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News archive for May 2009

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News Archive

May 2009

Stirling hill race tests runners' stamina

Stirling’s Summer Roll of Honours

Matthew Gillespie wins Dumyat challenge in the rain

Good work is healthy work - if not always well paid

Four University student nurses invited to Westminster Abbey

Formula One in the UK looks set to lose the innovation race

NATO at 60: lecture by Lord Robertson

For universities and academics – a glimpse of the future?

Students join national network of sporting excellence

New course for early years teachers

Bumblebees like to live on the edge

Assisted dying – Stirling seminars debate the dilemma of our time

Stirling students win national journalism awards

University of Stirling Professor appointed Senior Fellow to American Humane Association

Stirling hill race tests runners' stamina

Date released: Friday 1 May 2009

Runners from all over Scotland are converging on Stirling to test their stamina in the annual Dumyat Hill Race.

The scenic but gruelling contest places place on Wednesday 6 May at the University of Stirling, running from the campus to the top of the hill and back again - a climb of around 390 metres (1,280 feet) over the 8 km (5 miles) course.

The record times for the race were set in 2007 as Stirling sports studies student Iain Donnan posted a lung-busting 32 minutes 52 seconds, while perennial champion and former University of Stirling student Angela Mudge came back in 36 minutes 46 seconds.

Last year the men’s race was won by Jethro Lennox, of Shettleston in 34m 08s. while Angela Mudge retained her title in a time of 37m 54s.

The race will also double as the Scottish Universities Hill Running Championship.

The 36th Dumyat Hill Race starts at 7 pm on Wednesday 6 May 2009. Entries will be taken in the University of Stirling Sports Centre from 5.45 - 6.45pm on the evening of the race.

Background information

Dumyat Hill Race was created when a university psychologist, propping up the Gannochy Bar, laid a £1 bet that “no member of the University could, without mechanical assistance, do the return trip from the Gannochy Pavilion to Dumyat in less than an hour.” On Graduation Day 1972 the £1 was lost by three minutes. The first “official” race was held in 1973 and it has been held annually in May ever since. Over 200 runners are expected this year and there are entry categories to cater for all ability levels.

Historical note: Dumyat is pronounced dum-eye-at, being a contraction of Dun Myat, ie the fortress of the Maeatae, a Pictish group. The remains of the fort are near the summit.

Stirling’s Summer Roll of Honours

Date released: Friday, 1 May 2009

The former Home Secretary and chairman of Celtic FC, Dr John Reid, is to receive an honorary degree from the University of Stirling in recognition of his outstanding contribution to public affairs.

He is one of five personalities to receive the honour this summer when Dr James Naughtie will preside over the graduations on 24 and 25 June.

Born in Bellshill, the son of a postman and a factory worker, John Reid read History at Stirling and wrote his PhD on the economic history of the slave trade.

One of the country’s most able and experienced politicians, he held nine ministerial posts, including eight at Cabinet level – more than any other politician in living memory – and is currently MP for Airdrie and Shotts Beyond the political arena, he is a lifelong supporter of Celtic and became the club’s chairman in 2007.

Also receiving awards are Dr Sylvia Jackson (service to the community), Kenneth Schofield (sport), Peter Lederer (Scottish tourism) and Professor Patrick Smith (aquaculture).

Dr Sylvia Jackson achieved a PhD in Education at Stirling in 1985, before working at the University as a research fellow. She was elected in 1999 as the first MSP for Stirling, a position she held until 2007. Her late husband, Professor Mike Jackson, was the first Senior Deputy Principal of the University and its state-of-the-art Fitness Suite at the University Sports Centre was named in his memory.

Kenneth Schofield CBE was appointed Executive Director of the Professional Golfers’ Association in 1975 and developed the European Tour so that by 2003, it had 48 events and a prize fund of over £71 million. Known as the man responsible for selling the television rights for golf to non-terrestrial channels, he was also a non-voting advisor on the Ryder Cup Selection Committee.

Peter Lederer CBE is Chairman of the Gleneagles Hotel, having joined this world renowned establishment as General Manager in 1984 and become Managing Director in 1987. Committed to improving training in hospitality and tourism, he is patron of the Hospitality Industry Trust and has served as Chairman of VisitScotland since 2001.

