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University of Stirling

The latest study and research news from the University of Stirling

April 2012

February 2012

January 2012

November 2011

September 2011

May 2011


Stirling’s School of Education forms academic collaboration with Indian university

The University of Stirling’s School of Education has signed a collaborative agreement with the Maharashtra Academy of Engineering and Educational Research (MAEER), part of Pune University, in India.

The two institutions aim to share good practice and systems in teaching, research and scholarship activities, including teacher education and educational leadership programmes.

Professor Richard Edwards, Head of the School of Education, says that the venture aims to be mutually beneficial and has the potential to deliver positive outcomes across a range of academic areas.

He added: ‘By entering into this agreement we aim to enhance the capacity of academic staff in our respective institutions and support further development in teaching programmes and research.

‘The School of Education is acknowledged as leading in Scotland in the fields of teacher education and educational leadership. They are also key areas of development for the School of Education in Pune. There is a shared interest in terms of capacity sharing and capacity building.’

A joint application has already been submitted to the UK Indian Educational Research Initiative Fund to support staff exchange and curriculum building. The bid, should it be successful, will support a two way staff exchange which will help the institutions share experiences and support scholarship, research and curriculum building.

Swati Chate, Executive Director at MAEER, added: ‘Through this collaboration we aim to enhance the integrated curricular approach, create congenial atmosphere to synergise the learning challenges and sharing experiences of our respective institutions.’

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Babies use vocal cues to help them identify jokes

New research from the University of Stirling’s Baby and Toddler Lab suggests parents adapt their voices when they are joking and babies expect to see jokes when they hear these voices paired with laughter.

Toddler laughingThe parental cues study, carried out by Dr Elena Hoicka in partnership with Merideth Gattis from Cardiff University, asked 41 parents to read a book to their 19- to 24-month-old toddlers.

During the research, half of the parents read their baby a caring-themed book with sentences like, ‘Baby loves mummy’s cuddle’, illustrated by a picture of a mother cuddling her baby while being fed a bottle. The other half read a funny book with sentences such as ‘Mummy drinks baby’s bottle’ accompanied by an illustration of a mother drinking from the baby’s bottle.

When parents were being funny, they spoke higher, louder and slower. The pitch of their voices also raised gradually towards the end of the sentence, as though they were asking a question.

Dr Hoicka, lecturer in Psychology explained: ‘By speaking higher, louder and slower, parents made the sentences easier for the babies to understand, which might be helpful as jokes contain some very odd ideas. However, the parents didn’t want their babies to believe their jokes, so when joking the tone of their voice made the story sound uncertain, like they didn’t really believe what they were saying.’

A follow-up study by Dr Hoicka and Professor Su-hua Wang at the University of California, recently published in the Journal of Cognition and Development, discovered that 15-month-old babies used vocal cues to figure out when someone was going to be funny.

The research involved one group of babies listening to someone coo ‘awww’ and speak in a sweet, caring voice and then either view them stroking a toy cat or carry out a funny action, such as rubbing their head with a toy cat. The other half of the babies heard someone laugh and speak in a funny voice and then carry out the same actions.

The babies who heard the caring voice looked longer when watching the funny scenario than the caring or normal action. This suggested that the babies were surprised by the strange actions. However, when the babies heard a funny voice they looked longer at the normal versus the funny action. This suggests that babies were actually more surprised by the normal action than the funny action.

Dr Hoicka said: ‘This tells us that when babies hear sweet, normal voices, they expect to see sweet, normal actions. When they hear funny voices, they expect to see funny actions. Babies are sensitive to vocal cues and can use them to look out for jokes.’

Dr Hoicka added that the findings will be very useful, as humour is an important aspect of life. ‘It helps to create social bonds, deal with stress, and can even benefit education,’ she said. ‘We know very little about how humour develops from birth so this study helps answer that question.

‘The study also highlights how parent-child interactions are important – not only for children’s humour development, but for children’s understanding of other people’s minds.’

Stirling’s Baby and Toddler Lab is looking for parents with young children, schools and nurseries, to take part in future studies. For further information, or to take part, email babytoddlerlab@stir.ac.uk or visit the University’s website.

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Stirling’s campus voted second most picturesque in the UK

The University of Stirling has been praised for its beautiful and natural surroundings by AllAboutCareers.com, a social careers information website, who rated the institution second most scenic in the UK.

