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News archive for January 2009

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News Archive

January 2009

Survey reveals prevalence of self-harm in Scottish teenagers

Date released: Tuesday 6 January 2009

Newly published research shows 14% of teenagers in Scotland have self-harmed – and a further 14% have thought seriously about doing so. In the first-ever study to examine the prevalence of adolescent self-harm in Scotland, over two thousand secondary school students were questioned.

The research, published in full for the first time in the January issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, shows that girls are at least three times more likely to report self-harm than boys.

Professor Rory O’Connor of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Group at the University of Stirling, who led the research, said: “Although it is not possible to determine what causes young people to self-harm from this study, a number of factors were associated with it. For both girls and boys, smoking, bullying, worries about sexual orientation, self-harm by family members, and anxiety were all associated with self-harm. In addition, drug use, physical abuse, serious boy/girlfriend problems, self-harm by friends and low levels of optimism were associated with self-harm in girls.

“The findings suggest a role for emotional literacy programmes in schools, and highlight the importance of promoting positive mental health among adolescents.”

A total of 2008 pupils aged 15-16 years old, all at secondary schools in Glasgow and Stirling, completed an anonymous questionnaire. Self-harm was recorded if they answered ‘yes’ to the question: “Have you ever deliberately taken an overdose (e.g. pills or other medication) or tried to harm yourself in some other way (such as cut yourself)?”

Self-harm was reported by 13.8% of the teenagers. The majority (71%) of those who had self-harmed had done so in the past 12 months, and girls were 3.4 times more likely to have self-harmed than boys. A further 14.4% of the adolescents said they had thought seriously about self-harming, but had not done so. Again, girls were more likely to have thought about taking an overdose or trying to harm themselves than boys. The most common motive given for self-harm was ‘to get relief from a terrible state of mind’. Almost four in ten (37.6%) of the teenagers who had self-harmed reported that they wanted to die.

The prevalence of self-harm in Scotland is similar to that in England, despite the suicide rate in Scotland being twice as high as in England.

Reference: O’Connor RC, Rasmussen S, Miles J and Hawton K (2009) Self-harm in adolescents: self-report survey in schools in Scotland, British Journal of Psychiatry, 194: 68-72.

For more information, please contact Professor Rory O’Connor, University of Stirling. Tel: 01786 467673.

Child protection in the Highlands and Islands

Date released: Friday 9 January 2009

With almost 2,500 Scottish children on child protection registers, and many more in need of help, there is a major challenge throughout the country to ensure their welfare. Recent high profile cases have shown that there are no geographic boundaries to children at risk.

Two leading child care and protection experts, Professor Brigid Daniel of the University of Stirling and Professor Jane Aldgate of the Open University, are to give a public talk which outlines the issues in the Highlands and Islands for this emotive subject.

“Child Protection in the Highlands and Islands” will raise some of the issues faced and is the third in a series of lectures on health and social care to be given by the University of Stirling at its Highland Campus. The lecture will take place at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness on Thursday 22 January, 2009 at 5pm. The talk is open to all and admission is free.

Making sure that children are alright is a demanding task, given that many more children are in need of help than appear on the register. Prof Daniel explains: “The main risks for children flow from the extent to which their needs are met or not. If basic needs aren’t met, this can risk a child’s long term wellbeing.

“Although we are concerned about the impact of neglect, I wouldn’t want to suggest that the answer is automatically taking children away from their homes. We aim for a more balanced approach where the focus has to be on providing the most effective support for parents and for children.”

“In Scotland the social policy is moving towards meeting the needs of all children in Scotland and people have taken on board the message that there is an important health and education role in child welfare. In the Highlands Pathfinder project, for example, all agencies have agreed protocols for working together.”

As a social worker, Prof. Daniel specialised in children and families, she ran the Centre for Child Care and Protection at the University of Dundee and is now Professor of Social Work at Stirling. She is a founding member of the Scottish Child Care and Protection Network, which works collaboratively to ensure that those working with vulnerable children have access to best practice.