Professor Patrick Smith is recognised internationally for his key role in fish vaccine development, for the sponsoring of research into fish vaccines/fish immunology and for his services to the world aquaculture industry. His company Aquaculture Vaccines Ltd was the first to develop commercial vaccines for the prevention of diseases in farmed fish, and he has been a long term supporter of the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture.

The University of Stirling’s summer 2009 Graduation Ceremonies will take place on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 June at the Gannochy Tennis Centre on campus.

Matthew Gillespie wins Dumyat challenge in the rain

Date released: Thursday 7 May 2009

Atrocious weather on Wednesday evening failed to deter over 250 entrants to the 36th annual Dumyat Hill Race, run from the campus to the top of the hill and back again.

Battling against driving rain, the race was won by Glasgow University's Matthew Gillespie in a time of 35 minutes dead, a comfortable 16 seconds ahead of second placed Alistair Anthony of Ochil Runners, while his Glasgow colleague Oleg Chapelin was third. Matthew was also crowned Scottish Universities Hill Running champion.

The women's race was won yet again by Angela Mudge in 40 minutes 29 seconds, and given the weather it is not surprising that her time was almost four minutes slower than the record she set two years ago.

Only three runners from a field of 259 failed to finish, with sheer determination to beat the elements getting many of them to the finishing line.

Good work is healthy work - if not always well paid

Date released: Friday 8 May 2009

The message that work is good for your health is one that government is keen to spread. However, while the general population struggles with this official view of the work/health dynamic, many in our Highland and Island communities may have reached a different – and more enlightened – conclusion.

'Health, ‘wealth’ and hazards: analysing Highlands and Islands work and life' is a lecture to be given by Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling and will be delivered in Inverness on Thursday 14 May at 4pm and in Stornoway on Friday 15 May at 3pm.

As a member of the University’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, Professor Watterson’s response to the Government’s message is simple: “Good work is good for you. Bad work is not”.

Previous University speakers at the Stirling Lectures series have explored concerns regarding the standards of health, housing and other social challenges facing communities in the Highlands and Islands, which have in part been attributed to economic poverty.

While acknowledging the very real existence of these issues, Professor Watterson says: “It is possible that various agencies in the region may have underestimated the impact that environment and work have on health”.

He explains for example that, in the Highlands and Islands, crofting may play a small part in terms of the area’s economic activity but it is a large part of the life of the communities concerned and a fulfilling and enriching part of their heritage in ways the ‘day job’ may not be. Therefore this group, in pursuit of their chosen lifestyle, may demonstrate a different way of linking health, ‘wealth’ and hazards.

“Crofters are effectively their own bosses and crofting on a small scale has many physical, social and community benefits,” he explains. “There is a large multi-tasking element to the work of those who choose to croft as a second, third or even fourth job.

“They are self-determining in respect of working hours, systems and outputs: a critical factor in terms of reducing the stress and adverse health effects of work. This ability to retain an element of control and independence, promotes a different attitude towards work and what constitutes ‘wealth’. We might all feel better about our lot if we shared it.”

Since economic wealth is not their principal concern, this group can find ways of responding to economic challenges which are also beneficial to their health and impact positively on their environment. One other outcome of this is that they may develop perceptions of hazards, risks and benefits in relation to work, which would run contrary to the values of many in the wider population.

“Crofting communities in practice tried and needed to be sustainable and the challenges they face are complex,” says Prof. Watterson. “Living as some do on the economic margins, they are at the mercy of climate change. There are frequently injuries involving machinery.

“Globally, when we now speak of sustainability, we aren’t referring to ‘growth’ as much as to ‘retreat’, with people living more frugally but in a more rewarding way. They may have a richer understanding of their environment than we have realised. They may place more social value on certain things than the rest of us do in ways that are increasingly relevant – and may offer important solutions – to the environmental and economic challenges we face.”

Professor Watterson notes that living standards do not necessarily equate with quality of life, as some developing countries with lower incomes may paradoxically have a better quality of life than those in developed countries. And so it may prove with the Highlands and Islands, since often community members have made a choice to remain here and many from beyond the community have chosen to come here to live

“If we view this group in strictly economic terms, we would probably see pockets as deprived communities”, he says. “General health standards and male survival rates in some areas may not be as good as in other regions of the country, for example.

“Even so, we need to take a more holistic approach to our study of the situation, since a way of living which appears to be underprivileged and of a poor standard may not be quite as it seems. ‘Livelihood analyses’, which is little used in the northern hemisphere, may show the health, work and environmental strengths for some Highlands and Islands communities.

