Transforming | Lives
Academics at our university inspire, challenge, listen and innovate. They transform the way our students think and view the world. Their teaching is the foundation for the student experience at Leeds Beckett, while their research directly impacts the way we lead our lives.
Our university is a community of great people – meet a handful of them below.
Art for art's sake?
"I’m interested in how each generation of artists shifts and changes what art is. Art comes from the culture and society of today. Our students are cultural experts. My job is to help them recognise this and make use of that knowledge.
“As an artist engaged in performance, my work is not defined by materials but by actions. I want my audiences and students to examine their connection and interest in their own culture, as well as the cultures of others, particularly where that culture is found in everyday experiences and expressions. What they are watching, posting, playing, reading and listening to is potentially art. A performance via Instagram is as valid an exploration of culture as a sculpture or a painting.
“Fine art gives you a great deal of freedom, but that degree of independence takes discipline and motivation. The New York Times has described studying art as akin to studying a new business course. Fine art students study every creative and entrepreneurial process: research, development, production, presentation, evaluation and marketing.
“Every student artist follows this process. For me, it’s about a way of thinking and looking at the world. It's pure creative making and thinking! Equipped with this, they can and do anything and everything."
Harold Offeh, Reader in Fine Art
School of Art, Architecture & Design
Your time at uni
We have an innovative approach to teaching at Beckett. We want your education to increase your knowledge of a subject and develop wider skills that will future-proof your career. Senior Lecturer Sarah Cooper and student Melissa Santos share a conversation about teaching and learning on our BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing course:
Sarah: Fashion marketing, and fashion as a whole, is an exciting sector that moves quickly. This makes it a challenge to keep up to date with shifts in industry, but it’s one to relish. Establishing links with industry and making these links available to you, as students, builds a bridge for you between higher education and industry.
Melissa: You can tell that the content of our lectures is up to date with what’s happening with the world. And being able to talk to people who are working in the industry, doing the jobs that we want to do, is great We’re getting an insider’s perspective that we otherwise wouldn’t get, and it shows us that what we are learning is relevant. It’s helped me realise just how fast-paced the industry is, and I’m learning how to keep up with it through the weekly tasks you set.
Sarah: It’s great to be working with students who are as enthusiastic about the subject as I am. The way that you learn and I teach is really enhanced by the identity you have with our course community. If our course community is strong, you become more willing to engage.
Melissa: I think you definitely achieve that. It really helps that you understand what each of us is interested in. It makes us more creative. Your teaching allows us to explore so many themes through a wide range of materials. I’m also finding that working on extra activities is helping me grow as an individual. It’s given me a fresh way of looking at things and is allowing me to draw inspiration from lots of different sources. I think we’re in safe hands and I’m excited about the rest of my studies and all that the future holds for me in the fashion industry.
Melissa Santos, BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing student
Sarah Cooper, Senior Lecturer
School of Art, Architecture & Design
Thirst for knowledge
Clean drinking water is taken for granted by many of us. But a new and natural method of water purification developed by Leeds Beckett researchers could change the lives of thousands. The research team, led by Dr Martin Pritchard, from the School of Built Environment & Engineering, have identified a plant that grows naturally in Africa and can purify water, making it safe to drink and reducing the risk of disease from water contamination.
"The team from Leeds Beckett, which includes PhD students, have been undertaking research in Malawi for over 10 years with our partners there. Our research found that 80% of wells in Malawi contained water which was unsafe to drink. This led us to look for solutions, and we discovered a locally available plant extract that grows wild throughout Malawi and can be used to improve water quality by 80%. The use of this technology could significantly help to reduce water-related diseases and save lives throughout the developing world."
Dr Martin Pritchard, Reader in Civil Engineering
School of Built Environment & Engineering
The pursuit of excellence
While business and industry may acknowledge the value of strategic communications, how is excellence achieved? Dr Ralph Tench, Director of Research at Leeds Business School, believes he may have the answer.
“I have used data from over 21,000 practitioners across Europe to develop the ‘nine commandments’ of communications excellence.” As President and Head of the Board of Directors for the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), he has investigated a decade of data from the European Communication Monitor (the ECM), the largest global study of public relations and strategic communication practice. “ Companies want to understand what factors contribute to high performance in a competitive environment; what are highperforming organisations and departments doing to make their company or brand stand out?