Professor Jane Aldgate OBE is Professor of Social Care in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the Open University. She has acted as policy adviser for the Department of Health and the Scottish Executive in the areas of Children in the Care System and Foster and Kinship Care.

For further information on The Stirling Lectures series in Inverness, please contact Liz Beattie on 01463 255649.



Stirling celebrates world title among sporting successes


Date released: Monday 19 January 2009


Ceri Ann Davies, a Stirling postgraduate student, has retained her world title in indoor bowls. It is just one of a number of successes over the past few days for Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence.

Currently studying for an MSc in Sports Coaching, Ceri Ann partnered David Gourlay to win the World Bowls Tour mixed pairs Matchplay title in style, with an emphatic 11-2, 12-0 victory in the final, played at Potters Leisure Resort in Suffolk. However, her bid to retain the women's singles title ended in the quarter finals.

Her victory was all the more remarkable as she is expecting a baby in April, and said: "I have had to adapt my stance to cope with the fact that I have so much weight in front. I would be in danger of falling over if I bowled normally!"

Ceri Ann, born in Wales, emigrated to Australia and represented them in the last Commonwealth Games - where she won silver - but now lives in Scotland.

In other sports, there were stories in swimming, tennis and golf.

Stirling sports scholar Andrew Hunter won gold in the Scottish National Short-Course Championships at the weekend. The Olympic swimmer edged home in the 200 metres freestyle just two hundredths of a second ahead of second-placed Robbie Renwick, posting a time of 1:46.07. The event was held at Glasgow's Tollcross Leisure Centre.

Postgraduate tennis scholar Colin Fleming added to the feelgood factor in Scottish tennis by reaching the ultimate stage of the inaugural Aegon Pro-Series tournament at Glasgow's Scotstoun Leisure Centre at the weekend, defeating number one seed Richard Broomfield on his way to the final. He went one set up against French talent Stephane Robert in the final, but eventually lost the tie narrowly, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6. The tournament also saw an end to Colin's amazing 26-game unbeaten streak in doubles: partnering Ken Skupski, the 24 year-old Scot reached the doubles semi-final before losing to Chris Eaton and Jamie Baker 5-7 4-6, his first defeat since the start of October.

In golf, Scottish U21 champion Kelsey MacDonald finished a highly creditable third in the South Atlantic women's amateur championship in Florida. While the star of the tournament was the precocious 13-year-old winner Alexis Thompson, who was a runaway winner, Kelsey had a ding-dong battle for second place with Canada's Kira Meixner.

Starting level on the final day, and still level after 17 holes, Kelsey three-putted the last and her 74 was one stroke too many to Meixner's 73. But she did have the satisfaction in the third round of a superb 3-under-par 69 in the cold, windy conditions, and commented: "I've been waiting for this! This is just like home. I'm from Nairn, it's right on the coast, so it's weather like this every day. The wind is a major influence."


Stirling to aid Malawi fish farmers and budding entrepreneurs

Date released: Thursday 22 January 2009

Fish farmers in Malawi are to be taught how to become entrepreneurs, thanks to a project run by the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling.

A Scottish Government grant of £241,000 will help them move from subsistence aquaculture to viable economic activity by providing training and formal qualifications in business and technical skills.

This new programme of “entrepreneurship in Aquaculture” will comprise focused short courses targeted at college and university graduates and progressive farmers. It will design and demonstrate serviceable fish culture systems and also provide networking opportunities, support, and advice on accessing markets.

Stirling’s Dr Krishen Rana, an internationally recognised expert in the development of aquatic resources, explained: “There is an urgent need to commercialise small-holder aquaculture in Malawi, as subsistence farming cannot meet the demands of urban and regional markets, and offers little opportunity to generate surplus income that will improve the wellbeing of farmers.

“This project aims to provide food security to vulnerable communities by tackling the bottlenecks that are preventing commercialisation in Malawi, and promoting small-holder aquaculture as an agribusiness to a wide range of people, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, religion and disability.”