“Health impact assessments, especially environmental and occupational health ones which we often lack – will give us a much fuller picture of activities such as crofting and other rural industries. Certainly there are negative issues to be dealt with and I wouldn’t want to promote an overly-romantic view of crofting life. But it is possible that we could learn far more from these communities about ways of managing health care work in this environment, through using different methods and approaches from those we now utilise.”

Venue details: The Inverness lecture is at the Centre for Health Science, Raigmore Hospital, Old Perth Road, IV2 3JH. The Stornoway lecture is at the Western Isles Hospital, Macaulay Road, Stornoway HS1 2AF


Andrew Watterson is Professor of Health Effectiveness. He leads the Improving Health Outcomes programme and heads the University’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at the University. He has published widely on agricultural health and safety and related rural public health issues.

The second Stirling Lectures series will begin in the autumn with Environment as its central theme. More details to follow.

For further information on this lecture, please contact Professor Watterson on: 01786 466 6283 or email:

Four University student nurses invited to Westminster Abbey

Date released: Friday 8 May 2009

Stirling nursing students invited to Westminster Abbey

Four student nurses from the University of Stirling’s Highland, Western Isles and Stirling campuses are heading for London to represent Scottish nurses at the Florence Nightingale Commemoration.

Christine Macaulay from Shawbost, Lewis, Julia Glover (right in picture) from Powmill, Perth and Kinross, Fiona Parker (left in picture) from Glenochil, Clackmannanshire and Ailsa Pate from Forres, Moray will travel to Westminster Abbey. Along with fellow nursing students they will attend the remembrance service on 13 May – an annual event which marks the life and work of Florence Nightingale and celebrates the nursing and midwifery professions.

The invitation is a fitting end to three years’ of hard study for the students, who are looking forward to the occasion. Christine Macaulay, who was one of five student nurses shortlisted to go from our Western Isles campus said: “I was really pleased when my name was pulled first out of the hat! I’m looking forward to the trip – but most especially to the service, which will be held in the evening.”

The invitation came as a huge surprise for Stirling campus student Fiona Parker, who said: “My husband Brian is very proud of me and my twin sons are very impressed! My mum is especially pleased, because she recently retired as a Ward Sister. I’m only sorry they can’t all be there with me on the day, because I do think it’s an honour to represent my colleagues.”

Fellow Stirling student Julia Glover, has been invited to take part in the Florence Nightingale Foundation’s annual Students' Day debate, held in historic St Thomas’ Hospital, before attending the Abbey. She explained: “The Students’ Day allows us to come together, exchange information and touch base with others who are part of nursing’s future. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ailsa Pate will be travelling down from our Highland campus to meet her sister, who lives in London and has applied for tickets to the event. Ailsa said: “Neither of us has set foot inside Westminster Abbey, so it should be a really exciting experience for both of us. Some people might think it’s a bit ‘geeky’ to go to something like this but I think the ceremony is important for the whole nursing profession and it’s nice to think that I’m now seen as being part of that.”

Held at the Abbey each year on a date close to Florence Nightingale’s birthday (12 May) the Service is attended by approximately 2,000 people; mainly nurses, midwives, health visitors, Government Ministers and Foundation members.

Where previously student nurse representatives were invited from just one Scottish teaching institution, this year they will be drawn from all ten. Mary Spinks, Director of the Florence Nightingale Foundation said: “We are delighted that all Schools of nursing throughout Scotland have accepted our invitation. It’s a great honour to have their representatives here, sharing in this very special event.”

Part of the Service involves the Procession of the Lamp, symbolic of Florence Nightingale. Escorted by a procession of student nurses, drawn from the Schools of Nursing throughout Scotland, the lamp is carried by three scholars in turn; its handing over from one to the next signifying the passing of knowledge.


One student from each nursing and midwifery school in Scotland is funded to travel to the Florence Nightingale Commemoration service each year. More information on the ceremony can be found at:

The University’s Nursing and Midwifery Department is based in Stirling, at the Highland campus in Inverness and at the Western Isles campus in Stornoway. To find out more about becoming a nurse or midwife:

For more information, please contact Lynne Black on: 01786 466 6345

Formula One in the UK looks set to lose the innovation race

Date released: Monday 11 May 2009

According to a new study, Racing for Radical Innovation, the motorsport industry has become less innovative in recent years and is no longer the shining light of UK PLC.