"The research shows that high-performance communications operate on three levels – the organisation, the department and the individual. Each of these three levels has three essential traits that make up the ‘nine commandments’. Excellent communicators fulfil the requirements of each of these nine components. However, there is an intrinsic paradox. We can always improve. Therefore, can excellence ever be achieved?"
Ralph Tench, Professor of Communication and Director of Research
Leeds Business School
A complex challenge
Childhood obesity remains one of the most serious challenges facing society in the 21st century, with significant health, social and economic consequences. Pinki Sahota, Professor of Nutrition & Childhood Obesity, believes the battle against obesity requires more than eating less and moving more.
"With nearly one-in-three children considered obese by the time they leave primary school, people often want to know if there is a magic bullet. The truth is that obesity is a very complex issue, with no one simple answer. Of course, the quality and quantity of food eaten, as well as exercise, are important factors in maintaining a healthy weight for adults and children. Developments in banning some junk food advertising in print and online media are also good first steps, although there is more to be done here.
"However, we can be stacking the odds against children from a very early age when they have little control over their own health destinies and nutrition choices. If we are to turn things around, nutrition and childcare professionals must work together and join with parents to set our young people up for a lifetime of good health. It is clear that good healthy living habits that are established when children are very young are more likely to be maintained throughout life... and thus be more successful."
Pinki Sahota, Professor of Nutrition & Childhood Obesity
School of Clinical & Applied Sciences
Fighting international cybercrime
Cybercriminals pose a serious threat to security and privacy across modern society. International organisations and private individuals are equally at risk from attacks on their smart technologies and theft of valuable personal data. Innovations and research from the University’s Cybercrime & Security Innovation (CSI) Centre are part of the battle against this growing area of serious crime.
Course Director Emlyn Butterfield explains: “Every year, 5.1 million people – over 8% of the UK population – are the victims of cybercrime. These are old-fashioned crimes of theft and extortion which are increased in scale or reach by the use of computers, networks or other forms of communications technology.”
He argues that our reliance on technology in our daily lives makes us vulnerable. “We want our technology to give us more functionality, but that’s often at the expense of giving away our data and privacy. Data has become commodified and now has intrinsic value where previously it had none.”
As data increases in value, so it becomes more attractive to the criminals. Despite this, when new technology is developed, security aspects are often overlooked. As Emlyn explains, security is intrinsic to the design of these new innovations. “We work with regional and national law enforcement agencies to help them identify areas for improvement in fighting cybercrime. This is transforming the way digital crime is policed across the country. Our academics are at the forefront of digital security research and its translation to the real world. We want to make the online environment safer for all.”
Emlyn Butterfield, Course Director of Security and Forensics
School of Computing, Creative Technologies & Engineering
Why one size never fits all
To understand what it is to be human, we need to ask some big questions about how society is run, organised and managed and explore how our culture has adapted and developed over time. Jayne Raisborough, Professor of Media at Leeds Beckett, examines how these big ideas get into our imagination, our hearts and belief systems. She is fiercely passionate about challenging the prejudices and stereotypes presented by the media, particularly when it comes to weight and body issues.
"We live in a culture where appearance and body management are perceived as being of paramount importance, with many people increasingly anxious about how their bodies look. I’m both fascinated and appalled at the way that fat bodies are represented by the media, especially on television, and the implications that this has for us all."
Jayne’s research shows that weight stereotyping in the media leads to us developing a very different relationship with our bodies as we become more anxious about our own fat. This can create a whole host of psychological and social problems, including loneliness and bullying, and it has massive implications for how people interact and become members of society. “We must stop thinking ‘thin equals good’ and move towards body positivity and a greater appreciation of different types of body shapes."
Jayne Raisborough, Professor of Media,
School of Cultural Studies & Humanities
Positive action to improve mental health in schools
The number of children and young people suffering from mental health issues has surged in recent years, creating a challenge for our schools.
“The pressure now on children in schools has never been greater.” says Jonathan Glazzard, Professor of Teacher Education. “They face the relentless pressure of assessment, which causes stress and anxiety. Social media has also changed the face of bullying; a malicious post can have deep, devastating consequences for the young person on the receiving end.
“Some of our schools are leading the way by making it okay for people to talk about mental health. They are exploring how mental health affects the children, as well as parents and school staff. My view is that, nless we address these issues and promote a positive culture of wellbeing for children, young people and staff in schools, it will have a negative impact on educational attainment.
