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Professor Paul Atkinson, Distinguished Research Professor at the School of Social Sciences, recently presented the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) annual lecture.

His lecture, 'Why do fieldwork?', was held in London on October 23rd 2013 to a capacity crowd. Professor Atkinson reflected on research from his career arguing for the continuing relevance of rigorous field research, in contrast to more vaguely-specified 'qualitative' research.

Watch Professor Atkinson's lecture in full

Paul Atkinson is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at Cardiff University. He is an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences. He and Sara Delamont are the founding editors of the Sage journal Qualitative Research. He is currently conducting fieldwork and writing about skills and expertise among potters, printers, glassblowers and others. His methodological publications include: The Ethnographic Imagination, Understanding Ethnographic Texts, ,Martyn Hammersley and Paul Atkinson, Ethnography: Principles in Practice, Paul Atkinson, Sara Delamont and William Housley, Contours of Culture, Amanda Coffey and Paul Atkinson, Making Sense of Qualitative Data.

Muslims in the UK more effectively pass on their faith to the next generation than other religious groups, according to a new book by Cardiff researchers.

Muslim Childhood is the first study of religious nurture in Muslim children at primary school age.

Previous research exists on Muslim youth, but none on this age group (12 and under) which has specifically focused on learning religion.

The book draws on a study of 60 Muslim families in one British city and the lives of Muslim children in those families, from the family home to mosques and other religious organisations, school and wider social networks.

Lead author Professor Jonathan Scourfield, from the School of Social Sciences, said: "This book is about ordinary British Muslims' everyday religious socialisation of children in early and middle childhood. What surprised me most from our research was that although the British Muslim population is diverse, in terms of ethnic background, social class and school of thought, there are some important traditions of teaching children about Islam which different groups have in common. Arguably there is more that unites different groups of Muslims than separates them, when it comes to bringing up children as Muslims."

Muslim Childhood is published by Oxford University Press. It was co-authored by Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray and Asma Khan of the University's School of History, Archaeology and Religion and Sameh Otri, Muslim Chaplain at Cardiff. The research was jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council as part of the 'Religion and Society' programme.

An innovative new study has been announced aiming to explore and develop new ways of positively transforming the life chances of children and young people in care in Wales over the next 10 years.

Commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund, the study could also pave the way for a new £5 million investment which could dramatically improve the outcomes of children in care in Wales.

The latest figures show that there are nearly 6,000 children in care in Wales, an increase of 20% over the last five years.

Researchers from the Cardiff University School of Social Sciences will work in partnership with Swansea University and Children in Wales to deliver the project, working with a range of stakeholders including currently looked after and former looked after children and young people.

Dr Sally Holland, Reader at the School of Social Sciences, will lead a team of post-doctoral researchers in an evidence review which will analyse the most promising interventions to improve the life chances of looked after children.

Dr Holland said: "I welcome the opportunity to play a part in this important initiative and applaud the Big Lottery Fund's emphasis on evidence-based interventions. We will be working closely with care-experienced young people, service providers and policy makers to evaluate the evidence about the interventions and projects that have a good potential to bring about real change."

The latest research indicates that children in care are more likely than the average child to have poor outcomes including poor educational achievement, an increased likelihood of having mental health problems and of becoming involved in crime and substance misuse and of becoming unemployed or homeless.

A high proportion of the prison population has also experienced or been through the care system. Despite these grim statistics, some looked after children do very well and this project will play a part in ensuring that all looked after children in Wales have vital support to overcome the challenges that life has presented to them.

Highlighting the importance of the study and its potential to have a lasting impact on the lives of children and young people in care in Wales, Big Lottery Fund Wales Chair, Sir Adrian Webb, said: "This is an important study and we want to make sure that we take on board existing learning whilst building on good practices and embracing innovation where it is based on sound evidence.

"Children and young people in care are an especially vulnerable group as they often experience multiple and complex transitions. For example, they may change foster carers or care home frequently, particularly if they have complex emotional and psychological needs that are not being addressed properly."

He added: "This is a golden opportunity for organisations out there on the ground to work together to tackle this issue. They have a real opportunity here to potentially make a real positive difference to the lives of children and young people in care in Wales."