“For many years, Formula One has been a beacon of the UK’s engineering and innovation capabilities,” says Professor Rick Delbridge of the Cardiff Business School who developed the research with Dr Francesca Mariotti of Stirling University. “However, our study shows that innovation activity is under extreme pressure. Regulation changes, increased concerns with costs, and limits to exploration and networking for knowledge creation are undermining the innovativeness of motorsport firms.”

Formula One racing is famous for its innovations, many of which have gone on to change the lives of ordinary people: carbon fibre wheel-chairs, non-slip boots, hi-tech fishing line and the influence of pit-stop crews on the efficient transferral of patients out of theatre into intensive care are among them. And they are currently being celebrated in a new exhibition at the Science Museum.

Comparing the motorsport industry in the UK with Germany, France and Italy, the study - funded by the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Research - shows what it takes to bring radical innovations, such as the turbo diesel injection system and the carbon fibre monocoque, to the racetrack. Even in such a competitive and high-tech environment, there are limitations to the innovativeness of individual firms.

“Motorsport companies generally spend very large sums on research and development work, even though it rarely produces breakthrough innovations” says Dr Mariotti. “This is partly because motorsport companies are understandably preoccupied with current performance and tend to focus on the improvement of proven technologies and components."

Firms tend to focus on incremental improvements and on minimising risk, buying in a technology proven in another sphere like aerospace. Furthermore, fear of loss of intellectual property means companies do not engage in joint development activities. Exploratory activities are not followed-up and external contacts are kept at arm’s-length. All this stifles experimentation and innovation.

“Particularly damaging is the not invented here syndrome,” says Professor Delbridge, “which limits engagement with external ideas and the possibility of re-combining knowledge in novel ways.”

Moreover, motorsport is highly regulated in order to ensure safety and fair competition. “Over the last 60 years motorsport rules have become much tighter and have either constrained the advancement of technology or channelled development into particular areas,” says Dr Mariotti. This has led to the banning of certain materials and the restriction of research to developing more efficient engines, recovery of braking energy and recovery of heat.

The study finds that the UK motorsport firms lag behind other countries in managing diversity and radical innovations. In order to help them become more successful, it recommends that they should:

  • Engage in wider exploratory activities and search for distant knowledge, relative to their knowledge domain.
  • Partner with unusual firms and establish good working relationships, strengthening ties, promoting reciprocity and trust.
  • Promote lateral thinking within an existing web of partners.
  • Perceive the advantages offered by novel or altered knowledge recombinations.

UK policy makers can help the motorsport industry by:

  • Widening the focus of policy intervention to related sectors in order to promote and sustain radical innovation.
  • Assisting firms in the identification of technological opportunities and the development of boundary spanning activities.
  • Assisting the development of inter-sector relationships (for example between aerospace and motorsport industries).


The research was carried out by Professor Rick Delbridge, Senior Fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Research and Associate Dean for Research at Cardiff Business School, and Dr Francesca Mariotti of Stirling University. The study analysed the motorsport industry in the UK, Italy, Germany and France between 2004 and 2008. In addition to a large quantity of secondary data, 55 interviews were carried out. To read the report, see

AIM Research is funded by the ESRC and EPSRC and was launched in November 2002. For more information on AIM visit

For further information contact the University of Stirling Communications Office or Dr Francesca Mariotti on

Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port EllenNATO at 60: lecture by Lord Robertson

Date released: Tuesday 12 May 2009

The University of Stirling will host a lecture by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (pictured) on Monday 18 May. ‘NATO at 60 – Collective Security for the 21st Century’, will explore and discuss a future role for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, on the 60th anniversary of its establishment.

An introduction to the lecture will be given by the Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland.

Lord Robertson ended his four year tenure as NATO’s Secretary General in December 2003. His time in office spanned a turbulent period for the organisation as it responded to various crises, including the 9/11 New York disaster; the launch, by international coalition forces, of anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan and polarised opinions over the impending Iraq war.

His extensive experience both within and beyond NATO means that Lord Robertson is uniquely placed to provide insight into an organisation whose military financial outlay now accounts for over 70% of the world’s defence spending. His talk promises an informed yet fascinating perspective on NATO’s coming of age and the part it might play in securing peace and co-operation among nations, during the coming decades.

