The man who masterminded the programme which helped Catriona Matthew excel in both the lecture theatre and on the golf course today hailed his ‘world class’ student. Matthew became the first ever Scottish woman to win a golf major when she lifted the Ricoh Women's British Open title at Royal Lytham and St Annes yesterday (Sunday 2 August).
Amongst the many viewers glued to the television screens was Ian Thomson, Honorary Professor of the Department of Sports Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
Professor Thomson oversaw the launch of the University’s International Sports Scholarship Programme and was delighted to see Matthew, nee Lambert, make further history. Matthew was the first female golf scholarship recipient at Stirling in 1987 and was also the first recipient of an R&A supported scholarship.
He said: “Watching it unfold I thought this is the realisation of something we have been trying to do for 20 years. I am so proud as Catriona has been a great ambassador. She was the first to gain a bursary and has really shown what a scholarship is all about. She spread her course work over five years, got a 2:1 degree and proved you can combine academic study with high level sport.”
The British Open is the 39-year-old’s eighth professional tournament victory, but it was a particularly remarkable result, as it comes just 11 weeks after the birth of her second daughter Sophie.
According to her mentor, Matthew, who graduated from the University of Stirling with a BA Hons in Financial Studies, was always destined for greatness. He added: “To be honest I am surprised it has taken her so long as she has always had the ability. At university, she was a very talented sportsperson – playing badminton at a national level and a strong swimmer too. And that quality of modesty which we saw on Sunday has been a feature of her approach to sport from day one. Success has not changed Catriona one bit, she remains an honest and lovely person.”
Victory not only earned Matthew a cheque for £197,000, but also guaranteed her place in the European team for the biennial Solheim Cup – the Women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup which takes place in Illinois from 17-23 August.
Matthew joins another University of Stirling graduate, Swede Maria Hjorth, in the team of 12 who will attempt to wrestle back the Cup from the Americans after suffering defeat on the previous two outings.
University of Stirling Sports Performance Manager Raleigh Gowrie said: “I am delighted for Catriona. She is someone who has the commitment to the lifestyle, practice and dedication required to be successful in high performance sport and in that respect she richly deserves her victory.
“To have two former golf scholars representing Europe in the Solheim Cup is tremendous for the University of Stirling. It shows our commitment to golf over the past 28 years. It is now important more is invested in sport’s performance development long term to reap further rewards.”
The University of Stirling was designated as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence in 2008.
More than 300 students have been supported by the the University of Stirling’s International Sports Scholarship programme since its launch in 1981. It provides a twin track approach, allowing talented young student athletes to combine their education with high performance sports success.
It is anticipated 70 scholarships will be awarded in academic year 2009-10 across five sports: golf, swimming, tennis, triathlon and football.
Walker Cup win would be perfect Amateur curtain call for Gavin
Date released : Tuesday 4 August 2009
Gavin Dear is intent on adding ‘Walker Cup winner’ to his golfing CV before making the step up to the professional game. Dear, a former post-graduate golf scholar at the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, was yesterday (Monday 2 August) named in the 10-man squad* to represent Great Britain and Ireland as they take on the best American amateur talent.
The biennial battle takes place from September 12-13 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania and Dear is keen to bow out from an already successful amateur career in style before heading for European Tour qualifying school.
He said: “It confirms I have had a good year and that I am moving in the right direction. It will be a great experience and I should have quite a lot of friends out there to cheer me on from my time at college there.
“I have been rounding up supporters the last couple of months and my family will be heading over too so I am sure the face paints will be out in force. The Walker Cup is the ideal tournament to complete my amateur career with and I am really looking forward to playing in America as I have been quite successful out there in the past. I would rather look to play on their type of courses compared to a links course.”
Currently 12th in the R&A World Amateur Golf Rankings, Dear’s selection caps an excellent year which has seen the Perth player build on his 2008 Eisenhower Trophy – the World Amateur Team Championship - victory with results at the Irish stroke-play championship and European Amateur Team Championship in Wales.
The 25-year-old will meet up on Sunday with friend and fellow Scot Wallace Booth and the rest of the squad for a three day preparatory camp at Valderrama Golf Club in southern Spain where they will be put through their paces by current team captain Colin Dalgleish.
