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University leads the way in Olympic and Paralympic research

30 April 2012

Research by academics at Canterbury Christ Church University has been recognised in two national reports about the contribution Universities make - and have always made - to the Olympics and Paralympics Games, the sports industry and society as a whole.

Launched today (30 April 2012) as part of Universities Week 2012, the first report, Olympic and Paralympic Games: The impact of universities, demonstrates the diverse contribution that universities are making to the 2012 Games, the overall impact on the UK sports industry and the work institutions and academics are doing around the Cultural Olympiad and 2012 legacy programme.

Professor Mike Weed, Director of SPEAR, Christ Church’s Centre for Sport Physical Education and Activity Research, conducted research on behalf of Podium, the Higher Education and Further Education unit for London 2012. Professor Weed’s research forms an important part of the Universities UK report, focussing on the increasing engagement of Higher Education with London 2012.

Professor Mike Weed, said: “Our findings show that nearly two thirds of institutions engaged with London 2012 believe they will benefit from a tangible legacy as a result of the Games. We’ve also seen a distinctive shift from Universities having a vague idea that there might be something they could do for the Games, to there being a much clearer feeling that London 2012 might be able to contribute to Universities strategic objectives and priorities.

“It’s encouraging that this is the case not just in London and the South East, but across the UK with 85% of institutions already being involved in Games related activity and a further 9% having plans to get involved as the Games approach.”

The Olympic Stadium, London 2012
The Olympic Stadium, London 2012

The research surveyed more than 200 people from 80 different education institutions across the UK. The sample represents 48% of the UK higher education sector and the biggest ever survey of its kind.

Research conducted by Prof Jan Burns, Professor of Clinical Psychology, is included in the second report, launching on Wednesday 2 May, Supporting a success story: The impact of University research and sport development. Professor Burns’ research has directly influenced the re-inclusion of elite athletes with learning disabilities into the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Professor Burns said: “London 2012 will be the largest ever showcase for Paralympic sport in the UK and this will put people with learning disabilities back on the same platform with elite sports competitors. It will also ensure the development of sports for their group and change the public’s perception of them.”

Professor Burns, a member of an International Paralympic Committee sponsored international research group, and Head of Eligibility for Inas, the International Federation for sport for para-athletes with an intellectual disability, contributed to the research which devised a robust classification system ensuring that elite athletes meet the classification criteria for entry into Paralympic level events. Professor Burns is also the Head of Eligibility for Inas which establishes whether athletes have learning disabilities which mean that that are eligible to go forward for classification.

As a result of this research and new classification system, athletes with a learning disability now have the opportunity to compete in London2012, something that has not been possible since the disqualification of the Spanish Basketball team at the Sydney Games in 2000.  This resulted in the exclusion of the learning disabilities classification group by the Paralympic Association until a way could be found to robustly measure the disability and measure its impact on the sport.

In recognition of this work, Professor Burns has also received a Public Engagement Grant 2011 by the British Psychological Society. The grants are awarded to Psychologists, who are engaged in work which demonstrates to the wider public the impact that evidence-based psychology can have and the practical help it can give to society.

Universities Week 2012, taking place across the UK between 30 April and 7 May 2012, will showcase the diverse ways in which universities have engaged with the Olympic and Paralympic Games– from sports training, research and development to the university-led Cultural Olympiad and volunteering projects that will support the London 2012 sporting events.

Universities and Science Minister David Willets said: “Higher education is always at the cutting edge of human endeavour, driving forward knowledge, skills and achievements. Universities Week give us a chance to celebrate this.

“Today’s report paints a vivid picture of the valuable and varied contribution universities make to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. From the huge number of student volunteers, training camps and facilities for the athletes to the wider benefits they offer to community, culture and our country.”

Click here to download the full report, Olympic and Paralympic Games: The impact of universities, launched today (Monday 30 April 2012).

Click here to download the second report, Supporting a UK Success Story: The impact of university research and sport development, launched Wednesday 3 May 2012.

To find out more about Universities Week, visit: www.universitiesweek.org.uk or join in with the debate on Twitter #UniWeek and #BUCSChamps

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Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students, and five campuses across Kent, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • We are the third highest university in England for student employability, with 94.3% of our recent graduates in employment or further study six months after graduating*.
  • Christ Church is the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2010 UCAS).
  • We are the South East’s largest provider of courses for public service careers (outside of London).
  • In 2012 we will celebrate our Golden Jubilee, reflecting on 50 years of higher education and innovation.

*2009/10 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

For media enquiries:

Katie Scoggins
01227 782826