflect on a difficult work situation from the last year and consider what you have learned from it?

If you prefer to do something more creative, then try responding to this prompt by writing a poem or story:

Think about the ways your home reveals the moment we are currently in. Is your pantry packed with flour? Do you have new objects or pets in your home to stave off loneliness or boredom? What you can see from your window that reveals something about this historic moment?

Each of these writing prompts will give you a chance to reflect on this past year, ask yourself important questions, and make creative choices. Spending just 15 minutes doing this may give you an opportunity to become more self-aware – which could lead to improvements in your mental health.

Reflective writing is regularly used in professional settings, often as a way to help nurses, doctors, teachers, psychologists and social workers become more effective at their jobs. Reflective writing aims to give people a way to assess their beliefs and actions explicitly for learning and development.