Dalgleish was the first ever scholarship student at the University of Stirling and along with legendary Tiger Woods slayer Gordon Sherry and 2006 US Amateur Champion Richie Ramsay, Dear becomes the fourth Stirling student to be selected for the Walker Cup.
“I’ve met Colin on a few occasions and he has been very supportive,” added Dear. “And obviously Richie has gone on to great things so it is a nice thing to be up there with that group who are well known players - that is what it is all about.”
In what has proved to be a notoriously tight contest, the USA have enjoyed single point victories in the last two encounters, but team captain Dalgleish believes his side can record the first Great Britain & Ireland win since 2003. And he welcomed the addition of another Stirling associate. He said: “It’s great to have Gavin in the team. Clearly he had an outstanding season added to the great achievement of winning the Eisenhower Trophy. He goes quietly about his business and is confident in his own abilities.
“From a Stirling point of view, our roots go a long way back, I am proud to be the first sports bursar in 1981 which seems such a long way back. Since then the International Sports Scholarship Programme and sport in general at the University has gone from strength to strength and Gavin is another example.
“Valderamma will give us a great chance to get everyone together and play on some fast and firm greens, much like what we will face in America. When the tournament arrives, they will likely be the slight favourites as it is on their patch, but that is fine with us and I know we have the team who can do it.”
The squad will be named as the confirmed Walker Cup team subject to no British or Irish player winning the US Amateur Championship (24-30 August).
Stirling golfer McLeary breaks his duck on home soil
Date released : Tuesday 4 August 2009
Former Stirling golf scholar Jamie McLeary is on course to secure his full European Tour rights after a big victory on home soil. The 28-year-old ended a three and a half year wait for his first professional win when he took the Scottish Hydro Challenge title on Sunday (2 August).
A talented amateur, McLeary left the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, in 2006, but has struggled with a back injury which has plagued his professional career over the past year.
However, a final round 68 over the par 71 Macdonald Spey Valley course in Aviemore added to rounds of 69, 67 and 72 gave the Dalmahoy-based player a two-shot victory over Italy’s Edoardo Molinari.
The win, the first for a Scot on the Challenge Tour this year, brought with it a cheque for £27,500 and leaves McLeary in 11th position in the Challenge Tour rankings.
With the top 20 automatically gaining full playing rights to the 2010 European Tour and just 10 tournaments left to play, McLeary is in prime position to follow in the footsteps of fellow graduate Richie Ramsay.
Ramsay and McLeary studied in Stirling at the same time, with the former going on to secure his European Tour card after a momentous victory at the 2006 US Amateur Championship.
University of Stirling Sports Performance Manager Raleigh Gowrie said: “I was pleased to note Jamie’s excellent victory. Jamie entered the professional ranks with an impressive track record in amateur golf and it was really only a matter of time before he excelled in the professional game. Hopefully this will spur him on to achieve his goal on the European Tour.”
In other golf news, no fewer than 16 current and former golf students from the University of Stirling were in action at the recent Allied Surveyors Scottish Amateur Championship in Troon. Gavin Dear, seeded number one, lucked out in a close-fought fourth round match against Newburgh GC’s Grant Carnie, but the Perthshire-man will console himself with selection for the GB & Ireland Walker Cup team.
Competing from the current crop of students were: Paul Betty, Michael Daily, Fraser Moore, Graeme Robertson, Bobby Rushford, Colin Thomson, Andrew Wallace and James White. Former golf scholars taking part were: Mark Bookless, Scott Borrowman, Jonathan King, Chris Lawton, Gregor Munro, Russell Thornton and Gordon Yates.
The University of Stirling was designated as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence in 2008.
More than 300 students have been supported by the University of Stirling’s International Sports Scholarship programme since its launch in 1981. It provides a twin track approach, allowing talented young student athletes to combine their education with high performance sports success.
It is anticipated 70 scholarships will be awarded in academic year 2009-10 across five sports: golf, swimming, tennis, triathlon and football.
The University of Stirling is experiencing high demand for places, after this year’s Highers results were published today.
The Clearing hotlines have been very busy with calls from prospective students, and there is intense competition to get on the more popular courses.
Ian Cockbain, Director of the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service, said: “Compared to last year, the number of calls is much higher, and the phones have been red hot since nine this morning. We have a team of advisers, working in shifts to give the best possible advice and information to students.”
A few courses are already at capacity, but a wide range of opportunities is available at Stirling for students with the right grades.