Children and young people in care - The Facts for Wales: 

  • In the year ending 31 March 2013, 5,743 children were classified as 'looked after' in Wales, an increase of 0.3% over the previous year and a 24% increase over the previous five years.  The majority (4,440) were in foster care placements and 10% of children had three or more placements during the year.
  • The most common reason (60%) for children to enter care in 2012 was neglect or abuse.
  • Whilst overall educational attainments improved over the previous year, only 9% of care leavers aged 16 or over obtained 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C.  1*
  • The local authority areas with the highest number of looked after children are Swansea (588), Rhondda Cynon Taf (621), Cardiff (557) and Neath Port Talbot (492). Lowest numbers  are in Isle of Anglesey (80), Monmouthshire (75) and Ceredigion (75).
  • In 2009/10, looked after children counselled by ChildLine across the UK were five times more likely than children counselled by Childline overall to discuss running away and were twice as likely to discuss self-harm. 2*

Cardiff is one of four Welsh universities to work with the Care Council to develop one of the UK's most comprehensive training initiatives for qualified social workers.

The Care Council will spend £1.8m over the next six years on raising the professionalism of social work practice in Wales to a new level. The initiative will be made up of three new training and development programmes for experienced, senior and consultant social workers.

The Care Council has commissioned an alliance of four universities in Wales to deliver the programmes. Cardiff University's School of Social Sciences will take the lead, with the rest of the group made up of the universities of Swansea, Bangor and Glyndwr.

Professor Malcolm Williams, Director of the School of Social Sciences said: "Cardiff School of Social Sciences has a long tradition of providing both qualifying and post-qualifying social work education and training and is very pleased to use this experience and expertise in the service of the continuing professional development of social workers throughout Wales.

"In leading on the development and delivery of these programmes, in alliance with Bangor, Glyndwr and Swansea universities, Cardiff University demonstrates its commitment both to supporting  the work of the Welsh Government and the Care Council for Wales and to improving social work practice in Wales."

The training and development programmes will be important in supporting a new career structure for social workers in Wales and equipping them to provide excellent frontline practice.

Under the banner of the Care Council's Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) framework, the new training and development programmes will help social workers deliver the Welsh Government's vision for citizen-centred services and greater professionalism of the workforce. Programmes for newly-qualified social workers in Wales have already been launched.

The new programmes will involve on-line study, face-to-face teaching and local study groups.

Rhian Huws Williams, Care Council Chief Executive, said: "This is a major development in the training and development of all social workers in Wales. It is something we've been working on with partners for the past two years. These programmes will support social workers in developing excellent practice, whatever their role, and enhancing their professionalism. They will also help prepare them deliver the Welsh Government vision for citizen-centred services.

"Critically, the new programmes ensure all social workers in Wales have access to a consistent standard of learning, relevant to their role. They will provide practitioners with the training they need as they progress to different levels in their careers.   

"We plan to start the programmes for experienced practitioners and senior social workers in 2014, with the consultant social worker programme following in 2015.  From there on, the programmes will be delivered annually, with at least 100 places a year being available. Social workers, employers and people using services have been, and will continue to be, involved in further developments. All the programmes will also be rigorously evaluated to ensure they remain fit for purpose, making a positive difference and delivering the expected outcomes," she added.

SOCSI students carry out largest listening campaign on a UK university campus to identify and address main issues putting pressure on Cardiff students

The first week of the teaching semester for second year Cardiff School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) students was replaced with the 'State of the Campus' Research Project; a real research project organised in conjunction with Citizens UK – an alliance of community organising groups specialising in developing the capacity of local citizens to work together for the benefit of their communities.

The aim of the project was to find out what matters most to the students of Cardiff and attempt to create solutions for these issues. This 'Listening Campaign' provided students with experience of qualitative and quantitative research methods, exposing them to 'community organising' and ultimately producing a snapshot report on the State of the Campus in 2013 and how to change it!

At the beginning of the week, all second year students gathered for the initial briefing of what would be the largest Listening Campaign carried out on a UK university campus. Jonathan Cox, Lead Organiser from Citizens UK, said: "This week is all about finding out what matters to people and then doing something about it. The research that you collect can be used to change and improve people's lives."

Students were sent out to begin their data collection, with more than 300 face-to-face interviews carried out and more than 200 surveys gathered on the first day. By the end of the second day, a total of 1,382 interviews had been carried out.  Students were also tweeting pictures of research participants and recording audio clips of the conversations – click here to take a listen.

In total, 543 surveys were completed and 1585 conversations carried out and the four main themes that emerged as the most important issues facing Cardiff students, were:

  • Employability
  • Transport
  • Housing
  • University Life

The week culminated in an 'Assembly' where students had one minute to present their research findings to the entire cohort of second year students, Citizens UK colleagues and members of SOCSI staff. 

Campaign teams have been created to represent each of the four themes and they will work with Citizens UK to devise and run campaigns to help address the issues that were raised. For example, campaigning to hold exams in venues that are close to campus and familiar to students and having phone booths in the Students' Union where students can call utilities providers on 0800 numbers at a low cost, rather than having to call from their mobile phones at a premium rate.