Working with the Bunda College of Agriculture, University of Malawi, Natural Recourse College and Malawi College of Fisheries, Dept of Agriculture, the project will develop their capacity to deliver targeted training in entrepreneurship for farmers and secondary producers. “We also anticipate that the staff at these tertiary institutions will benefit through an enhanced capacity to deliver new information,” Dr Rana added.

The African Federation for Rural Innovation in Commercial Aquaculture (AFRICA), formed and funded by an earlier grant from the Scottish Government, will also be mobilised to consider the national and regional interests.

This project is one of a number operating in Malawi which will receive more than £1 million of international development funding to continue their work, announced this week by Linda Fabiani, Scotland's Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture.

She said: "We are enabling Scottish organisations in Malawi to further develop programmes which address the specific priority areas we have agreed with the Malawian Government. Many of the programmes we are supporting in this funding round are working to help address these issues and make a real difference to ordinary people. The value to the people of Malawi of these projects cannot be overestimated.”

Further information:

Dr Krishen Rana on 01786 467920



Economics guru visits Stirling: lecture on 25 February

Date released: Friday 23 January 2009

One of Britain’s leading economists is to give a talk at the University of Stirling with his view on the challenges facing the country in the face of rising unemployment.

Professor David ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, a member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, is an economist who specialises in the jobs market and has been described as an “arch-dove and long-time solitary voice for interest rate cuts”.

He was named “2008 Briton of the Year” in business by the Daily Telegraph for his foresight in anticipating the recession and trying to do something about it.

He has written a paper entitled: What should we do about rising unemployment in the UK? with Professor David Bell, Professor of Economics at the University, and will deliver a public lecture on this topic in the Pathfoot Lecture Theatre, University of Stirling, on Wednesday 25 February 2009 at 5.30 pm. He will then be available for questions.

Professor Blanchflower is a part-time Professor of Economics at Stirling, and is also Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He joined the Bank of England MPC (which takes up about one week a month) in June 2006 and is due to step down in May after a three year term.

He has long said the UK housing market could crash and interest rates needed to be brought down dramatically if the country was to avoid a painful recession – at a time when many colleagues were considering raising the rates. His dire warnings about the economic outlook came true during 2008, and the rest of the nine-member committee came round to his point of view.

The talk is open to all and admission is free.

Further information:

David Blanchflower biography:

Monetary Policy Committee:

Economics at the University of Stirling:


Golf scholar Kelsey reaches USA final

Date released: Monday 26 January 2009

Kelsey MacDonald, a golf scholar at the University of Stirling, finished runner-up in the 2009 Doherty-Jones Championship at Coral Ridge Country Club, Fort Lauderdale USA, at the weekend.

Kelsey, a first year Sports Studies student at Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence, lost out to Alexis Thompson 5&4 in the final. The Stirling student had produced some wonderful golf to reach the final, including a 3&2 semi-final victory over the USA Curtis Cup player Meghan Bolger.

The Plate Final was contested by two University of Stirling team-mates, Holly Calvert defeating Scottish Girls’ internationalist Rebecca Wilson by 1 hole. The players now return home after having spent three weeks in America.

Kelsey, an 18-year old member of the GB & I Elite squad, is a Scottish Institute of Sport athlete and SLGA internationalist. She was a member of a group of seven players from Scottish universities who have played three events on Florida’s 2009 Women’s Orange Blossom Tour. The trip was organised and supported by the University of Stirling's International Sports Scholarships Programme.

Raleigh Gowrie, the University’s Sports Performance Manager, said: "Kelsey has performed extremely well. We regularly send students to international events as part of their performance development. The University of Stirling is delighted to be able to support talented young people in combining high performance sport with academic studies. It is a typical example of Stirling’s commitment to sport and its function as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence."


Schools Minister to open education conference

Date released: Monday 26 January 2009

Maureen Watt, Scotland’s Minister for Schools and Skills, will open a national conference on Good Practice in Schools with a keynote speech at the University of Stirling.

The Scottish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, part of the Stirling Institute of Education, is holding the event on Tuesday, January 27 at the Stirling Management Centre.