A comprehensive list of courses, and the necessary grades for entry, is being kept up to date on the University’s dedicated clearing website. You can find out which courses are available at www.stir.ac.uk or contact the Clearing Hotline on 01786 466166, or email email@example.com
Stirling trio return from swimming World Championships
Date released : Wednesday 5 August 2009
Three Stirling swimmers will return to their studies after representing their respective countries at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome. Scots Andy Hunter and Lewis Smith, who train at the Intensive Training Centre (ITC) based at the University of Stirling - Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence - were part of the 40-strong Great Britain swimming team.
And Psychology student Clare Dawson was in action for the Irish team at the Championships in Rome which finished on Sunday (2 August). Dawson was unable to make it out of the heats in the 200 metres freestyle, finishing 37th in a time of 2.02.46. After waiting until the final day for his event, Winning Student* Lewis Smith (pictured right) experienced a similar fate, his time of 4:17.56 in the 400m Individual Medley heats, leaving him in 17th place.
On Friday, fellow Winning Student* Hunter added to a personal best 200m freestyle individual performance with a solid swim in the heats of the 4x200m relay.
The Accounts and Business Studies student helped the British team to qualification for the final with a combined time of 7:06.11. Hunter, however, was not part of the final four who set a new British record time of 7:05.67 and finished seventh overall. Hunter had lost out in the semi-finals of the 200m freestyle earlier that week, his record low time of 1:46.90 leaving him in 15th position in a race which featured American Michael Phelps.
The British Gas swimming team collected two gold medals in what was their most successful World Championships ever, finishing third in the overall points total behind the USA and Australia.
Scottish Swimming’s Director of Performance Ally Whike said: “For someone like Andy, that is the first time he has competed as an individual so it should give him vital experience. Hopefully now he will push on to reach more individual events as well as the team ones. And it was Lewis’ first World Championships so while he might be a little disappointed with his swim, the experience of competing against the world’s finest will stand him in good stead. He will sit down with his coach Doug Frost and discuss how it went and try to find out where he can improve.”
After their debriefs, Hunter and Smith will continue their studies in September, with one eye on the next major competition. “London 2012 is the one they will be working towards,” added Whike, “but knowing them to be very proud Scots, Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 will feature quite prominently in their calendars in what will be two major Summers for Scotland.”
• The Winning Students scheme supports student athletes across Scotland competing in high performance sport, establishing a network of colleges and universities led by the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
Stirling students have again given their University a resounding vote of confidence, as the results of the 2009 National Student Survey are announced.
The University has improved its marks in the National Student Survey, which measures satisfaction with their course by asking final year students to rate a range of criteria from teaching to IT.
In answer to the key question whether they were satisfied with the overall quality of their course; a resounding 88 per cent of Stirling students said they were, up from 86 per cent last year.
A University of Stirling spokesman said: “We’re pleased that so many students continue to rate their experience of Stirling so highly. Student feedback and input is vital and this independent survey is a useful indicator of how well we are doing in our commitment to improving the student experience. We will be looking closely at the detail of this year’s survey, taking action and making improvements in response to what our students are saying.“
The National Student Survey is targeted mostly at final year undergraduates and provides students with an opportunity to make their opinions on their higher education student experience count at a national level. The results are analysed and used to compile a year-on-year comparison of data which helps prospective students make informed choices of where and what to study, and enables the participating institutions to identify and improve in areas where they may have let their students down.
Students answered ‘mostly agree’ or ‘definitely agree’ to the question ‘Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course’. Most Scottish universities performed above the UK average of 82%, as follows:
Sodexo lands University of Stirling catering contract
Date released: Friday 14 August 2009
The University of Stirling has concluded a contract with Sodexo, a leading food and facilities management services provider, to provide catering to its students, staff, visitors and commercial customers.
Sodexo will begin providing services to the University in October as part of an initial five-year deal with the possibility of a two-year extension, potentially worth almost £9 million in total turnover.
As part of the contract, Sodexo will invest a significant amount of funding into the refurbishing of the catering facilities at the University, including the building of a new coffee shop. Sodexo will manage the University’s main Haldane’s restaurant, offering a deli bar, salad bar and main meal provision – which includes a chef on stage each day with live theatre style cooking.
