‘The Student’ archive: 2013-2014

Huge increase in student counselling

More UK university students are visiting counselors than ever before, according to a study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The number of University of Glasgow students seeing a counselor rose by around 160per cent over the last academic year, representing 1,300 students overall.

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) also recorded a rise of 112 per cent and 27 per cent respectively over the same period.

The news follows a study by crowdsourcing investigative journalist organist ion ‘Help Me Investigate’, which found an overall increase of a third in UK student demand for counselors.

According to a study by the National Union of Students (NUS), 65 per cent of all students surveyed reported that coursework deadlines were responsible for their visit to counseling services.

47 per cent of students interviewed saw financial difficulties as their main area of concern, with 92 per cent of students admitting to having experienced some form of mental distress during their studies. The data also found that only 17 per cent of students who had experienced mental distress sought help from their place of study.

Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) President Hugh Murdoch told The Student: “Students at the University of Edinburgh are becoming more likely to seek professional counseling and we welcome the University’s commitment to increased resources to counseling this year.

“Increased stress and anxiety about prospects beyond university combined with a greater openness for people to talk about mental health on campus suggest some reasons fro why this is the case.”

Jessica McGrellis, President of Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council said: “It is good to know that many students feel comfortable seeking help if they need it but unfortunately due to the capacity of Glasgow University’s Counseling Service the waiting lists are long.”

The University of Surrey recently increased the number of counseling sessions available to students, following the deaths of two students over the last academic year.

Over 10 000 people sign up for free online Higgs course

More than 10 000 people have signed up for a free online course run by the University of Edinburgh on the Higgs boson particle.

The seven-week-long course, entitled ‘The discovery of the Higgs boson’ is focused on “particle physics and understanding the universe”. The course aims to spread Higgs’ theory that subatomic particles build up their mass through interaction with a theoretical field.

The “God particle” was first theories by University of Edinburgh Professor Emeritus Peter Higgs, together with Robert Brout and François Englert in 1964 and explains why some fundamental particles have mass.

Higgs and Englert received the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on the boson last year. In Match 2013, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle collider produced a particle similar to the theoretical boson, confirming the discovery.

The course’s website includes videos presented by Higgs, along with lectures given by leading physicists.

The website also offers discussion pages concerning the theories by the scientists involved.

Higgs told the BBC he was “overwhelmed” to have received the Nobel Prize. He was also awarded the Prince Asturias Scientific Research Prize last October.

The LHC, constructed in 2008, was built to test theories of particle physics. High-energy particle collisions are conducted around the 27km-long collider.

21 different countries are involved in running the collider as part of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), making it one of the world’s largest science research centers.

Christos Leonidopoulos, co-creator of the course’s website, told The Student: “We are very excited to be able to offer a course on the discovery of the Higgs boson to a worldwide audience of online learners […]

“The free course, spanning seven weeks, features filmed lectures put together by a team of fourteen academics at the University of Edinburgh, both theorists and experimentalists, and interviews with Peter Higgs himself”.

Along with Luigi del Debbio, Leonidopoulos led a group of academics from the University of Edinburgh in putting the website together.

Speaking to The Student, Professor Andrew Trew, Head of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “We have had a unique opportunity to work with Peter Higgs and be able oto explain to a wide audience the physics that excited him.

“I believe that these lectures form a lasting tribute to Peter Higgs, the man and the scientist”.

Higgs previously told ITV that he was planning to retire at the ages of 85.

The course is free and open to all.

UK unis strong in arts and humanities, weak in STEM


Figures from the QS World University Rankings suggests that UK universities are improving in arts and humanities subjects, but declining in the so-called STEM subjects.

STEM fields refer to degrees relating to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge perfumed well in the rankings, with Cambridge coming first in History and Oxford coming first in three other subjects.

The University of Edinburgh was ranked first in the world for Linguistics.

Ben Sowter, Head of QS Research, told The Telegraph, “The UK remains second only to the US, but it now faces stiffer competition in the STEM disciplines. The leading Asian institutions can now be considered serious global players particularly in the fields of science and technology.”

