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FMC Research process seminars – all via MS Teams – all staff welcome to participate

Hi colleagues,

For the last two and a half years, we have been running regular research seminars in the Faculty of Media and Communication. These are 60 min research seminars focussed on the process of doing research – particularly research methods but also including publishing, writing, time management etc. The idea here is that the speaker takes us through the anatomy of the project focussing particularly on the data collection and method – the challenges, the successes, and the failures. For the audience, we walk away with a practical application of a method we may not be familiar with or may not have applied in this way before.

Due to the pandemic, we have moved all of the upcoming seminars online. The benefit of this is that we are now not restricted by the size of the room, and so we can invite colleagues from across the university to attend. The schedule until the end of June is below, with links to each seminar that takes you to MS Teams – note you do not need to be in a particular Team for this link to work.

All you need to do is click on the corresponding link when the seminar is scheduled (and mute yourself while the speaker is presenting!).

If you would like to give a talk on an aspect of method or research process, then drop us a line

Dan Jackson and Sae Oshima, FMC


Thurs 30th April


Link to recording:

Dr Roman Gerodimos (FMC)

Visual Content Analysis – A flexible framework for the systematic analysis of images

In this workshop Roman will share a working method for the content analysis of images based on his recent projects. While content analysis of text is well-established in media, social and political studies, many researchers are reluctant to engage in visual analysis and there is no systematic framework for the coding of images.

The presentation will include a demonstration of specific examples of coding sheets/manuals and ways of analysing and interpreting visual data.

Are you interested in the analysis of images? Have you thought of including images in your primary research? Are you already in the midst of collecting, coding or analysing images? Do you have previous experience and lessons to share with others? If so, this session might be of value to you.

There will be some time for individual work, so by all means do bring your laptop and any project(s) that you’re currently working on.


Tues 5th May


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Dr Xin Zhao (FMC)

Doing a justice-related survey in China

I will introduce the survey I used in my ongoing research on the indirect impact of digital media use on online collective political action via the social identity model of collective action. It is conducted in the context of China’s air pollution. The research aims to clarify the mediating role of the element of justice in the model between media use and collective action. I will share with you how I: 1) design what survey questions to be included, 2) phrase the survey questions due to the limitations of Chinese-language survey platforms and China’s socio-cultural environment, 3) collect, analyse, and report the data. Moreover, the designing of some variables is exploratory due to the facts that 1) the patterns of digital media use in China are quite unique and 2) patterns of online collective political action are far from established. I would love to hear your opinions as well.


Tues 12th May


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Prof Julian McDougall (FMC)

Visual Methods: Doing Text 

In this workshop I will share my experiences using visual methods with research participants to ‘curate’ the role of media texts in reflections on identity, politics and personal narrative. The specific project I’ll talk about, ‘Comrades and Curators’, was funded by the Bill Douglas Museum in Exeter. The visual literacy fieldwork intervention I will describe involved three museum curators and a film academics’ network  ‘mapping’ their mediated identities and curational practices with a particular focus on personal and professional transformations.  The method is transferable to any research which explores the interplay of personal experience and public identity (for example, education) and, in other projects, I have done this remotely, by asking participants to send me photos of their maps, so I think it could be ‘pandemic friendly’, if that’s a thing.


Thurs 21st May


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Dr Andrea Jarman (FMC)

The Invention of ‘Legal Archaeology’

In this Workshop, I will  examine the political and scholarly context of the historical method of ‘Legal Archaeology’ and its development into a ‘methodology’ of legal research.   The paper will  discuss the scholarly and ideological background to the method, which was influenced by scholars such as  EP Thompson and JAG Griffith, and its importance for growth of law-in-context scholarship.  It will argue that the emergence of ‘legal archaeology’ as a methodology is founded upon two coinciding developments — the digitisation of legal archives and the new requirement both in the US and UK for legal scholars to have PhDs.


The paper will explore, and seek discussion with the participants about, the potential pitfalls for scholarship of legal archival material being readily, yet still selectively, available.


Tues 26th May 


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Dr Birte Asmuß (Associate Professor, Department of Management, Aarhus University, Denmark)

Analysing emotional displays in interaction

This presentation builds upon work that I conducted together with my colleague Johanna Ruusuvuori (a professor in social psychology at the University of Tampere, Finland), on the importance of emotional displays at work. In this seminar, I will show how we used the method of conversation analysis to investigate vocal and non-vocal affective displays as a prerequisite for accomplishing work-related actions – in the context of employee complaints during performance appraisal interviews. I will then discuss the role of affective displays as managing social relational aspects of institutional interaction, as well as some methodological problems related to the analysis of emotions in interaction.


Tues 2nd June


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Dr Alina Dolea (FMC)

Critical Discourse Analysis

During this seminar I will apply CDA to a corpus of focus groups data to investigate how Romanian migrants in the UK construct their identity, social status and country images. I will focus on the strategies to construct representation of us (ingroups) versus them (outgroups).

This is part of a paper that I am working on “Diaspora Diplomacy in a transnational social field: constructing identities, social status and country images” (working title). This paper aims to explore how migrants construct their identity and social status in the country of settlement in relation to their image of the country of origin. It draws on seven focus groups with Romanian migrants in the UK between 2018 and 2019.


Tues 9th June


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Dr Sae Oshima (FMC)

Transcribing: the conversation analytic approach

The practice of transcription is a key process of conversation analytic research. Here, we capture not only “what” is said but also details of “how” something is said, e.g. the precise beginning/ending of turns, speaker overlap, pause duration, as well as other vocal features such as breath and laughter. In this session I’ll go over key conventions for transcribing vocal conduct, and then briefly share how I transcribe visible behaviour such as gaze, gesture, facial expression and body posture. The fidelity and level of detail of conversational transcripts may vary, depending on your research needs, but I hope the session will provide a space for you to enhance your observational skills and reflect on your own use of transcriptions.