The company will employ 36 members of staff to deliver catering, vending and hospitality services to the university’s 10,000 students, 2,000 staff on-site and commercial customers.
The contract includes the provision of catering services to a number of outlets, many based in the central Atrium of the Andrew Miller Building, which includes a sandwich shop, fast food bar and Stir Café, where a wide selection of sandwiches, soups, salad boxes and yogurts will be made available throughout the day – all part of Sodexo’s Unity food offer.
The offer is devised with the aim of bringing the high street to the University, enabling students to spend more time in the comfort of the University campus.
Sodexo will also provide a vending service and hospitality service for meetings on campus.
Karen Plouviez, Director of Estates and Campus Services at the University of Stirling said: "We are delighted to be entering into a long-term partnership with Sodexo. They are one of the market leaders in catering and we look forward to them bringing their considerable experience and skills to bear on the full range of our catering services to the benefit of our students, staff, commercial customers and those visiting the campus."
Graham Box, managing director, Sodexo Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have signed a contract with one of the most respected universities in Scotland and look forward to the opportunity to add value to the daily life of the students, staff and visitors. We have extensive experience of providing services to numerous universities throughout the UK and Ireland, and will work closely with our talented chefs to provide a catering service that is truly fitting of such a prestigious university.”
In the UK and Ireland, Sodexo employs 43,000 people, and provides food and facilities management services to clients at over 2,300 locations in the corporate, education, healthcare, leisure and defence sectors. Sodexo is part of the Sodexo Group, the leading global provider of food and facilities management services, with more than 375,000 employees at 30,600 sites in 80 countries.
Stirling golfers represent team Europe stateside
Date released : Monday 24 August 2009
Golfers Maria Hjorth and Catriona Matthew were unable to stop team USA from recording a third straight victory in the Solheim Cup.
The biennial match-play event, the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup, concluded at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago on Sunday with the Americans winning 16-12. Hjorth and Matthew, two former golf scholars of the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, were making their fourth and fifth Solheim Cup appearances respectively.
Tied at 8-8 going into the final day, British Open champion Matthew, 38, collected team Europe’s first point of the day, defeating rookie Kristy McPherson 3&2. It proved to be one of just two European wins in the 12 singles matches and while Swede Hjorth halved her match against Cristie Kerr, the Americans steamrolled over the required 14 point mark to retain the Cup.
Hjorth, pictured right, who graduated with an English as a Foreign Language degree in 1996, joined forces on Friday with Stirling compatriot Matthew for the opening four ball matches. At one stage the European pairing were leading by two against Morgan Pressel and 19-year-old wild card Michelle Wie, but ended up rescuing a half point on the 18th hole.
The Swede contributed three points in total, with a four ball and a foursomes win over the course of the weekend. In her other matches, Matthew, the University’s first ever female golf scholarship recipient in 1987, lost while partnering Janice Moodie, the only other Scot selected and then chipped in with a half point in the four balls on Saturday.
University of Stirling Sports Performance Manager Raleigh Gowrie said: “The University of Stirling has watched with interest the development of alumni scholarship golfers Catriona Matthew and Maria Hjorth. Both players reached the highest levels of the amateur game whilst studying for their degrees and are now part of the world's professional elite as demonstrated by their involvement in the 2009 Solheim Cup, the pinnacle event in women's golf. Their success is a prime indicator of Stirling's commitment to sport and to the development of young people. We are extremely proud of their achievements.”
Colin can do the business in British Touring Cars Championship
Date released : Monday 24 August 2009
A Business Studies graduate who opted for life in the fast lane is speeding towards the British Touring Cars Championship (BTTC) chequered flag.
Northern Irish driver Colin Turkington is sitting a-top the BTTC leaderboard with three race meets remaining and the former student at the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, is looking for a big win at Silverstone this Saturday to bring him within touching distance of the title.
There are 10 race dates in total and each venue comprises three races with up to 50 points available as bonus points are awarded for fastest laps and pole positions.
The 27-year-old, who drives for Team RAC BMW, saw his lead over current title holder Fabrizio Giovanardi whittled down to just nine points following the last outing at Knockhill, but he is not about to let nerves get the better of him.
Turkington, pictured left, said: “People are always saying there is extra pressure when you are leading, but I would be feeling more pressure if I had points to catch up on. Being nine in the lead is better for me.
