• Constructing the university student in British documentary television

      Calver, Kay; Michael-Fox, Bethan (Routledge, 2021-03-18)
      As the number of university students in Britain has expanded so has public interest in them, expressed across a range of media. This chapter investigates how university students are conceptualised and represented in recent British documentary television. Conceiving of television as a space in which people experience and engage with complex social understandings, this chapter explores how these televisual representations reflect and negotiate a range of prominent socio-cultural concerns about students. We examine how excessive, distorted and caricatured notions of the student have led to representations that are often polarised, with students positioned as either ‘at risk’ and in need of protection or as posing ‘a risk’ to themselves, to other students, and to the university sector. In a context of shifting understandings about university students in Britain and when the expansion, cost, ‘worth’ and ‘value’ of higher education are all under scrutiny, this chapter analyses the ways in which media representations can both serve to highlight and evade the complex lived realities of university students. The documentaries examined here offer sometimes contradictory constructions of the higher education student that correspond to broader social and cultural shifts in the ways in which the university student is understood in contemporary Britain.
    • Impacts of COVID-19 and social isolation on academic staff and students at universities: a cross-sectional study

      Filho, Walter Leal; Wall, Tony; Rayman-Bacchus, Lez; Mifsud, Mark; Pritchard, Diana J.; Lovren, Violeta; Farinha, Carla; Petrovic, Danijela S.; Balogun, Abdul-Lateef; Hamburg University of Applied Sciences; et al. (Biomed Central, 2021-06-24)
      The impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the shutdown it triggered at universities across the world, led to a great degree of social isolation among university staff and students. The aim of this study was to identify the perceived consequences of this on staff and their work and on students and their studies at universities. The study used a variety of methods, which involved an on-line survey on the influences of social isolation using a non-probability sampling. More specifically, two techniques were used, namely a convenience sampling (i.e. involving members of the academic community, which are easy to reach by the study team), supported by a snow ball sampling (recruiting respondents among acquaintances of the participants). A total of 711 questionnaires from 41 countries were received. Descriptive statistics were deployed to analyse trends and to identify socio-demographic differences. Inferential statistics were used to assess significant differences among the geographical regions, work areas and other socio-demographic factors related to impacts of social isolation of university staff and students. The study reveals that 90% of the respondents have been affected by the shutdown and unable to perform normal work or studies at their institution for between 1 week to 2 months. While 70% of the respondents perceive negative impacts of COVID 19 on their work or studies, more than 60% of them value the additional time that they have had indoors with families and others. . While the majority of the respondents agree that they suffered from the lack of social interaction and communication during the social distancing/isolation, there were significant differences in the reactions to the lockdowns between academic staff and students. There are also differences in the degree of influence of some of the problems, when compared across geographical regions. In addition to policy actions that may be deployed, further research on innovative methods of teaching and communication with students is needed in order to allow staff and students to better cope with social isolation in cases of new or recurring pandemics.
    • Under pressure: representations of student suicide in higher education

      Calver, Kay; Michael-Fox, Bethan (Mortality, 2021-10-06)
      This article examines what the representation of university student suicide in three British television documentaries reveals about media constructions of suicide and the pressures young people experience at university. Within these documentaries, student suicide is positioned as a risk endemic in a high pressure, high-cost performance culture. Young students are depicted as stressed and ‘on the edge’, either as a consequence of the academic pressure of university or the coalescence of academic, financial and social pressures. Debates about the responsibility of individuals and the accountability of institutions come to the fore as depictions of students as fully fledged and responsible adults jostle with the notion of students as ‘adults in transition’, at risk and in need of institutions to actively monitor and intervene in their lives. The documentaries offer insight into shifting media constructions of the student from ‘fun loving’ and ‘carefree’ to ‘under pressure’ and ‘at risk’. Within them, student suicide is positioned not only as a profound personal loss, but as an economic loss to a society neglecting its young people.