Tues 16th June


MS TEAMS meeting invite here

Dr Kenneth Kang (FMC)

Switching around the Constants and Variables in Analysis

This research seminar proposes an innovative switch to the way we position constants and variables when analysing our object of study. Normally, analysis indicates the problem as a given (constant), and then searches for a variety of possible solutions for the same problem. Though this schema is useful for documenting actualized solutions to a given problem, it nevertheless tells us very little about the dynamic property of a particular solution, i.e. how a solution actually works – which is of analytical use in its own right. As an innovative way forward, this seminar suggests that when things fall short, perhaps it is more rewarding not to look for variable solutions to problems, but to temporarily ask instead, which variable problems do constant solutions function to solve? From this perspective, an entirely new dimension of complexity comes into play because analysis no longer situates itself with some kind of equilibrium model or normative orientation. Rather, we enter a problem-oriented mode of analysis which aligns itself with a much more empirical or heuristic quality, and with that, to an opening of cutting-edge multidisciplinary research.

To illustrate the analytical value of this conceptual exercise, this research seminar will employ case studies ranging from romantic love, to international environmental law, and to the risk management of Covid-19.


Tues 30th June


MS TEAMS meeting here

Alexandra Alberda & Dr Anna Feigenbaum (FMC)

Research illustration & design-led Knowledge Exchange 


Abstract TBC

Follow-up from Tuesday’s COVID-19 research funding briefing call

Many thanks to those of you who participated in this week’s briefing call. By way of follow up, please see the notes below:

  • Do refer to the questions posed by UKRI looking for answers to specific research challenges – these  can be found here:
  • If you are looking for international partners, then our colleague Dr Alastair Morrison, would be delighted to assist. Please do contact him directly.
  • If you are approaching other non HE business partners, please do keep Ehren Milner and Ian Jones (OVC) in the loop.
  • With regards to developing work with respect to communications and C19, I would recommend speaking to An Nguyen/Einar Thorsen/Ann Hemingway/Dan Jackson/Darren Baines.
  • We strongly recommend that your proposal is collaborative and rapidly (i.e. within weeks ideally) delivers societal/economic impact.
  • Projects already can be funded here: (although I would anticipate a shift in what is funded in-terms of needs of society as the pandemic progresses – and Research England have assured us they are looking for proposals not just from the Russell Group).
  • If you are looking to connect with colleagues, I would recommend speaking to your Research Facilitator who can link you up with relevant colleagues – either with a bid in progress, or with a suitable knowledge base.
  • It is worth getting updates from Research Professional if you are not already – this is one of the most rapidly evolving funding environments I’ve seen in 20 years of Higher Education!

A summary of where you can find out further information with respect to the calls discussed:


With many thanks and best wishes



CEMP research: 3 findings for the ‘new normal’

3 findings from CEMP research that might be significant in the months ahead. We hesitate to over-state these or offer them as a ‘rapid response’ to Covid-19 but some of the stuff that came out of this work seems important going forward …

(1)  Virtual learning and the ‘Third Space’ – during the old normal, Julian McDougall and CEMP Visiting Fellow John Potter, from the UCL Knowledge Lab, researched the concept of the third space in digital media contexts and looked for the potential of such spaces to redistribute educational access and generate a more reciprocal, ‘porous’ exchange of knowledge from co-creation. The outcomes were published in this book and developed into a student partnership project for the International Journal of Students as Partners, with Phil Wilkinson co-editing the special issue. Here is John talking about this research with Neil Selywn.

(2) Curation and ‘dynamic literacies’ – the research with John extended into a conversation with Neil (author of the recent ‘Should Robots Replace Teachers‘) and Cathy Burnett about three of the key findings – that curation is a new (ish) literacy practice deserving of academic attention; the conditions of possibility for third spaces to impact on second spaces (schools, universities) and the difference between dynamic, agentive learning practices and static educational systems. That conversation is published here. In the midst of the current crisis, it could be argued that this dynamic / static tension is very much the challenge in the rapid move to virtual teaching and learning, but also that (inter) textual curation might be seen as culturally important during ‘lockdown’, for example the Tik Tok Carole Baskin (Tiger King) / Savage ‘fusion‘.

(3) The Uses of Media Literacy – a series of CEMP projects during 2018-19 led to a set of recommendations for policy and educational practice to the US Embassy, DCMS, School Libraries Association, Information Literacy Group and the European Union with regard to the need for media literacy in the response to information disorder and ‘fake news’, a subject that has been amplified in the current situation. The CEMP research found that the ‘uses of’ media literacy are a better focus than defining competences, returning to the work of Richard Hoggart (with John Potter, again, Pete Bennett and Kate Pahl) to offer a ‘deep dive’ into such an approach. In recommendations to the EU, we highlighted best practice in secondary school media literacy education, much of which was configured in third spaces, often virtual. The toolkit developed by Karen Fowler-Watt, Anna Feigenbaum and Julian for the US Embassy distinguishes between reactive, fact-checking or verification resources which ‘give a fish’ and a sustainable critical media literacy education (Media Studies, in the UK, as featured in Times Education) which ‘teaches to fish’, whilst the DCMS research, by Isabella Rega, Julian and Richard Wallis, not yet in the public domain, will feed into the UK Government’s Online Harms strategy. This blog post for the Information Literacy Group draws this work together. Previously, Phil, Julian and Mark Readman delivered projects for Samsung and EPSRC on a community-based third space ‘digital families’ intervention, coming to conclusions from our findings on access, identity and ‘second space’ obstacles that shaped the further work but, looking at that research again now, the findings we generated there resonate with current anxieties about inequality in home-schooling capabilities.