"And I usually do pretty well at Silverstone. It’s the national circuit we use, not the one the F1 drivers use so it’s smaller, but it lends itself to good touring car racing and so we have to be aiming for the podium.
“Every race meeting is as important as the next, but of course it would be great to get a big haul of points at Silverstone and make things a little bit more comfortable. However, knowing the British Touring Cars Championship, it usually goes right down to the last race.”
Turkington left Stirling with a 2:1 degree with honours and while he now lives in Portadown, he has fond memories of his student days – prompting him to drop in on the campus in the build up to Knockhill. “I had a great time at Stirling,” added Turkington. “The two semesters structure worked very well for me as from September to Christmas the racing season is over so I could focus on being a student. I only ever missed one exam and I was able to change my degree to part-time to complete it.
“Racing has always been the number one thing for me and I am in the fortunate position I am able to do it as a profession at the moment, but there are still a lot of things I learned from my degree which are useful like helping with my marketing and sponsorship.”
Starting out life as a karter, Turkington once raced for Team Atomic Kitten – “that was in the early years, I don’t regret it as they were looking to open up to new markets, but they only came down to a few races,” clarified Turkington.
He has quickly picked up awards and accolades as he worked his way up the ranks and now in his fifth season at BTCC level, has already won the Independent’s Championship in 2007 and 2008. Still, not even aligning with pop superstars can compare to the BTCC crown.
He said: “To win the championship would be the best thing yet. These past few years we have been competitive but it is great to now be involved in the championship battle and we are doing everything we can to win.”
* The University of Stirling was designated as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence in May 2008.
The Great Yellow Bumblebee, one of Britain’s rarest bee species, has bucked recent gloomy trends and had a bumper summer in Scotland this year.
Conservationists at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust have been involved in a project to try to save the species and hope that this is the start of good times ahead for the Great Yellow.
Recent decades have seen dramatic declines in bumblebee populations, with two species nationally extinct and several others threatened. Habitat loss severely affected many species, and by the time beneficial mechanisms like agri-environment schemes were in place, bumblebees had disappeared from many areas. The Great Yellow was once widespread throughout the UK, but as agricultural practices became more intensive, the lights started to go out for the bee. This left the far north and west of Scotland as the last refuge for this beautiful and charismatic species.
However, after a couple of poor years, 2009 has finally provided cause for cautious optimism among bee conservationists. Very good numbers of the Great Yellow Bumblebee have been recorded this year in Orkney and in north Highland, the last UK mainland population.
It is not too late to spot the species this year, and areas with knapweed, one of their favourite flowers, are good places to look. It’s a distinctive creature, golden-yellow with a signature band of black fur between the wings (see image, right). If you think you see one, take a photo, and send it in to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As well as doing well in most of its known haunts, the Great Yellow has been discovered nesting further south on the UK mainland this year than it has in nearly 30 years. This discovery, near Lybster, on the east Caithness coast, was made by Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) Scottish Conservation Officer, Bob Dawson, who said:
“This is a modest, but significant extension of the known range southwards. We suspect that the Great Yellow Bumblebee may have been present in this area before, but with more interest and awareness now in the Great Yellow Bumblebee, interesting and important records like this are turning up. There is even the tantalising possibility that the Great Yellow Bumblebee could recolonise the Moray and Aberdeenshire coasts.”
Warm weather has also played its part. Dr Dawson added: “The good summer up here has certainly helped with finding bees, which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of farmers and landowners allowing access to flower-rich crops and other suitable, flower-rich areas. Our observations have cemented earlier, pioneering work of bumblebee experts in the area, so we now have a firmer idea of where the bees are, which is essential for directing further conservation effort. People have been really pleased to find they are hosting not just the rare Great Yellow Bumblebee on their land, but a whole range of other species as well.”
There have been further important finds this year by Paul Castle, Highland Council North Sutherland Ranger, who has been involved with the Great Yellow Bumblebee for several years: "2009 has been an exciting summer, finding the Great Yellow Bumblebee at two previously unrecorded sites at Melvich and Reay along the north coast. These new sites mean we have now linked the Caithness and Sutherland populations. It was particularly pleasing following last season when, despite searching, I never saw a single Great Yellow Bumblebee! It's great to know this vulnerable mainland population is able to recover from an apparently disastrous season."