Beneficiaries of the assisted places scheme, which provided a means-tested education at independent schools for young people from less advantaged homes until 1997, continue to reap the benefits from their private education, according to a new study for the Sutton Trust by University researchers.

The research by Professor Sally Power, Professor Geoff Whitty and Dr Stuart Sims at the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), based at the University, is the latest in a series of reports tracking students from the Assisted Places Scheme since 1982.

It shows that as well as gaining good qualifications and jobs, the Assisted Place holders felt their schools helped them develop strong personal attributes, such as self-discipline and self-reliance, as well as enduring social networks.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that the results of this new research reinforced the Trust's case for an Open Access scheme that would provide needs blind admissions to leading independent day schools, enabling able children from low and middle income families to attend those schools based on ability rather than ability to pay.

Earlier surveys of this group, which compared the performance of children of similar high ability and similar less advantaged backgrounds attending state schools with those taking an assisted place at an independent school, found that Assisted Place holders gained better qualifications and went to more prestigious universities than those who attended comprehensive schools.

The new survey suggests that Assisted Place Holders, who are now in their forties, continue to reap the benefits of their independent education. Virtually all have continued to gain promotion in well-paid professional and managerial occupations. Over 40% are earning more than £90,000 a year and over two thirds said the economic crisis had not affected their standard of living. Three quarters of respondents expected to be even better off in ten years' time.

Even those who didn't go to university are in solidly middle class occupations with a good income, perhaps benefiting from a 'private school premium'. Respondents reported job satisfaction and security, and they continued to do well even during the recent economic downturn. A significant proportion anticipated being able to take early retirement.

Respondents said that their independent schools helped them develop personal attributes, such as self-discipline and self-reliance. Their schools also contributed to the development of enduring social networks. Although family ties remain strong, the Assisted Place holders move in well-qualified circles of friends, and a relatively high proportion married privately educated spouses.

Three quarters of the respondents now have children. Of those with school-aged children, nearly half have chosen private schools for their children.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said today: "The original research took two groups of children who all qualified for assisted places and had very similar ability and parental background. Some took the assisted place and went to independent schools and the rest went to state schools. Those who went to independent schools did much better in their GCSES, A-levels, accessed better universities and are in higher paying jobs than those who went to state schools.

"This new research with the assisted places group confirms the extent to which able children from less advantaged homes gain from an independent school education. It shows the importance of ensuring that access to the best independent day schools is not restricted to those who can afford to pay full fees.

"However, the Assisted Places Scheme was too limited in its reach. Because of the small number of assisted places in each school, it resulted in many students feeling socially out of place. Instead, there is a much better model in the Open Access scheme, where all places are based on merit alone, and which the Sutton Trust and The Girls' Day School Trust trialled with considerable success at the Belvedere School in Liverpool from 2000-2007.

"Under Open Access, all the places at participating independent day schools would be available on merit alone, with parents paying a sliding scale of fees according to means. This would make a major contribution to social mobility by opening up independent day schools to all young people enabling them not only to thrive academically but also to gain the social skills and access to the networks that are crucial to success."

Professor Sally Power, the report's author, said: "The relative unimportance the Assisted Place holders attach to factors such as luck and social background suggests that, for these individuals, the scheme alleviated the impact of socio-economic disadvantage. Even those who didn't go to university are now in solidly middle class occupations with good incomes. This suggests that they have benefited from a private school premium over and above that associated with educational attainment."

Cardiff is one of fifteen universities across the UK to receive a share of £19.5M to overhaul their social science teaching in an ambitious intervention to address the critical shortage of social scientists with the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse data.

The universities have all been selected to host 'Q-Step', a programme designed to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Cardiff, along with the other selected universities will form a network of 'Q-Step Centres', delivering new undergraduate programmes in quantitative social science. These will include the development of new courses, production of new content for existing courses, experimenting with new ways of teaching, as well as work placements and pathways to postgraduate study.

Under the new programme, Cardiff will offer a degree in BSc  Social Analytics; new Quantitative Methods modules; compulsory work placements for Social Analytics pathway; a residential summer school with field trips; placements in a university research environment; and new Joint Honours degree to be developed into 3 + 1 Masters course.

The Cardiff Q-Step Centre will be led by Professor Malcolm Williams, Dr Sin Yi Chueng and Dr Luke Sloan of the School of Social Sciences. Professor Williams, Head of the School said: "Cardiff University has been at the forefront of pioneering innovative teaching in quantitative methods and this Centre will provide the means to take our work to the next level.   Quantitative skills will be crucial to the next generation of social science students in order that they may successfully compete in the labour market. Moreover for social science to be relevant in society, it must fully engage with numbers.  Q-Step will provide not just the opportunities for individual universities, but it will also create added value through the Q-Step Centres working together to raise our collective game."