As stated, we don’t see these three bits of ‘new knowledge’ as immediately helpful or fully formed as education adjusts to a ‘new normal’ of digital teaching and virtual learning, nor do we suggest that a media literacy toolkit impact in the short term on public health disinformation. But we do know, from research, that it’s the way people use media literacy and how our media literacy is used, by others, that matters for social justice. And we also know, again from research, that the ‘how’ of media literacy education (dynamic, third space pedagogies) is going to be crucial to how this plays out in the future.


Comic Strip for Pregnant Women during COVID-19

Becoming a parent is an exciting time, but it also brings many challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.  BU’s PATH project team has produced a comic book to point pregnant women and their families to a collection of trusted online resources.   The interactive version of the book is here 

PATH is a pan-European project for Perinatal Mental Health. BU’s PATH team members are Dr Ricardo Colasanti, Dr Li Zequn, My Karsten Pedersen, and Professor Wen Tang.

Dr. Miguel Moital assesses two new course proposals for A3ES

Dr. Miguel Moital, Principal Academic in Events Management within the Department of Events & Leisure, has assessed two new course proposals for the Portuguese Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education – A3ES. In 2018 Miguel was appointed international expert and external examiner for A3ES, the governmental agency validates and re-validates programmes at graduate, postgraduate and Doctoral level.

Each new course validation panel is made up of three academics, one of each is an international expert. Miguel acted as the team leader in one of the validations and team member in the other one.

RDS advice to academics during Covid-19

Just over a month ago, RDS created a static blog page to give advice to academics during Covid-19. This has rapidly grown and so to help you navigate through the information, there is now a main page and then links to the following sections for further information:

  • UK Funder news
  • International Funder (mainly European) news
  • Funding Development Team Guidance to applicants to external funding
  • Project Delivery Team Guidance for Principal Investigators (PIs) of Research and Knowledge Exchange Projects + Ethics Approval
  • Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021
  • Guidance for clinical researchers – amendments to existing projects

Please visit the main Covid-19 page for all your advice needs.

Researching COVID-19 and associated impacts – update from the Tuesday briefing

Dear all

Many thanks to those of you who attended today’s virtual briefing session (and bearing with us as we tested a new form of engagement!) As promised, the information is being provided on the virtual MS Team – please do join this group and interact as appropriate.

Funding calls referred to today can be found via the following links:

  • UKRI funding hub.
  • MRC/NIHR rapid response call. The second round of funding has seen 21 new projects funded, in addition to the six projects funded in the first round. £14.1m of the £24.6m budget has already been allocated. You can find info on the funded projects here: (thanks to Lisa for this information)
  • All disciplinary areas can apply for funding, it is worth viewing e.g. the AHRC and ESRC.
  • There is also a considerable volume of Innovate UK funding in the pipeline – for which industry collaboration is essential. Furthermore, given recent government announcements, we expect a strong component of economic recovery to be predicated on industry led R&D.

Some points to note:

  • Usual processes apply – including institutional approvals. Please refer to the updates cascaded internally.
  • RDS are working remotely but are here to help. Please refer to the Research Blog if you are ensure as to who to contact within the Funding Development Team.
  • In-terms of developing a strong proposal, further to our discussions with funders, please do be aware:
    • Funding applications need to deliver impact rapidly. As highlighted as part of the discussion, this may be best done through collaboration with external partners e.g. policy makers, industry partners etc) – they are not for incremental disciplinary based progress.
    • Strong proposals are likely to be interdisciplinary/collaborative in nature.
    • Equality and diversity (in all aspects, not just gender) is a theme which UKRI are especially keen to see researchers addressing.

If you would like to test out ideas/develop concepts, we can assist through our normal support, but in addition by:

  • Anonymously adding text to the MS Teams site and we will invite comment on your behalf
  • Providing an opportunity to discuss your concept over videoconference and we can ask others to feedback – the emphasis on both mechanisms being friendly and supportive!

Furthermore, I am keen to hear your feedback as to how we can maximise effective engagement whilst our campus is closed to ensure that BU offers the most effective response aligned to our areas of strategic research growth.

One final note is that our corporate communications team is keen to hear about colleagues who are doing excellent work with regards to COVID-19 and its impacts. You are welcome to send me through some details and/or email directly to advise – please don’t be shy.

Take care and stay safe,

Very best wishes


Contributing research findings and tapping into personal research networks to support the COVID-19 local response

I have spent 14 days (8 full days of my annual leave) volunteering and helping to coordinate volunteer activities in the local COVID-19 support effort to assist people in my local Ward in Exeter.

Like other councils, ours also developed a response mobilising local communities to support those who were most affected by the lockdown and isolation. In Exeter Devon and Cornwall police were pro-active and identified members of local communities to create and drive community networks just before the lock down.

My volunteering started with my offer to pick up a prescription for a lady who has a terminal illness and in an at-risk group.  As part of my research activities, I had been working very closely with a City Council and various charities in Devon to assist in refugee resettlement. I was able to access my network immediately to provide for the emerging needs of COVID-19 in my community.  I have become part of the volunteering coordinating team of 6 people in my local ward and we have put together a very strategic but compassionate response locally and other wards in Exeter have started following our lead by using our combined expertise (and dedication).  There is yet much more work to do and we are determined to get our community through this in good health and spirit.  I wanted to report on some insights so far:

Our ward has over 100 volunteers and 5000 residents.  Our key coordinators started with setting up Whatsapp groups dedicated to each of the sub geographical areas and specialised needs of our community and we have call outs going out every day for volunteers.    Last week our most important topic of discussion was how we get support out to those who are most vulnerable in our community.  With everyone’s heads together we have managed to come up with a poster, flyer, social media and mail out campaign to local faith organisations as an immediate solution.  I have used my research findings from working with vulnerable groups has helped me to develop a website dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of volunteers as they go about supporting people.