The website commented that Stirling ‘certainly realises the magnetic power of its scenic campus’.

It added that Stirling is ‘widely regarded as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. Stirling really does have it all.’

The online careers information service also praised the University’s castle, lakes, woods, meadows, golf course and green open spaces.

Karen Plouviez, Stirling’s Director of Estates and Campus Services said: ‘The Stirling campus is an exceptional place to both study and work. It is also well accepted that attractive surroundings have a direct impact on the quality of learning and student satisfaction.’

The online article went viral in just a few hours of posting with more than 10,000 page views.

After being posted on the University of Stirling Facebook page, it received more than 400 likes, over 30 comments and has been shared 88 times.

Jack Collins, Managing Editor of AllAboutCareers.com, said: ‘We knew it was going to prompt a reaction from some people, but we didn’t realise it was so important to so many students.’

The rankings are based on the images and videos provided by each university on their website and were ranked accordingly by the AllAboutCareers.com judging panel.

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Partnership sees Stirling training the construction industry to safeguard the environment

The University of Stirling has forged a partnership with new professional body, the Association of Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works (AEECoW), to provide environmental training to the construction industry.

Courses, which will be provided by the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, will include environmental and ecological science, environmental management and conservation science. Links between the University and AEECoW will also increase the employability of Stirling graduates. It will give students exposure to another employment sector and experience of a professional working environment.

Stirling Professor David Gilvear is leading the partnership between AEECoW and the University. Professor Gilvear says the programme will ensure that Environmental and Ecological Clerks of Works (ECoWs) will be able to apply the knowledge and skills gained on major development projects.

ECoWs play a key role in protecting natural heritage. Driven by planning policy, their primary role is to monitor compliance with environmental legislation on development sites. However to date, there has been no clear guidance on the qualifications required of them.

Professor Gilvear said: ‘The University is delighted to be part of this process. The knowledge and information that will be shared in our training will be of immense use to those working in construction. AEECoW will help shape the future of the industry in Scotland.’

AEECoW Chair, Professor George Fleming, says the professional body has been established to create a forum for closer working between developers and those involved in protecting the natural environment.

He added: ‘AEECoW will act as a qualifying body, raising professional standards amongst those who fulfil the ECoW role.

‘It will also be one of only a few professional organisations that welcome professionals from both the development and environmental industries and will serve to promote closer working between the groups.’

Scottish Government’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP is hosting an awareness raising event at the Scottish Parliament on 9 November to promote the formation of AEECoW and the role of ECoWs.

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The University of Stirling has set its tuition fees for students from the rest of the UK

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be charged £6,750 per year to take courses at the University of Stirling from 2012, resulting in the total cost of a four-year degree course being £27,000. This figure of £27,000 is in line with the majority of other Scottish Universities’ fees for four-year degree courses.

Suitably qualified students can take advantage of direct entry to the second year of their degree course. A new range of bursaries and scholarships for both Scottish and rest of UK students will be introduced from 2012.

Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor said: ‘The University of Stirling has always believed that access to higher education should be based on ability, not background or the ability to pay. As a result of the new funding arrangements, Scottish universities have no choice but to charge fees for students from the rest of the UK. At Stirling, our bursaries and scholarships will assist eligible students to attend university and encourage wider participation in higher education. Those students who are suitably qualified can choose to complete their studies within three years.

‘It is worth emphasising that these costs are not incurred up front. Like other Scottish universities, Stirling remains free at the point of entry – with students repaying the fees when they enter employment and have an income exceeding £21,000 a year.

‘The University of Stirling is proud of its record in supporting students. We would encourage anyone with an interest in a university education to talk to us about the options available.’

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Stirling receives EU Commission’s recognition for researcher development

The University of Stirling is one of 15 universities in the UK to be awarded the HR Excellence in Research Award from the European Commission on 5 September. Stirling is now part of a select group of only 38 universities in the UK that have achieved this Award.

The HR Excellence in Research Award is made to universities which increase the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers and also recognises compliance with the RCUK (Research Councils UK) Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Dr John Rogers, Director of Research & Enterprise at the University, says: ‘We value the work of our researchers across all disciplines. This Award reflects an explicit commitment to view our researchers’ careers as a priority, with all the benefit that brings to them as individuals, to the University and to our research output and its positive economic and social impact.’