The free public lecture will be held on the University campus in the Iris Murdoch building on Monday 18 May, beginning at 5pm. As places are limited, anyone wishing to attend is requested to register in advance either by emailing: or calling: 01786 46 7055.


Today Lord Robertson is Deputy Chairman of TNK-BP and Senior International Adviser to Cable and Wireless plc. Prior to his time as NATO’s Secretary General, he was the UK Defence Secretary from 1997-1999 and MP for Hamilton and Hamilton South from 1978-1999.

Born in Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland and educated at Dunoon Grammar School and the University of Dundee, he has been Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party and has served on the Board of the Scottish Development Agency and the Board of Governors of the Scottish Police College. He was also Vice Chairman of the British Council and Deputy Chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Lord Robertson has received many honours, including in 2003, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom – the United States’ highest civilian honour. Also in that year, he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and has 13 Honorary Doctorates.

In November 2007, the University of Stirling conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of the University, in recognition of Lord Robertson’s distinction in the field of public affairs. This lecture also publicly marks his recent appointment as Honorary Professor of the Department of Politics at Stirling.

For universities and academics – a glimpse of the future?Professor Sugden Director of the Stirling Management School

Date released: Thursday 14 May 2009

A leading economist is calling for universities to develop new forms of governance which will allow them to stimulate creativity.

Against a backdrop of failing economic development which has brought organisations and institutions worldwide close to collapse, Professor Roger Sugden (pictured), Director of the Stirling Management School at the University of Stirling, will give his inaugural lecture: ‘Space in the Inferno? The organisation of modern universities and the role of academics’.

His talk will be delivered on Wednesday 20 May 2009 at 5pm in Lecture Theatre W1, Cottrell Building.

According to Professor Sugden, organisations globally have followed structures and processes which support private interests, frequently at the expense of public ones. He believes that key strategic decisions made in support of that culture have resulted in a systemic failure to satisfy the public interest.

Acknowledging that universities have been no exception to this mindset, he believes that, going forward, universities must recognise – and avoid following – those failed forms of governance which are now being exposed.

“The first step is to identify and reject those values which have contributed to the present systemic failure and replace them with values which will inform a future, public interest based, economic system.

“The second step is to support the creative role, by stepping up to the challenge of providing an environment in which academics, and therefore others, can think about, analyse, understand and address, the critical issues of the day.”

He recommends that the University of Stirling should accept it has a role to play in identifying what is in the public interest and then organising itself in ways that will develop this.

Realising that this approach will raise many issues, he says: “In a university context, this could cause us to question what we mean when we describe ourselves as ‘collegiate’ or talk about ‘academic freedom’..”

The title of Professor Sugden’s lecture acknowledges that there is risk implicit in this strategy. “Calvino talked about space in an inferno in his work ‘Invisible Cities’. He argued that the inferno isn’t what is to come but instead is what we have now. One response is to join in and embrace what is ‘hellish’, so that we don’t see it. The other response – which is risky and requires vigilance – is that we try to recognise what is within the inferno but not yet part of it. By identifying these elements and creating space for them, we help them to endure and survive the inferno.”


Roger Sugden is Professor of Socio-Economic Development and founding Director of the new Stirling Management School. He was previously Professor of Commerce at the University of Birmingham, Lecturer in Economics at the University of Edinburgh and Research Fellow at the Wissenschafts-zentrum, Berlin, Germany.

Students join national network of sporting excellence

Date released: Wednesday 20 May 2009

Winning Students come to Stirling

A new generation of Scotland’s talented young sports stars have been offered scholarships at university or college as part of the Winning Students network, an initiative which aims to put Scotland’s sporting talent on the world stage.

It means a boost for the Scottish Football Association, Scottish Swimming and Scottish Hockey, with the first students being awarded Winning Students scholarships, backed by the Scottish Funding Council.

One of the most exciting developments is the establishment by the Scottish FA of a national women’s football academy based at the University of Stirling, which is Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

Among the first recruits to the academy are footballers Lisa Evans and Christie Murray, who will take up scholarships in the autumn. They are both Scotland youth internationals, and are among 12 of Scotland’s best young female players who will combine higher or further education with football at the national academy. Scotland hockey international Nikki Kidd has also been given a Winning Students award, as has Scotland swimmer Jonathan Greig.