This week our biggest topic of volunteer discussion has been about how we get free food to people who are most affected by the economic downturn created by COVID-19.  We sourcing all our contacts and  working with local food charities and networks in other wards to address this. We are also making sure that we are supporting local businesses in our activities – who have been amazing and offered us many services and products for free to help the effort even during a difficult time for them.  We had some lighter moments too which has helped real connection, like discussions about Matt our lead coordinator’s 7 day isolation where Karen had made sure he stayed in one room so her and the girls can still help in the effort. We are relieved that he is out of isolation today and the girls have 7 more days to go to stay in with government advise.

I have been heartened to see the the sheer effort that is going in in my community to help those who are lonely, hungry or unwell.  People are going a distance to put a poster up, to find ways to cook a meal for a neighbour, to make sure someone is well fed with the food they want to eat, that people are well and in good spirits.  I have seen a tremendous amount of compassion and regard for each other and I really hope that this continues well after the lockdown.

For now we have a lot of work to do to get our communities through this very difficult time.

Dr Varuni Wimalasiri

Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour

Faculty of Management

COVID volunteer web page_vwimalasiri

Congratulation to BU nutritionists

This week Elsevier  Publishers sent the proofs for a book chapter written by two Bournemouth University nutrition researchers: Fotini Tsofliou and Iro Arvanitidou in collaboration with an academic colleague from Greece: Xenophon Theodoridis.  The chapter ‘Toward a Mediterranean-style diet outside the Mediterranean countries: Evidence of implementation and adherence’​ will appear in 2021 in the second edition of the book  The Mediterranean diet edited by Victor R. Preedy and Ronald R. Watson


Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH)

RKEDF – Research Ethics @ BU

On Tuesday 19 May (11 am – 1 pm), RDS are running a practical 2 hour workshop on research ethics focusing on navigating the online ethics checklist and the review and approval process.  So if you’re in the process of putting together an ethics application or in need of a refresher, this workshop is for you.

The workshop is open to Researchers (staff).  Details of workshops available to Postgraduate Research Students can be accessed via Brightspace.

Workshop Aims:

How to navigate the online ethics checklsit and the review and approval process will be discussed, including how risk is identified.  By the end of this workshop you will have an understanding about:

  • How to complete an online ethics checklist
  • The process for gaining ethics approval
  • What makes a good application

If you’re interested in attending then reserve your place via Organisational Development.

BU midwifery paper cited in WHO report

Last week the Regional Office for South East Asia of the WHO (World Health Organization) published its strategy for strengthening midwifery [1].  The report highlights how Bangladesh, India and Nepal have recently introduced midwifery education. They joined DPR Korea, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and TimorLeste in establishing midwives as an independent cadre of the health workforce.

This report cited our 2015 paper on midwifery developments in Nepal which appeared in the Journal of Asian Midwives [2].  The lead author Jillian Ireland is a Visiting Faculty in the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH) and Professional Midwifery Advocate at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, my other co-author, Joy Kemp, is Global Professional Adviser at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).  The paper reflects on the RCM Global Midwifery Twinning Project in Nepal.  The paper argues that the presence of a strong professional association of midwives in a country yields double benefits. On one side, the association provides inputs into framing policies and developing standards of care, and on the other, it ensures quality services by continuously updating its members with information and evidence for practice.

Bournemouth University’s work in Nepal is ongoing with a project run by CMMPH helping to develop midwifery education and training the trainers funded by the German aid organisation GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit).



  1. World Health Organization. Regional Office for South-East Asia (2020) Regional Strategic Directions for strengthening Midwifery in the South-East Asia Region 2020–2024, Delhi: World Health Organization. Regional Office for South-East Asia.
  2. Ireland, J., van Teijlingen, E, Kemp J. (2015) Twinning in Nepal: the Royal College of Midwives UK and the Midwifery Society of Nepal working in partnership, Journal of Asian Midwives 2 (1): 26-33.


COVID-19 and the rise of Virtual Conferences

Yesterday we had a conference paper accepted by the EUPHA (European Public Health Association) International Conference.  When the paper was originally submitted to the EUPHA Health Workforce Research Section Mid-term Conference we had opted for an oral presentation in person at the conference in Romania this summer.  However, with the COVID-19 pandemic travelling to Romania to attend this conference is not an option for many (if not most) academics.  Therefore the organising committee took the initiative to re-arrange it as a virtual meeting.   Further good news for us is that participation will be free.

Of course, I am aware that some of the strengths of attending conferences include having unexpected discussions (often in the bar) with fellow academics and being away from the day job.  At the moment being forced to choose between postponing or cancelling a conference or changing to a virtual meeting conference organisers may want to reflect on  “… ask how conferences make a difference.”  This question was  originally raised in the book Academic Conferences as Neoliberal Commodities by Donald Nicholson [1].

We should have moved to more virtual meetings and  online conferences much sooner, but it is easy to say with hindsight!  The COVID-19 crisis has thought us that virtual classrooms, internet-based tutorials, Zoom meetings and online conferences can work, albeit with their limitations.  It is worth considering the return of investment of a conference [2] not just for the conference organisers (and funders) but also  individual academics as less travel will be saving time  and society as reducing  travel, especially international flights, will improve our carbon foot print.


Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH)



  1. Nicholson. D.J. (2017) Academic Conferences as Neoliberal CommoditiesPalgrave Macmillan.
  2. Nicholson. D.J. (2018) Guest post by Donald Nicolson: The problem of thinking about conferences and Return on Investment (ROI) 


Psychological skills for health workers in Nepal

Yesterday  Dr. Shanti Shanker (Lecturer in Psychology), BU Visiting Faculty Jillian Ireland and I produced a short three-minute video for health care workers in Nepal on the topic of living with uncertainty and the COVID-19 virus. Hopefully this will be the first in a series from our Bournemouth University team.  The video is based on work funded by GCRF in the United Kingdom and supported by two NGOs (non-Governmental Organisations): (a) Sheetal Astitva and  (b) Green Taral Nepal as well as Symbiosis International (Deemed University).

This video can be accessed here!

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

BU policy update for the w/e 1st April 2020

HE news in the media has been dominated by talk of student number controls while the sector wrestles with decisions over student exams.

Parliamentary Business


Alex Chisholm has been announced as the new Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office and Chief Operating Officer for the Civil Service. Alex is currently serving as Permanent Secretary at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and was previously Chief Executive of the Competition & Markets Authority. He has also held senior executive positions in the media, technology and e-commerce industries, with Pearson plc, Financial Times Group, eCountries Inc and Ecceleration Ltd.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, said:

  • In the medium term, much of Alex’s work will necessarily be coronavirus response related. But Alex will be responsible for supporting ministers to develop and then drive forward a reform programme for the Civil Service, building on the Government’s existing efficiency programme. He will also supervise all the Cabinet Office’s various work programmes including on preparing for the end of the transition period, strengthening the union, and defending our democracy.

Jeremy Pocklington has been appointed as the new Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Health Education England has announced that current interim Chief Nurse Mark Radford has been permanently appointed.

Student Number Controls

The major news since the last policy update is speculation over the potential return of student number controls to limit recruitment. It is suggested that capping numbers (limiting the number of students a university can take for a particular programme) would help stabilise the sector by preventing some universities from taking a higher number of UK students to fill places that would have been filled by international students, who may not come because of the virus.

Alongside the domestic young population dip hitting the lowest point this year (increasing competition between providers) Coronavirus also threatens the international student recruitment. With Government intimating that lockdown or lighter restrictions last between 3 and 6 months the concern is that the much-needed funds from international students won’t be forthcoming if the students cannot enter the country or undertake face to face tuition. EU student numbers would fall too if lockdown continues to prohibit travelling.

Since the removal of student number controls in 2015 there have been regular stories about financial stability as the higher tariff or ‘prestigious’ universities recruited increased numbers of students – leaving the mid or lower tariff providers with less demand for their places, especially as the UK approached the bottom of its demographic dip in the number of 18 year olds.

The flip side is that capping student numbers means some students are unable to get a place on a programme or at their preferred provider. The government wants all students to aspire to the “higher tariff” institutions and to have a choice of providers. Of most concern in this scenario is the risk that disadvantaged students are the least likely to achieve the place at the provider they wished for due to a combination of lack of careers support, guidance, lower predicted grades, parental support and intervention and access to relevant (unpaid) work experience or social networks. And the government has said, for some time, that it does not want to cap the number of students attending university, with the social mobility benefits that this has.  So the government doesn’t like student number controls.

The coronavirus pandemic has destabilised business, education, the whole economy, and this may be one way for Ministers to prevent some HE providers becoming big winners from the disruption whilst the losers collapse. The lower tariff providers are most at risk and these are the institutions that often sit at the heart of communities that have no one local or regional HE institutions, and that take higher numbers of disadvantaged students. If these institutions collapse it is a big fail for social mobility, affecting the lives of these students and future generations.

So far the Government has moved to prevent new unconditional offers being made or converting conditional offers already made to unconditional while they are finalising the exam grade awarding strategy. The Government has not spoken out on the return of student number control (yet). Although the media and HE blogging organisations seem to be doing the job for them! Here are some of the sources:

The Guardian has been at the centre of the debate from the outset:

  • Strict limits on the number of students that each university in England can recruit are set to be imposed by the government in an effort to avoid a free-for-all on admissions, with institutions plunged into financial turmoil as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has learned.
  • A government source said each university would face limits on the number of UK and EU undergraduates it could admit for the academic year starting in September, in a move backed by higher education leaders.

As the Guardian article mentions UUK’s response to the proposal has also been at the forefront.  The Guardian article states the board of UUK approved the return of student number caps and an edited article quotes Alistair Jarvis (Chief Exec UUK) as saying

  • “The UUK board discussed a range of measures needed to promote financial stability of the sector in these tough times. Foremost was the need for government financial support for universities. Student number controls were discussed and it was agreed that further consideration of the pros and cons were needed, with further input from members.” (Alistair tweeted to state the Board had not approved student numbers after the original Guardian article was published, hence ‘student number controls were discussed’ and RP cover the backtrack here).

The offers for students – Research Professional (RP) analyse whether degree outcomes vary based on unconditional offers (including conditional unconditional offers).

The Mail Online is convinced that student number controls are back and write as if the Government has already announced this – Government will place strict limit on student numbers in bid to avoid admissions free-for-all at universities hit by coronavirus

RP also ask in Aftershock if number controls are reintroduced then…: The Guardian’s article is well sourced but lacks detail. Are students who have had their A levels cancelled now going to be told that they cannot go to the university of their choice? That could have a significant impact on recruitment across the board come September.