Dave Jones, the RSPB's Caithness Reserves Site Manager commented: "We are delighted that the Great Yellow Bumblebee has also been found on the RSPB's new Broubster Leans reserve in Caithness. This is a further indication of the Broubster Lean's biodiversity and the importance of the reserve. The RSPB looks forward to working closely with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to conserve the Great Yellow Bumblebee and the other species that depend on the distinctive flower-rich habitat found at Broubster Leans."
Everyone can do their bit to help bumblebees. Gardeners can provide cottage garden plants for them to feed on throughout the year, whilst farmers and land managers can use options through the new agri-environment schemes. The pollen and nectar-rich habitats that can be created will be invaluable in further boosting populations of this rare bumblebee. More information on the project and how you can help can be found at: www.bumblebeeconservation.org.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a UK charity (no. 1115634) based at the University of Stirling. It aims to help bumblebees through conservation and education. People can join to support their work (for around £1 per month), and learn more about these fascinating creatures by phoning 01786 467818 or visiting www.bumblebeeconservation.org
The UK has 18 species of ‘true’ bumblebee, and a further 6 species of ‘cuckoo bumblebee’, which parasitise the nests of other species. A total of 18 types of bumblebee can be found in Scotland.
In the last 70 year, two of our native bumblebee species have become nationally extinct and six more have been placed on the UK Biodiversity Acton Plan in recognition of the need for conservation action.
Gardeners can make a significant difference by growing the right kinds of flowers throughout the year. Gardens collectively cover more than a million hectares across the UK. Many fancy flowers are of little use to wildlife and a list of recommended species can be found on the BBCT website.
Bumblebees naturally nest in disused rodent burrows or tussocky grass. They do not swarm, are non-aggressive and only sting if handled roughly.
Bumblebees are often referred to as a “keystone species” because without their pollination many plants would cease to be fertilised and this could lead to knock-on changes for plant communities and the invertebrates, mammals and birds that depend on them.
Familiarity breeds attraction
Date released : Friday 28 August 2009
Researchers have found that single-sex schools can have a ‘significant impact’ on what young people find attractive in a face. The new study suggests that female students who are surrounded every day by other girls are more attracted to feminine looking boys like High School Musical’s Zac Efron.
Boys however were less susceptible – while those at all male schools tended to prefer boys with more masculine faces, they weren’t so fussy how feminine girls looked. In all cases, the effect was weakened if children had siblings of the opposite sex at home.
The study was led by the University of St Andrews researcher Dr Tamsin Saxton, in collaboration with the Universities of Aberdeen, Stirling and Liverpool and its findings are published in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences. Dr Saxton believes the research is evidence that a person’s ‘visual diet’ can influence what they think is attractive.
The study team asked 240 children (aged 11 to 15) at co-educational and single-sex schools to rate faces in terms of attractiveness. The faces had been manipulated using computer digital techniques to look subtly more masculine or feminine.
The researchers had predicted that girls at single-sex schools would prefer more feminine faces, while boys at all male schools would prefer more masculine faces.
Consistent with the prediction, girls at single-sex schools – compared with girls at mixed schools – demonstrated significantly stronger preferences for facial femininity in both male and female faces. Boys, on the other hand, demonstrated marginally stronger preferences for facial masculinity in male faces, but did not differ in their ratings of female faces.
Students were also asked whether they had brothers or sisters at home, in order to take into account other aspects of their ‘visual diet’. Although attending a single-sex school affected students’ judgments, this effect was weakened if they were exposed to siblings of the opposite sex.
Dr Saxton said: “Interestingly, the weakest effect of ‘visual diet’ was in relation to boys’ judgments of girls’ faces. This might be because femininity is such an over-riding cue to female facial attractiveness, or perhaps because even at a single-sex school, boys see more female faces around them, in their teachers and so on.”
The work echoes previous research that has shown that exposure can affect people’s judgments of the ‘normality’, and attractiveness, of a face. For example, women tend to prefer men with feminine faces such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Jude Law for long-term relationships. However, this is the first study to look at the effect of single-sex schools on such preferences amongst young adolescents.
Dr Anthony Little of the University of Stirling commented:"This kind of study helps researchers understand how the brain processes faces. Faces are crucial to our everyday interactions, and the brain has specialised areas dedicated to dealing with them.”
Dr Saxton’s study was funded by The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues which impact business, the public sector and the third sector.