Speaking today, Professor Grant Jarvie, Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling, said: “Education and sport have always been attractive ways of helping people progress in life. The development of Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence at Stirling is further recognition of the part that Higher Education has to play in sport at all levels.

“Sport and education can make a unique contribution to developing people, raising aspirations. In conjunction with our partners in other universities and colleges throughout Scotland, the University of Stirling will help to develop a network of outlets for students in selected sports. The network will play a key role in combining sport with education to help talented sporting students fulfil their potential. The first three sports in the Winning Students network are hockey, swimming and women’s football, and I am confident there will be more to follow.”

Launching the football academy, Gordon Smith, Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, said: “The creation of a national women’s football academy is an extremely exciting and bold venture for Scotland. The facilities and staff at Stirling are outstanding and will help to take our national team to a higher level by providing the best possible coaching and sports science professionals. This will be an environment that will bring out the best in everyone.

“Women's football is the fastest growing sport in the UK and the academy will be at the forefront of continuing this new and exciting era for our players and staff in Scotland. Together with Scottish Hockey and Scottish Swimming, the Scottish FA will reap the benefits of this venture for years to come."

Picture: Winning Students come to Stirling. From left: Christie Murray (football), Anna Signeul (Scotland women's coach), Lisa Evans (football), Professor Grant Jarvie (Deputy Principal), Nikki Kidd (hockey), Gordon Smith (SFA), Jonathan Greig (swimming).

Background information

The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) announced earlier this year that it would invest £1 million in helping sports students with potential to reach the top of their sport. For details, see

New course for early years teachers

Date released: Thursday 21 May 2009

The University of Stirling is to run a new course which will train new teachers with specialist skills in early childhood education.

Starting in September at The Stirling Institute of Education, the course will provide specific training in early education so that graduate teachers can best meet the needs of younger children in nursery and early primary.

A class of around 20 undergraduate students will begin the BA Professional Education (primary) with specialism in early years.

The University of Stirling already offers two primary education pathways with specialisms in either the environment or modern languages. From autumn 2009, it will offer a primary education pathway with an early years specialism after the Scottish Government committed £61,928 for its development.

Children’s Minister Adam Ingram made the announcement at an Early Years Framework conference in Edinburgh. He said: "The Scottish Government believes that our young people are our greatest asset and by getting children off to a good start and helping them fulfil their potential we will create future economic and social benefits for everyone.

"That's why our Early Years Framework is fostering an unprecedented focus on helping our youngest children and we have already delivered record levels of pre-school entitlement for Scotland's children - with further increases on the way.

"We're moving to build on that foundation and recognise how important good quality nursery education is to early development. It's vital that we ensure pre-school children are stimulated and encouraged by learning that is relevant to them and teachers are at the heart of that drive.

"These qualifications will produce teachers with flexible skills in primary education who also have the benefit of intensive training specifically in early years education. We will see these specialists graduating from next year - when the Scottish Government will increase pre-school entitlement to 570 hours for every pupil."

The Scottish Government is also providing the University of Aberdeen with £156,000 to pilot a postgraduate course for around 40 teachers working in early years settings across the north of Scotland.

Find out more about The Stirling Institute of Education and a possible career in teaching at

Bumblebees like to live on the edge

Date released: Friday 22 May 2009

Gillian Lye

Researchers at the University of Stirling have identified which types of farmland are most attractive to queen bumblebees.

The research, published in Biological Conservation, found that the margins of fields are best as they provide not only nesting sites but also wildflowers from which to gather nectar.

Gillian Lye (pictured), a postgraduate researcher in the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, led the study. Her discovery could help stem the decline of Britain's remaining native bumblebee species, which are important pollinators of wildflowers and crops such as oil seed rape and green beans.

Of the 25 bumblebee species native to Britain, three have already become extinct and the populations of ten other species have dropped drastically in the last 60 to 70 years.

In recent years, to counter the negative effects of intensive farming on biodiversity, the government has funded numerous schemes to help restore habitats that will support native wildlife. But schemes designed to conserve bumblebees have tended to focus on providing habitats that will support bumblebees during the summer.

Gillian said: “This might not be the best approach. Bumblebee queens come out of hibernation in the spring and raise their first batch of workers single-handedly. To be successful, they need to find a suitable nesting site surrounded by flowers that they can gather nectar (and pollen) from.”