The Guardian followed up their original article with Concern for A-level students over chaos on university admissions which covers exactly what RP raise above – that students holding offers may no longer have a place to attend. It also includes comment from David Willetts:

  • David Willetts removed student number controls from 2015 when he was minister for universities and science. Writing for the Higher Education Policy Institute in a blog due to be published on Tuesday, he said: “University is a safe haven for young people in these tough times. We can expect many more 18-year-olds to try to get to university now as the alternatives are so poor at the moment. If the government does reintroduce number controls (which I would regret), it must not do so in a way that reduces opportunities for young people to go to university.”

The Guardian also publish an opinion piece – Covid-19 is our best chance to change universities for good.

HEPI have much to say on student number controls. Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, worked for David Willets ex-Universities Minister and recalls that the abolishing of student number controls was announced on his last day in the job. Elsewhere on HEPI there is a blog Eight interventions for mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on higher education; number 1 is the re-imposition of student number controls to ensure that institutions have a viable first year student population. They suggest that – Realistically, given the damage to school students’ education and examination preparation, this will not be a one-year exercise. There are a number of ways this could happen, either by setting institution by institution limits on admissions (as was the case until 2011) or by limiting variance to +/-5 per cent for any institution against a three year average of admissions (from 2017 to 2019 inclusively). In the longer term, there should be a fundamental review of the operation of the market.  The blog is worth a full read covering other topical elements such as impact on current student retention and progression rates, rent support, contextual admissions, ditching the NSS (national student survey for 2020), increasing quality-related research funding to stabilise the research base and establishing a digital learning leadership fund.

Nick Hillman (HEPI) is also quoted in the Guardian article:

  • …there are people who have long wanted to restrict access to higher education who might see this as the chance to do it. Yet when there are fewer jobs to go around, education becomes more important, not less. And: Reintroducing number caps would protect those universities that have grown the most in recent years by locking down the number of home students that they educate and stopping others from growing at their expense. Older, more prestigious universities would be the biggest losers, as they had hoped to be able to replace lost international students with more home students.

Other HEPI blogs:

Other sources:

There may be more news on this soon.


The NUS has called for all non-essential (year 1 and 2) exams to be cancelled to reduce anxiety for these students and allow HEIs to focus on facilitating the best possible assessment experience for the final year students. Coverage in the Guardian states that NUS say: disabled, international and poorer students would be significantly disadvantaged if universities go through with plans to hold online exams and assessments next term. [Because accessibility has been lost or left behind in the swift move to online teaching and assessment.]… final-year students should be given a choice of how to complete their degrees, such as receiving an estimated grade based on prior attainment, doing an open book online exam, or taking their finals at the university at a later date.

Claire Sosienski-Smith, the NUS vice-president (Higher Education): “In the current climate, student welfare must come first…It is vital that there are no compulsory exams this year.”

NUS also call for PG students to have a 6-month extension on their submission deadlines.

Similar to student number controls there is a wealth of media attention and material on exams this week. There are nationwide reports of petitions and students campaigning on a range of factors, including ‘no detriment’ policies. No detriment means the average grade the student has already earned from previous assessments is taken as a given and any further assessments can only build to increase the overall grade awarded (not decrease). However, the devil is in the detail and the application.  For example, how can students demonstrate they have met professional registration or statutory regulatory requirements? And in some approaches students have to pass this year’s assessment – if they do better their grade goes up, if worse their grade remains at previous average, if they don’t pass the assessment then their average grade may be in question. No doubt at some point a bright spark will point out that a no detriment policy when going into a final exam is much the same motivation as entering A levels with an unconditional university offer. Brace yourself for headlines not only about grade inflation but about final exam underachievement.

BU readers should know that BU has also announced a “no detriment” policy with the details being worked out on a programme by programme basis.

The Tab summarises a range of approaches and highlights which details universities are following that approach. It covers final and earlier year exams, graded assessments versus pass and fail marking, and dissertation extensions.

Other media:

Horizon Scanning

To catch up on wider regular policy issues –  you can read our BU policy horizon scan.

Research & KEF

On Tuesday Wonkhe reported that the Knowledge Exchange Concordat has been postponed.

A research related parliamentary question:

Q – Dr Lisa Cameron: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to Budget 2020, what proportion of the £22 billion investment in R&D he plans to allocate to (a) performing and (b) funding R&D. [33613]

A – Jesse Norman: The Government is committed to supporting the UK’s leadership in science and innovation, and set out an ambition to increase economy-wide investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. At the 2020 Budget, the Government announced that it would increase public investment in R&D to £22bn by 2024-25, the largest ever increase in support for R&D. This will support innovators and researchers across the UK to develop their brilliant ideas, cutting edge technologies and ground breaking research. The majority of this uplift will be allocated at the Spending Review, including support for various R&D programmes. The Government will set out further details in due course

Mental Health

The Department of Health and Social Care released new public guidance regarding mental health support during the coronavirus outbreak covering areas from medication, to managing wellbeing, medication and coping mechanisms. There is easy read guidance for those that need this. The Government have also announced £5 million for leading mental health charities, administered by Mind. And NHS Mental Health Providers are establishing 24/7 helplines.

Paul Farmer, Mind Chief Executive, stated:

  • We are facing one of the toughest ever times for our mental wellbeing as a nation. It is absolutely vital that people pull together and do all they can to look after themselves and their loved ones, when we are all facing a huge amount of change and uncertainty…Charities like Mind have a role to play in helping people cope not only with the initial emergency but coming to terms with how this will affect us well into the future. Whether we have an existing mental health problem or not, we are all going to need extra help to deal with the consequences of this unprecedented set of circumstances.

Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director, said:

  • The NHS is stepping up to offer people help when and how they need it, including by phone, facetime, skype or digitally enabled therapy packages and we also have accelerated plans for crisis response service 24/7…We are determined to respond to people’s needs during this challenging time and working with our partners across the health sector and in the community, NHS mental health services will be there through what is undoubtedly one of the greatest healthcare challenges the NHS has ever faced.

The Times has an article on student mental health focusing on anxiety caused by uncertainties such as exams: Panic and anxiety after education is plunged into limbo.

Brexit & immigration

Withdrawal Agreement

The Government has published a press release outlining that the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee met virtually on Monday 30 March to discuss the application and interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement. There is a factsheet about the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee here.

EU Settlement Scheme

The EU settlement scheme continues. However, the Home Office has clarified that while applications continue to be processed, during this challenging time they will take longer than usual. And the resolution centre will only respond to email inquiries, not telephone; all the ID document scanner locations have been suspended as is the postal route to submit identity evidence. The Home Office reminds: there are still 15 months before the deadline of 30 June 2021 for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme, and there is plenty of support available online to support those looking to apply. This includes translated communications materials and alternative formats being made available.


The Government has announced visa extensions until 31st May for all foreign nationals in the UK. Individuals who are in the UK and whose visa expired after 24th January are being urged to contact the Home Office to be issued with the May extension. The Government have confirmed they will continue to kept the timescales under review in case further extension is needed.

A dedicated Covid-19 immigration team has been set up within the Home Office to make the process as “straightforward as possible” for visa holders. To help those who want to apply for visas to stay in the UK long-term, the Home Office is also temporarily expanding the in-country switching provisions. In light of the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home.

Priti Patel, Home Secretary, stated: The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control. By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work.

NHS Visas – 1 year extension & Student Nurses

The Home Office have announced that doctors, nurses and paramedics will automatically have their visas extended for one year, free of charge. The extension also covers family members. This measure will also help bolster the number of NHS staff able to work during the coronavirus situation.

Restrictions limiting the number of hours that student nurses and doctors can work in the NHS have also been lifted.

Priti Patel said:

  • Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do. I don’t want them distracted by the visa process. That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year.


NUS ran its hustings and voting for the election of the presidential and executive officers online for the first time ever. Hillary Gyebi-Ababio has been elected NUS UK’s Vice-President Higher Education for a two-year term receiving 85% of the vote. Hillary is currently the Undergraduate Education Officer at University of Bristol Students’ Union. She states she believes that education should be free, accessible and open to all, with students from all backgrounds and identities being able to engage with and shape the education they deserve. She wants students to be at the centre of their education, not viewed as metrics in a market. She will be fighting for an education system that puts students first. Hillary commented:

  • “It is an honour to be elected as the new Vice President Higher Education of our new and reformed NUS. The fact that students all over the country have trusted me with this role is a sign of how much there is a need for a NUS that puts students at the heart of all it does. I am committed to ensuring that every student, regardless of background, circumstance or identity is heard, seen and cared for. This is going to be an exciting time for the student movement, and the beginning of a new and revitalised NUS.”

Student Experience

Lawyer Smita Jamdar blogs on the consequences of the changes to teaching, assessment and student services as a result of Covid-19 and what universities should be considering to ensure they stay on the right side of the Consumer Rights Act.

Accessibility & Mitigation

Wonkhe write: Is online teaching accessible to all? The sector has (mostly) shifted teaching online – but this has been the very opposite of the kind of planned migration that would be considered best practice by digital delivery experts. In the rush to ensure that students could continue their studies it is very likely that the needs of some students – specific learning needs, disabilities, and external factors – have been forgotten. The next phase of the great leap online will be unpicking where mitigations and alternatives need to be put in place to ensure every student can continue their education during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Wonkhe have one blog on the ethics sitting behind it all: The sudden shift to online provision has failed to consider the needs of all students, and may have been built on tools of uncertain provenance.

And a further blog from Martin McLean from the National Deaf Children’s Society on the mitigations required for deaf students to succeed in online teaching and assessment.

Parliamentary Questions

Student Enrolment/Employment

Q – Dr Luke Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with universities on ensuring that students remain enrolled at their institution in the event (a) that they lose their part-time employment and (b) of another change in their financial situation as a result of the covid-19 outbreak. [33725]

A – Michelle Donelan: The government is working closely with the sector on a wide range of issues, and student wellbeing is at the heart of those discussions. It will be for universities to deal with individual students’ situations. Universities know how best to provide support and maintain hardship funds, which can be deployed where necessary, which is especially important for students who are estranged from their families, disabled or have health vulnerabilities.

Students will continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for the remainder of the current, 2019/20, academic year. If they are employed or self-employed, they may also be able to benefit from the wider measures of support announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If agreed with their employer, their employer might be able to keep them on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for them to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’. They could get paid 80% of their wages, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.


Q – Preet Kaur Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with the chief executive of the student loans company on the potential merits of refunding loans for the third term of this academic year. [33730]

A – Michelle Donelan: The Student Loans Company (SLC) will continue to make scheduled tuition and maintenance payments to both students and providers. Both tuition and maintenance payments will continue irrespective of whether learning has moved online. This has been communicated via the SLC website. We are continuing to monitor the position.