The conference, run jointly with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education, will showcase best practice in Scottish schools, identified during trialling of the Curriculum for Excellence and from visits by HMIE and Scottish CILT.

There will be fifteen different presentations by practising teachers, each of them illustrating one of the conference themes: transition, inter-disciplinary work, learners' experiences, planning.

Local authorities have each nominated up to five participants, mainly teachers, and the theme is so popular that all places have been taken.

Further information:

The Scottish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (Scottish CILT) is a national languages centre which was established in 1991: to provide information about languages for students and teachers, opinion formers and policy makers; to promote the learning and use of all languages of relevance to Scotland; and to conduct research in support of the work of language teachers and other language professionals. The Centre is based in the University of Stirling but operates throughout the whole of Scotland.

Scottish CILT website:


Stirling to host national child protection resource

Date released: Monday 26 January 2009

The UK’s first hub of child protection expertise is to be based at the University of Stirling, the Scottish Government has announced.

The Multi-Agency Resource Service (MARS), will put agencies in touch with each other to share expertise in working with complex situations, helping councils and other child protection agencies to work through difficult cases and share good practice.

The small unit will bring together a network of expertise from practice, policy and research to support professionals in the field. It will build on Scotland's robust safeguards for children at risk and be able to draw on international advice.

Scotland’s Children's Minister, Adam Ingram, said: “Every child in Scotland is entitled to grow up feeling safe and supported and this government is committed to ensuring those at risk of neglect or abuse are protected. Scotland's child protection services undergo thorough inspections to maintain high standards but we always want to continue improving measures for children at risk.

“That's why we are leading the way and setting up this pioneering hub of expertise - the first of its kind in the UK - which will let agencies draw on advice and support from international leaders in the field. The dedication of child protection professionals gives the chance of a better life to vulnerable young people across Scotland but we can't expect everyone to be an expert in everything all the time.

“By helping agencies to work through difficult cases, share successes and develop strategic approaches we can ensure they are best equipped to help children at risk. That will help us work together to build on the progress already made and do all we can to protect children from harm.”

Professor Brigid Daniel, a leading child care and protection expert at the University of Stirling, said: “This is an initiative that aims to do something active and positive about equipping staff with the information they need to be able to support children.

“The MARS initiative will link with the Scottish Child Care and Protection Network (SCCPN), whose co-ordinator is also based at Stirling. The SCCPN acts as a hub for the generation and dissemination of research evidence to support child care and protection practice. Together, MARS and SCCPN constitute a unique approach to ensuring that professionals who work with children have access to the expertise and research evidence that they need.”

The Scottish Government has allocated £410,000 over three years to create and run the MARS. It will become operational over the summer and over time the MARS will also use its experience of services on the ground to inform national child protection policy and training.

A director is now being recruited to head up the unit, which will initially have three staff.

We’re talking – but only to friends and family

Date released: Wednesday 28 January 2009

British people are coming round to the idea that ‘it’s good to talk’, according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey, published today, but there is little evidence that we are becoming dependent on professional support and the ‘talking therapies’.

Dr Julie Brownlie, a senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Stirling, co-authored that section of the report which examines public attitudes to emotional support.

She found that there is evidence that people are now relatively comfortable discussing their emotional lives and a belief that this marks a shift from the experience of previous generations. Although almost half the people surveyed said they had grown up in homes where no one discussed their feelings, 66% now believe that people spend more time talking about how they feel.

Around the same proportion say that it’s important to them to be able to discuss their feelings.

And nearly half those surveyed said they had actually sought emotional support from a friend or relative at least once a month during the previous year, while over 70% believed that, when they felt like this, they had at least three people in their lives they could talk to.

There was little sign, however, of a widespread dependence on formal emotional support and the talking therapies. Although nearly a third have discussed their emotional lives at some point with their GPs, only 16% have ever spoken to a counsellor or therapist.

Indeed, fewer than half those interviewed said they would feel comfortable discussing such issues with such professionals. And those who do access formal emotional support seem to be driven mainly by emotional distress or need, rather than by an interest in ‘self-discovery’.