She studied farms including those supported by the Scottish Rural Stewardship scheme, seeking to find which habitats are most attractive to bumblebee queens emerging in the spring - hedgerow, field margin or grassland.

She found that hedgerows are the least attractive habitat for spring queens. Grassland managed under the rural stewardship scheme is good for bumblebees searching for nest sites, while abandoned grassland contains more flowers, attracting bees searching for nectar.

However, emerging bumblebee queens are most attracted to field margin habitats, because these areas provide plenty of nesting opportunities as well as flowers for nectar.

“The bees use old mouseholes in tussocky grass as nests,” she explained. “The land in field margins tends to have low levels of disturbance, so wild flowers grow up, which the bees like.”

She sees this new information being used to develop farmland management strategies that could increase the number of bumblebee colonies, which would in turn improve pollination service in the rural environment both of crops and of wildflowers. “I'm hoping this work will inspire more badly-needed research in this area,” she added.

Further information

Lye, G. et al.
Assessing the value of Rural Stewardship schemes for providing foraging resources and nesting habitat for bumblebee queens (Hymenoptera: Apidae).
Biological Conservation (2009).

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Games and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The paper can be viewed here.

For information about bumblebees, see:

Assisted dying – Stirling seminars debate the dilemma of our time

Date released: Monday 25 May 2009

An increasing number of people believe that, in the event of terminal illness, they should retain some control over the time, place and manner of their deaths. However that option would inevitably require the agreement and co-operation of others.

The concept of assisted dying presents many dilemmas for patients and family members as well as for medical, legal and other professionals. Yet the need for an intelligent debate on the subject is becoming ever more urgent.

Health Care, Discourse and Society – the 2009 Stirling-Dundee seminar series, will grasp the thorn in seminars to be held at the Iris Murdoch Centre, University of Stirling on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 June.

Wednesday 3 June at 2pm

Dr Janet Holt of the University of Leeds will present her paper ‘Nurses’ attitudes to euthanasia’ and explains: “My presentation will describe the legal position on euthanasia and assisted suicide in the UK, as well as the controversy surrounding active voluntary euthanasia”.

Aware of the difficult moral, legal and ethical decisions surrounding euthanasia which frequently confront nursing staff, Dr Holt adds: “Since there are acknowledged difficulties in conducting research into attitudes of UK nurses to active voluntary euthanasia (AVE), my review of the findings of published studies will be followed by a review of the methodologies employed – including research design, data collection methods and the problems encountered with understanding definitions of euthanasia”.

Dr Holt’s presentation will conclude with a discussion of how research in this area may influence nursing practice.

Thursday 4 June, 2pm onwards

Professor Sheila McLean of the University of Glasgow will present her paper ‘Autonomy at the end of life’. Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the issue, Professor McLean said: “The debate about legalising assisted dying is never far from the public consciousness and excites strong feelings on both sides. In this presentation I will consider the main arguments for and against legalisation, as well as critiquing the current legal situation.

“I will argue that we can reasonably anticipate consistency in law, and that the current situation exposes both a lack of consistency and a selective application of ethical principles. In addition, I will propose that the medicalisation of assisted dying forms a major obstacle to clear and rational consideration of the issues at stake.”

At the same seminar, Dr Mary Ford of the University of Strathclyde will deliver her talk ‘Physician-assisted suicide and the issue of justification’.

Aiming to offer those present another perspective on the complex and sensitive issues surrounding death and the manner of dying, Dr Ford said: “Since anything done to a patient by a healthcare professional requires justification, it is necessary to explore how interventions – such as euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) might be justified.

“Medical law recognises a series of justificatory reasons but I am not convinced that these apply in cases of euthanasia/PAS for both legal and philosophical reasons. Instead, I suggest that other, less conventional modes of justification might enable a case for euthanasia (PAS) to be made.”


Hosted jointly by the Universities of Stirling and Dundee, the aim of the seminar series is to provide a Scottish focal point for the discussion of philosophy, social theory, ethics and the humanities, in the context of health care practice and education.

Dr Janet Holt is Senior lecturer in the School of Healthcare at the University of Leeds. She writes about law and ethics in health care and is Chair of the International Philosophy of Nursing Society.

Professor Sheila McLean is the first holder of the International Bar Association Chair of Law and Ethics in Medicine, at the University of Glasgow. She has acted as a consultant to WHO and the Council of Europe and publishes extensively in the field of medical law.

