Studentsphere: Edition 3

By Kirsty-Louise Hunt, News Editor

Local, national and global student news at a glance

Peer Support Survey

Strathclyde Student Union is seeking the views of students ahead of the launch of a new peer support system in the next academic year.

The scheme is being launched in partnership with the University, who will jointly fund the venture.

The system will be based within departments, led by students and delivered in partnership with staff. Its aim is to improve retention rates, grades and student satisfaction as well as providing support for traditionally hard to reach students.

Union representative James Ferns, Vice President of Education, is leading the initiative and has carried out research into Peer Support in a number of other higher education institutions. He said:

“Currently we are in our research stage and will be launching four pilots during semester two.

“The opinions of students will shape how Peer Support will take form. We held a workshop on peer support during student rep congress and have put together a short survey for the student body in general to take part in.

“Both of these initiatives with feed into the shape peer support will take.”

Students can access the survey online at


Universities UK publishes new guidance on controversial speakers

Umbrella group Universities UK (UUK) last month published new guidance aimed at supporting universities to manage guest speakers.

The report, “External speakers in higher education institutions”, detailled factors Universities should consider when inviting someone to speak.

One suggestion which caused a flurry of controversy among student and women’s rights groups was that it may be acceptable for Universities to segregate men and women at the behest of a controversial speaker, so long as they are seated side by side and women are not required to sit at the back.

The report attempted to tackle the difficult issue of balancing rights of opposing groups by stating:

“Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.

“Those opposed to segregation are entitled to engage in lawful protest against segregation, and could be encouraged to hold a separate debate of the issues, but their views do not require an institution to stifle a religious society’s segregated debate where the segregation accords with a genuinely-held religious belief.”

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of UUK, said: “Although most speakers are uncontroversial, some will express contentious, even inflammatory or offensive views.

“Universities have to balance their obligation to encourage free speech with their duties to ensure that the law is observed, the safety and security of staff, students and visitors secured, and good campus relations promoted. In practice, achieving this balance is not always easy.”

More information and a full copy of the new publication can be found online at


Malala Yousafzai awarded ‘freedom of thought’ prize by EU Parliament

Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the Sakharov prize by the European Parliament.

The Sakharov prize for freedom of thought is named for Soviet dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov, established in 1988 to honour those who dedicate their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought.

Yousafzai, 16, was shot in the head by the Taliban last year following her outspoken views on women’s rights and education.

Having miraculously survived the attempt on her life, Yousafzai – who now resides in Birmingham – has only increased her fervour in her campaign to secure education for all.

Accepting the award in a speech to the European Parliament, she said: “I’m hopeful the European Parliament will look beyond Europe – to the suffering countries where people are still deprived of their basic rights, where freedom of thought is supressed and freedom of speech is in chains.”

She added: “A country with talented, skilful and educated people is the real superpower – not the country with tonnes of soldiers and weapons.”

Despite her popularity in Europe and America – the 16 year old recently demonstrated her fearlessness during a trip to the US, in which she met President Obama and challenged him on his administration’s controversial drone strikes in Pakistan – Malala continues to be a controversial figure in her home country.

Her memoir, ‘I Am Malala’, which details her fight for the right to an education is currently banned from most schools in Pakistan.

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