Asian universities comprised ten out of the top 30 institutions in chemical, civil, and electrical engineering, with ten Asian universities in the world to p 50 overall.

In technology and engineering, only four UK universities made the top 50. This is fewer than both Hong Kong and Australia.

Gareth Lang, Professor in Experimental Physiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Student:

“The UK has five Universities in the top 30 (in science subjects)-pretty similar to the proportions in the other faculty lists”.

Concerns have been raised that recent government cuts to higher education may threaten current UK universities’’ international rankings.

Professor David Finngan, Head of the Institute of Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Student, “While US institutions may have taken many of the higher positions, it is striking how well UK universities, and this University in particular, have done particularly when considering the relative size of the university system in the UK and USA.”

“[…] It is clear from the rankings that the UK cannot relax in any discipline and it is essential that Westminster and devolved administrations must continue to invest in higher education if UK universities, and the country as a whole, are to continue to compete successfully at the highest level”.

University of Oxford Vice-President Andrew Hamilton suggested in November 2013 that tuition fees should be raised to £16,000 to maintain current university teaching and research standards.

Hamilton said that there was “a university-wide [finding] gap of over £70 million a year that Oxford has to plug”.

He added: “What matters surely is that an institution’s charges are clearly aligned with what it offers and that they are demonstrably not a barrier to student access.”

The QS World University Rankings 2013/14 ranked the University of Edinburgh 17th in the world overall.

Students quiz Principal in ‘Question Time’ event


University of Edinburgh Principal Timothy O’Shea answered questions from students as part of an event held on Tuesday 4 February.

The ‘Question Time with the Principal’ event, now in its second year, was hosted by Edinburgh University Students’Association (EUSA). Students present had the chance to voice their concerns to O’Shea and EUSA President Hugh Murdoch.

Staff strikes and payday loans companies’ presence on campus were among the topics discussed.

Speaking at the event, Edinburgh Labour Students Vice-Chair Zak Campbell-Lockrie suggested that the University did not do enough to limit the power of the payday loan companies.

Campbell-Lockrie later told The Student that he would push for “a ban on advertising payday loans on campus as has happened at other universities up and down the UK [such as at the University of Sheffield].”

Speaking to The Student, Catherine McKeown, Head of Financial Support at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are committed to ensuring our students don’t fall foul of payday loan companies and the ban demonstrates our support for the parliamentary bill to lobby for better regulation of this sector.”

The University of Sheffield spent £300,000 last year in financial support for students.

Responding to Campbell-Lockrie’s question, O’Shea said that whilst there was no official rejection of payday loan companies advertising themselves on campus, he would ban it if they began to.

Another student present asked O’Shea about whether he felt the University’s £33 million redevelopment of McEwan Hall was coming at the expense of disability services, calling the redevelopment plan a “vanity project”.

The Principal denied this, arguing that McEwan Hall was a vital part of the university.

Kirsty Haigh, EUSA Vice-President Services, questioned the lack of response by the Principal to the strikes regarding staff pay.

According to the University and College Union (UCU), higher education staff have experienced a “real terms’ pay cut of 13 per cent since 2009.

Haigh told The Student, “The strikes obviously have a negative impact upon students so we need to know why the University aren’t addressing the issue for the good of its staff and students.”

In an interview with The Student, Murdoch said that he was impressed that “the Principal had already concerned himself with the raise [sic] in number of students attending the University and the limitations this would bring.”

Murdoch went on to stress the need to maintain the proportionality of students to teaching staff.

The matter of using postgraduate students to mark essays was brought up repeatedly, with one student questioning the ability of staff to request that students mark long essays without payment.

O’Shea told students present that he promised to “re-evaluate” the roles of postgraduate and doctoral students in the functioning of the University.

Asked about a comment made by Andrew Hamilton, University of Oxford’ Vice-Chancellor, that fees should be raised to £16,000 per year, O’Shea remarked that he would have to discuss the matter of a fee rise with the University Council, but that he was personally opposed to it.

All students were invited to the meeting.

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Stereotypes and racism -things of the past, things of the present, things of the future?

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