“We must pay attention to children’s holistic, not just academic, needs. We can prepare them better for living in a socially-inclusive society, where they will encounter difference and diversity and develop relationships with a wide range of people. The work we do at Leeds Beckett is helping to ensure that mental health difficulties do not stand in the way of success at school and beyond.”
Jonathan Glazzard, Professor of Teacher Education
Carnegie School of Education
Dark tourism and emotions
Besides seeking sun, sand, sea and relaxation, people are increasingly travelling to areas of past and present conflicts, wars and atrocities. This type of travel, known as ‘dark tourism’, attracts visitors who want to experience these locations in an emotional or therapeutic way.
Professor Dorina-Maria Buda researches our emotional attachments to places, particularly places of ongoing socio-political turmoil and conflicts. She argues that visiting places connected to atrocities, death and disasters can promote empathy in the visitor and tie the tourist at a deep level to the place and the event. “I want to understand how emotions create connections as well as disconnections between tourists, visited locals and places.”
These emotions are not always clear-cut, she stresses. Fun is not the opposite of fear, nor is safety necessarily the opposite of danger. “I explore how dynamics of emotions between tourists and local tourism stakeholders shape the identity of places in areas of ongoing socio-political conflict. The focus is on emotions such as awe, anger, fear or fun. I conduct my research in areas of turmoil like Jordan, Israel and Palestine – this means I travel to these places and spend a couple of months per year collecting material, carrying out individual interviews and focus groups with tourists and locals involved in tourism transactions.”
Her findings show that these places hardly ever leave the people who visit them untouched. “In most societies, commemorations of past wars serve different purposes. Visiting places of battles, wars and conflicts reminds us that such atrocious events should not be allowed to ever happen again. This can help us learn from the past. It can also teach us to detect those ideas of religious hostility, racial inferiority and the like that generate violence, wars and conflicts, and to challenge these ideas before they begin to flower and prosper. “Cemeteries, monuments, museums, places of battles and places where a disaster happened are always imbued with an aura of patriotic or historic significance. And these national narratives are reinterpreted through a certain lens of perpetual movement, invading history, travel and tourism. Tourism is a way of recreating memories, ‘re-imagining’ history and constructing our present.”
Dorina-Maria Buda, Professor of Tourism Management
School of Events, Tourism & Hospitality Management
They came from his soul
Ken Scott co-produced the seminal albums Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust with David Bowie. He also worked with The Beatles as their sound engineer on Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album.
"There is only one artist I have worked with who could do lead vocals on the first take almost every time. With David [Bowie], it was always there; it was amazing. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re still talking about these albums after all this time. They’re real, they’re human and they come from his soul.”
Ken Scott, Senior Lecturer in Music Production
School of Film, Music & Performing Arts
Dementia: Care starts at home
When Professor Claire Surr’s great-grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, it inspired her to pursue research to improve the quality of care available to people with this condition. As an undergraduate, Claire's interest in the study of dementia was also shaped by her inspirational lecturer, who was a leading authority on personcentred dementia care – an innovative approach to care provision at the time. Claire now leads internationally recognised academic research in this area.
"Dementia is the leading cause of disability in older age. It causes more deaths per year in the UK than cancer, cardiovascular disease or stroke, and yet receives only a small amount of research funding. Our health and social care services are also chronically underfunded and are struggling to provide good care to people with dementia."
However, Claire believes that increased funding is only one part of the possible solution to the health and social care challenges we are facing in this country, and she is leading several major studies into how we can improve the lives of those living with dementia. "Supporting people to live well with dementia is not straightforward. Whilst the health service is working to keep people living with dementia in their homes for longer, which is what the majority of those with the condition also want, this is often difficult. Older people may not have family support locally because families today are more dispersed across the country or the globe. The social care people can access in their own homes is often limited to visits as short as 15 minutes, twice a day. I am leading two studies to address some of these issues. The first, the DCM EPIC trial, is a four-year study looking at whether an approach called Dementia Care Mapping (DCM) is effective for helping care home staff provide better care for those with dementia. The second focuses on evaluating the most effective approaches to dementia training and education for the health and social care workforce."
"Ultimately, the intention is for the research to improve dementia care and help people with dementia and their families experience a better quality of life."
Claire Surr Professor of Dementia Studies
School of Health & Community Studies
Law in society
Dr Jessica Guth, Chair of the Association of Law Teachers and Reader in the Leeds Law School at Leeds Beckett University is shaping the way in which law is taught in universities and believes a good legal education should go further.