Dr Mary Ford is lecturer in the Law School, University of Strathclyde. She specialises in bioethics, legal theory, medical law and law and literature. She is also interested in the jurisprudence of pregnancy and in the relation between the concept of personhood and the ‘right to die’.

For further details of these seminars, please contact:

John Paley, University of Stirling on 01786 466399, email:; or John Drummond, University of Dundee on 01382 388525, email

Stirling students win national journalism awards

Date released: Thursday 28 May 2009

Two journalists on Brig, the University of Stirling student newspaper, have scooped a pair of prestigious national awards for their writing, with a number of others being shortlisted.

Iain Clark, sports editor of Brig, won the Best Sports Writer award in the Scottish Student Press Awards, sponsored by The Herald newspaper. Tuesday night's ceremony in Glasgow saw Brig nominated in several categories, and although Iain was the only outright prize winner from Stirling it marked a great year for the University's monthly student newspaper. His prizes include a week's work experience on the Herald sports desk. Outgoing editor Dale McEwan was on the shortlist of three for Best Feature Writer.

Then on Wednesday evening, newly elected Brig editor Catriona McPhee won the award for best University News Writing, in the Write Stuff Scottish Student Journalism awards, for her story about a banned comedian. Catriona was also shortlisted in three other categories, Feature Writing, Entertainment Writing and Scoop of the Year, while Dale McEwan (Feature Writing), Greg Christison, Iain Clark and Mairead Meechan (Entertainment Writing and Scoop of the Year) also made it onto the shortlists.

This is the first year that Stirling has entered the competition, which is for students who are taking university postgraduate and undergraduate degrees or college level qualifications in journalism. The award presentation ceremony was held at the City Chambers in Glasgow.

For information about what studying journalism could do for your career, visit the Department of Film, Media & Journalism website at

University of Stirling Professor appointed Senior Fellow to American Humane Association

Date released: Wednesday 27 May 2009

University of Stirling Professor Len Dalgleish has been appointed an honorary Senior Fellow with the Denver based Child Protection Research Centre of the American Humane Association.

Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association is the only national, non-profit organization in the USA dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Through a network of child and animal protection agencies and individuals, American Humane develops policies, legislation, curricula and training programs to protect children and animals from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Senior fellows in the organisation’s Children’s Division are scholars and practitioners who have dedicated their careers to improving the status of children and Prof Dalgleish has been working with the Division to refine the decision making processes within systems of child protection. He aims to improve decision making for the benefit of children and their families, with the development of research programmes and training materials for child protection workers.

His interest in the assessment of risk and decision making in child protection cases led to his development of a model for judgement and decision making across a wide range of applications. He was appointed to the Chair in decision making at the University of Stirling’s Department of Nursing and Midwifery in 2005.

Describing his contribution to the American Humane’s work, Professor Dalgleish said: “My research isn’t just about assessing the amount of risk in a case; it’s also about identifying where social workers’ thresholds are for taking action, and what influences these thresholds.

“For instance, if a social service department is poorly resourced – so it can’t afford to provide support services to keep children out of care – it will adjust thresholds to cope with this. That decision to take more children into care means that it is more likely to place children unnecessarily.”

For the organisation’s Child Protection Research Centre, one application of Professor Dalgleish’s work may be to address the issue of ‘disparity’, which he explains thus: “Even allowing for issues such as poverty, drug dependency and domestic violence, race is still a factor when it comes to children being taken into care. In the State of Texas, for example, there is evidence that more African-American children are taken into care than white children or Hispanics. Race may be a similar factor in other states of the USA.

“I’m hoping my research work with the Centre will identify whether the thresholds of individual social workers influences disparities, when it comes to taking action on children of different races. Our findings may, for example, aid the training work which is going on in Texas, to address the issue of cultural sensitivity among social workers there.”



Graduating from the University of Queensland with a PhD in Psychology, Professor Dalgleish moved to that university’s Department of Social Work and then to its Department of Psychology. In 2005, he was appointed to the chair in decision making in the Department of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Stirling and as programme head at HealthQWest, a research consortium focussing on health care delivered by Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health professionals.

The American Humane Association raises awareness about the connection between violence to people and violence to animals, as well as the benefits derived from the human-animal bond.

For further information, please contact Len Dalgleish on: 01786 466 347 or email:

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