In general, formal emotional support is more likely to be used by people with lower levels of mental wellbeing, which in turn is more likely to be experienced by poorer people. Interestingly, however, those on lower incomes remain relatively more likely to be given prescription medication at times of emotional difficulty, rather than talk-based therapy. Among those with the lowest levels of mental wellbeing, 42% of those in the poorest group have used medication in this way, compared with only 27% of those in the most affluent group.

Dr Brownlie says: “Informal relationships continue to occupy a hugely important role in most people’s lives, while formal emotional support – and especially the use of talk-based therapies – remains relatively rare. So the claim that it occupies a dominant role in our lives appears premature.”

Further information:

'Therapy culture? Attitudes to emotional support in Britain', co-authered by Dr Brownlie, Simon Anderson and Lisa Given. The complete work can be found in British Social Attitudes: the 25th Report, published by Sage for NatCen.

To read the section relevant to this story, click on this link

The British Social Attitudes survey is the leading social research survey in Britain. Each year around 3,300 randomly selected adults are asked to give their views on an extensive range of topics.

University works with top rugby coaches

Date released: Thursday 29 January 2009

The University of Stirling has given Scottish rugby's top coaches an insight into analysing the effectiveness of their coaching. Ahead of the 2009 RBS 6 Nations, the Sports Studies Department ran a successful workshop in continuing professional development (CPD) for Scottish rugby's High Performance Coaches.

Held at the Stirling Management Centre on 28 January, the theme of the evening was "reflecting on and analysing your coaching practice", facilitated by Alan Lynn, Course Director for the MSc Sports Coaching at Stirling. Twenty coaches from across the national and professional teams participated in a lively and thought provoking session of debate and discussion. Among those who attended the session were national senior team kicking coach, Duncan Hodge and Glasgow Warriors coaches, Sean Lineen, Shade Munro and Gary Mercer.

Alan Lynn said: “The evening focussed on them analysing their coaching practice with individual exercises and group discussions. They also engaged in some reflective practice about their coaching and its effectiveness. Finally, we discussed the player-centred coaching philosophy of All Blacks assistant coach, Wayne Smith and how it might relate to their own coaching context.”

The University of Stirling is Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, and is collaborating with the Scottish Rugby Union on a number of coach development topics. This may prove to be the first of many such events.

Further information:

Alan Lynn

Senior Teaching Fellow - Sports Coaching

Department of Sports Studies

University of Stirling

Direct Line: 01786-466467



Muscat and Stirling hold alumni reception

Date released: Friday 30 January 2009

The University of Stirling enhanced its international links this week as senior staff visited Oman, where it runs a joint degree course at Muscat University College.

Sheikh Dr Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Ghazali, Chairman of Muscat University College, hosted a reception for all those who had graduated from the joint University of Stirling/Muscat University College bachelor’s degree. Among the guests from Scotland were Professor Christine Hallett, the University of Stirling’s Principal & Vice Chancellor, and Ian Cockbain, Director of the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service.

Recent graduates, including some of Oman’s brightest talents, heard speeches by both Dr Al-Ghazali and Professor Hallett, who spoke of their pride of the innovative nature and high quality of learning that this joint degree programme provides for students in Oman. A number of Muscat University College staff were also there, led by the Dean, Dr Mothana A Al-Kubaisy.

The University of Stirling representatives also held meetings with the Minister of Manpower and the Minister of Higher Education, in which they discussed issues of mutual interest in the areas of higher education and training.

The University College recently had a glowing report for the quality of its teaching following a positive visit by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency, the agency in the UK responsible for the quality of all UK universities.

Students at Muscat University College can study for a degree in four subjects:

BA Honours in Business Studies;

BA Honours in Accountancy and Computing Science;

BA Honours in Accountancy and Business Studies;

BSc Honours in Business Computing.

Several Omani students also come to Scotland to study at Stirling.

If you wish to learn more about this innovative degree programme in Muscat, please visit or email

If you wish to learn more of the bachelor and masters programmes available to study at Stirling in Scotland, details can be found on or by contacting


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