“A law degree is, and should be, more than just preparing you to be a practitioner. Students learn how to construct arguments, make decisions, evaluate information, question things and communicate effectively. I believe law teachers should enable students to make their minds their own.”
Her view is that a law degree needs to be more than simply vocational. In fact, Jessica's question to potential students of law is more fundamental: “When I ask a student why they want to study law, one answer I get is that they want to make a difference. But how do they really want to make a difference? Of course, having a law degree might make them a good lawyer, but I’d rather our education opened their minds to all of the possibilities and ways in which they can make a difference in the world. Well-designed law degrees provide a unique skill set that means our students can make a real contribution in a changing world.”
Dr Jessica Guth, Reader in Law
Leeds Law School
"The way that our legal services are being delivered is continuing to evolve and at an ever-increasing pace. Whilst we must fiercely protect the rule of law and access to justice for all, we must also foster innovation in our industry and adapt to meet the needs of those who need our services.
"Training a flexible workforce through education is critical to this process, and we must ensure that our legal education keeps pace with social, economic, technological and political evolution."
Deveral Capps, Dean
Leeds Law School
Pressure on Prisons: education is key
Are UK prisons in crisis? Many argue that increased violence, drug use and high levels of suicide plus overcrowding and a lack of resources are undermining prison safety and opportunities for reform.
Dr Helen Nichols and Dr Bill Davies, Senior Lecturers in Criminology and Co-Leaders of the Prison Research Network (PRisoN) at Leeds Beckett University, are helping to transform UK prisons through the power of education in rehabilitating prisoners. The Learning Together initiative, developed with Cambridge University, takes university classes into high security prisons so that inmates complete a module alongside university students.
Bill: “This model of learning connects all students, enabling them to learn with and from each other through discussion. It breaks down social barriers and creates positive social change. Students can challenge their existing ideas about people from different backgrounds while realising their own potential, and the potential of others.”
Helen adds: “Education is a crucial component of prison life that universities can support. We can really only open minds through learning if we are able to break through obstacles that might appear difficult to overcome. What’s been really impressive about the course is the way people have worked together: it has been really collaborative. The students and prisoners have learnt so much from each other and perspectives have changed: the experience broadens the minds of the students and contributes to the rehabilitation of the prisoners. The opportunity for them to use this to make positive changes in their lives and create better futures after they are released is very powerful.”
Dr Bill Davies and Dr Helen Nichols, Senior Lecturers in Criminology
School of Social Sciences
Chasing peace in a modern world
Imagine a world where trained, unarmed people can put an end to armed violence in their own communities. That’s what Dr Rachel Julian – a Reader in Leeds Beckett’s School of Social Sciences – is striving to achieve. Putting an end to violence and resolving conflict peacefully is not a task to be taken lightly, and Rachel’s work in international peace and conflict resolution reflects a commitment that spans 25 years.
A passionate advocate of Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping, Rachel is committed to establishing how non-governmental organisations around the world show that unarmed, trained people can put an end to violence from people with weapons. She has been working in Myanmar, empowering local people who make peaceful interventions through her project, ‘Raising Silent Voices.’
Rachel says: “The ‘Just War’ theory, which justifies the use of violence to protect innocent human life, dominates the way we go to war and deal with international conflicts and makes assumptions about the nature of the state and humanity. “Theories and practice in non-violence dispute this, showing that non-violence and non-violent action can create long lasting and transformative changes in our lives and in the world.”
Dr Rachel Julian, Reader in Peace Studies
School of Social Sciences
Maximising sporting performance
Professional sport is now recognised as a multibillion pound global industry. Measuring success by performance on the stock market as well as on the pitch now carries a considerable potential human cost for all of the competing athletes.
For Ben Jones, Professor of Sports Physiology & Performance, his challenge is to maximise athletes’ potential and performance without limiting the length of their careers. “The work of sports scientists has never been so important. We want to maximise the athlete’s career without compromising any of their love for their sport or limiting their participation.”
He works closely with the coaches for professional rugby league and union clubs, including Super League champions Leeds Rhinos, Yorkshire Carnegie, Bath Rugby and Wasps, and staff at the Rugby Football League and Rugby Football Union. He brings his scientific knowledge directly on to the training ground. “Our work bridges the gap between academic research and the needs of professional clubs. Our blend of rigorous scientific research with the art of coaching improves the performance and the resilience of the athletes, which in turn benefits the club and, of course, the individual."
Ben Jones, Professor of Sports Physiology & Performance
Carnegie School of Sport