Inquiries and Consultations

Click here to view the updated inquiries and consultation tracker. Email us on if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

New consultations and inquiries this week:

  • The Commons Education select committee is running an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services – how the outbreak of COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of the education sector and children’s social care system and will scrutinise how the Department for Education is dealing with the situation. It will examine both short term impacts, such as the effects of school closures and exam cancellations, as well as longer-term implications particularly for the most vulnerable children. Closes: 30 September 2020
  • The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry to hear about the different and disproportionate impact that the Coronavirus – and measures to tackle it – is having on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act. Closes: 30 April 2020

Other news

  • Data Futures: HESA have published the latest data futures guidance. Wonkhe write on the release: The release of version 1.0.0 of the HESA Data Futures manual offers a welcome indication that, Data Futures, the long-planned overhaul of student data collection will be going ahead. The new materials suggest three data collection points (one per “reference point”) each year, confirming the move away from continuous collection. Also from HESA, a detailed methodology statement (in two parts) on Graduate Outcomes.
  • Student rent: The BBC has an article on the Bristol students staging rent strikes. They are campaigning about the lack of flexibility or forgiveness from landlords. In particular students who have lost their part time jobs or are unable to work because they are self-isolating are detailed. And Wonkhe report that Shadow Secretaries of State John Healey and Angela Rayner have written to government ministers to raise concerns about student accommodation fees for the summer term – requesting action for students living in halls and for those in the private rented accommodation sector.


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Nepal publication: Smoking & suicide ideation

Published earlier this week in the Nepal Journal of Epidemiology a BU co-authored paper on ‘Cigarette smoking dose-response and suicidal ideation among young people in Nepal: a cross-sectional study’ [1].   The authors conducted a cross-sectional questionnaire-based survey with 452 young people in Nepal’s second largest city Pokhara.  The study matched participants by age and smoking status. The mean age was 21.6 years and 58.8% were males. The overall rate of suicidal ideation in our cohort was 8.9%. Smokers were slightly more likely to report suicidal ideation than non-smokers (aOR 1.12). The risk of developing suicidal ideation was 3.56 (95% CI 1.26-10.09) times more in individuals who smoked greater than 3.5 cigarettes per week (p=0.01).
The paper concludes that the rate of suicidal ideation was slightly higher among smokers and a dose-response relationship  existed linked with the number of cigarettes smoked per week. Being aware of the link between smoking and
suicidal ideation may help health care professionals working with young people to address more effectively the issues of mental well-being and thoughts about suicide.  The Nepal Journal of Epidemiology is an Open Access journal hence this public health  paper is freely available to readers across the globe.


  1. Sathian, B., Menezes, R.G., Asim, M., Mekkodathil, A., Sreedharan, J., Banerjee, I., van Teijlingen, E.R., Roy, B., Subramanya, S.H., .Kharoshah, M.A., Rajesh, E., Shetty, U., Arun, M., Ram, P., Srivastava, V.K. (2020) Cigarette smoking dose-response and suicidal ideation among young people in Nepal: a cross-sectional study, Nepal Journal of Epidemiology 10 (1): 821-829

New FHSS nutrition publication

Congratulations to FHSS academics Dr. Fotini Tsofliou and Prof. Carol Clark on the acceptance for publication of their latest article ‘Effects of lunch club attendance on the dietary intake of older adults in the UK: a pilot cross-sectional study’ [1].  This paper is forthcoming in the journal Nutrition & Health (published by SAGE).



  1. Tsofliou, Fotini; Grammatikopoulou, Maria; Lumley, Rosie; Gkiouras, Konstantinos; Lara, Jose ; Clark, Carol (2020)  Effects of lunch club attendance on the dietary intake of older adults in the UK: a pilot cross-sectional study.  Nutrition & Health (accepted)

COVID-19 Pandemic: Public Health Implications in Nepal

Our editorial today in the Nepal Journal of Epidemiology highlights some of the key issues related to COVID-19 related to a low-income country such as Nepal [1].  There are various Public Health challenges to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in South Asia including Nepal. Learning from the  COVID-19 outbreak in China, there will be slowdown of economic activity with damaged supply chains which impact upon the public health systems in Nepal. Moreover, there is limited coordination among different stakeholders in healthcare management with few policies in place for infection prevention and control, shortage of testing kits and medical supplies (shortages of masks, gloves), and poor reporting are major challenges to be tackled in case of the COVID-19.

All South Asian countries are vulnerable to a mass outbreak with high population density in cities which is challenging to create social distancing, made worse by generally poor hygiene and often low (health) literacy. Additionally, some COVID-19 cases remain asymptomatic; so it is difficult to predict the epidemic outbreak that may introduces further difficulty in diagnosis of newer cases. Finally, healthcare workers across the globe were infected at high rates during the MERS and SARS outbreaks, so Nepal has to initiate health workers’ training including simulation exercises to provide health staff with a clearer picture of the complexities and challenges associated with COVID-19 and containing potential outbreaks.

This editorial has a very different time span between submission and publication than the one highlighted last week on the BU Research Blog (see details here!).  This  COVID-19 editorial took exactly one month between submission and publication, the one mentioned last week took  three-and-a-half years between submission and publication.


Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen



  1. Asim, M., Sathian, B., van Teijlingen, E.R., Mekkodathil, A., Subramanya, S.H., Simkhada, P. (2020) COVID-19 Pandemic: Public Health Implications in Nepal, Nepal Journal of Epidemiology 10 (1): 817-820.

RKEDF – Research Ethics @ BU

On Tuesday 19 May (11 am – 1 pm), RDS are running a practical 2 hour workshop on research ethics focusing on navigating the online ethics checklist and the review and approval process.  So if you’re in the process of putting together an ethics application or in need of a refresher, this workshop is for you.

The workshop is open to Researchers (staff).  Details of workshops available to Postgraduate Research Students can be accessed via Brightspace.

Workshop Aims:

How to navigate the online ethics checklsit and the review and approval process will be discussed, including how risk is identified.  By the end of this workshop you will have an understanding about:

  • How to complete an online ethics checklist
  • The process for gaining ethics approval
  • What makes a good application

If you’re interested in attending then reserve your place via Organisational Development.