Speaking from Brussels, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said: ‘The European Commission, through its Innovation Union flagship initiative, is committed to putting research and innovation at the top of the political agenda.

‘We want to turn ideas into growth and jobs. UK universities play an important part in strengthening the excellent research base in Europe and ensure that our researchers have the right skills to maximise the value of innovation across all sectors.’

Professor Ian Simpson, Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling, says: ‘We are delighted to receive the HR Excellence in Research Award. This is a key milestone in our researcher development work and follows our early adoption of the RCUK Concordat. It marks the culmination of our significant engagement in this area and I’m very proud that Stirling is at the forefront of these developments.’

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Technological toys have not yet replaced traditional toys in the affections of preschool children

Technological toys have not yet replaced traditional toys in the affections of preschool children, according to researchers at the Universities of Stirling and Strathclyde. In fact, in a study of the play activities of three and four year olds, the number of traditional toys in the home outnumbered technological toys by 3 to 1.

In spite of the fact that we live in a fast moving technological age which has extended the range of play possibilities for young children, the researchers found that traditional toys and activities like riding a bike or playing on the swings are still among the children’s favourites.

The results of the research will be presented to early years practitioners, policy makers and parents at a conference organised by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, on Thursday and Friday 12 and 13 May. The two day programme will examine whether technological toys and games have changed the way that young children play and whether this has an effect on their learning – as well as implications for their teaching.

Dr Christine Stephen of the School of Education at Stirling says: ‘One of the new features of this work is that we have actually gone out and collected data about children’s play experiences in their homes – and doing this in their homes has prompted us to develop new ways of researching children’s use of technology, rather than by surveys or retrospective accounts.

‘There is a strong debate about the influence of technology in children’s learning. Those who follow the “toxic childhood” view believe that children shouldn’t be using technology, while others believe that technology is the way forward for early years learning.

‘Our studies suggest that technological play contributes to four kinds of learning: learning how to use the toy or technological equipment, extending knowledge and understanding of the world, developing persistence, independence and other positive dispositions and knowing how to take part in the social and leisure world of family and friends.

‘We also found that the technologies that children are permitted to play with depend on the attitudes and expectations of their parents. Children’s preferences make a difference too. Some are keen to play with technologies and like the kind of activities they offer but others prefer traditional toys and choose these even if there are others at home who are keen on using technologies.’

This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

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Stirling student wins prestigious Florida internship

A University of Stirling student has gained one of only 42 fully funded internships with leading international companies across the world this summer.

Stacey McGill, a third year student studying for a BA Hons in Human Resources, will travel to Florida at the end of June to work with international electronics design company, Jabil Circuit, as a Learning and Development Intern.

The internship is fully funded by the Saltire Foundation, which targets the most talented students in Scotland for these prestigious positions. Competition for the internships is fierce – the Saltire Foundation is looking for Scotland’s future business leaders and the opportunities to work with senior staff in leading international companies are exceptional.

Stacey says: ‘I found out about these internships in second year and I’d always wanted to apply – it’s something I always wanted to do. I was looking for an HR based internship and Jabil Circuit was offering exactly that. I don’t think it’s even sunk in yet because of exams.’

Lesley Grayburn, Joint Head of Career Development at the University says: ‘These internships help to develop students’ existing skills and make use of exceptional opportunities to network in some of the world’s leading businesses. IBM, the Wood Group, GlaxoSmithKline, Rolls Royce and General Electric are just a few of the companies involved in the programme.’

The University of Stirling has one of the highest graduate employment rates in the UK – 93% of graduates are in employment after six months. This is testament to the quality of the students themselves and to projects like the Lift Off pilot to help students and graduates to find employment.

Lesley Grayburn says: ‘We are increasingly aware of the lack of confidence that many undergraduates have and this limits their willingness to network or to step out of their comfort zones to try different things.

‘We have just completed a very successful pilot programme to address these difficulties. The Lift Off project worked with a group of students to build and develop their confidence to successfully meet the challenges of the recruitment process and build and develop employability skills. Lift off has actively helped a number of students and graduates to secure employment or places on postgraduate courses.’

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