Although targeted at undergraduates, Q-Step aims to promote quantitative skills training across the course of the education system, from recruitment of school students to specialist training for those going on to postgraduate work. Expertise and resources will be shared across the higher education sector through an accompanying support programme, which will also forge links with schools and employers.

NatCen Social Research, the UK's leading independent social research will contribute to the work of the new Q-Step centre at Cardiff by hosting student placements and sharing their experience of some of the UK's most challenging research studies with students through workshops, career advice sessions and lectures.  Kandy Woodfield, Director of Learning at NatCen said: "NatCen is committed to building capability and capacity in the social research sector. We are pleased to be working alongside Cardiff University in this important initiative which is building a strong future for quantitative social science in the UK."

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Evaluating and analysing data is an essential part of science education and we need more people with these important skills. Q-Step will deliver an exciting programme, increasing the number of skilled graduates in quantitative social science. By sharing expertise and resources across the education sector, this programme is a step in the right direction to give students the skills they need and help employers build long lasting relationships with universities."

Sharon Witherspoon, Director of the Nuffield Foundation said: "The number and high standard of applications for Q-Step funding demonstrates a shared recognition that the weakness of quantitative skills training in much social science matters – and shows there is a shared commitment to do something about it. With a network of fifteen universities across the UK, as well as an emphasis on building links with schools and employers, we now hope to build the critical mass necessary to promote a real step-change in skills over the long term.  

Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC said: "I am delighted that ESRC will be working in partnership with The Nuffield Foundation and HEFCE in funding the Q-Step Centres. ESRC is committed to enhancing quantitative methods skills for social scientists at all stages of their careers and we believe these centres will generate new cohorts of highly skilled students. I am confident that both universities and students will benefit in the long term from the funding and support given from today."

Chris Milward, Associate Director of HEFCE said:"We are pleased to support this step-change in activity, which will yield a new generation of social science graduates who are fit for the future. The centres will work closely with university outreach activities to stimulate early interest in quantitative skills. This approach builds on evidence from recent research and puts flesh on HEFCE's commitment to continue to address risks to subjects following the higher education reforms. We look forward to working with the Q-Step Centres and other institutions to extend the benefits widely across the sector."

Planned Q-step activities for Cardiff University:

  • New BSc Joint Honours degrees in each of the relevant disciplines plus Social Analytics
  • New QM modules, most of which will utilise secondary data analysis
  • Compulsory work placements for Social Analytics pathway
  • Residential summer school with field trips
  • Placements in a university research environment
  • New Joint Honours degree to be developed into 3 + 1 Masters course

The School of Social Sciences recently hosted a Cardiff University Distinguished Lecture, welcoming Professor Randall Collins from the University of Pennsylvania.

Randall Collins is a Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology who presented his talk on 'Violence as Emotional Dominance: Micro-sociological causes'.

The lecture considered why emotional dominance of one's opponent is the key to what happens in violence-threatening situations, it explored the causes of emotional dominance and offered practical advice in dealing with violent situations.

Professor Collins is an eminent sociologist, former President of the American Sociological Association and a world-leading contemporary social theorist. His most recent publications have been based on his research into the Sociology of Philosophies, Macro-History, Interaction Ritual Chains and a Micro-sociological theory of violence.  
The Distinguished Lecture Series brings eminent and influential guest speakers to Cardiff University and a wider audience to showcase their work. The series has the specific objective of contributing to the establishment and consolidation of Cardiff's international reputation for academic impact.

Professor Collins' work and his lecture resonated with internationally recognised research carried out by the Universities Police Sciences Institute (UPSI). Work by this award-winning institute has helped police tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

Watch Professor Collins' lecture in full:

"I have no universal cure for the ills of Sociology. A multitude of myopias limit the glimpse we get of our subject matter" (Erving Goffman, 1983: 2)

To mark 30 years since Erving Goffman published his Presidential Address to the American Sociological Association, the Cardiff School of Social Sciences recently held a special one-day conference.

Goffman's lecture in 1983 famously brought together many of the key themes that underpinned his life's work, to provide an overview of his intellectual vision and the significance of ritual, the face-to-face encounter, and relations between the micro and macro. 

The conference - 'Goffman and the Interaction Order: 30 years on' - aimed to consider Goffman's contribution to our understandings of society and his legacy.

Keynote speaker at the conference was American sociologist Professor Randall Collins who talked about the 'downstreaming' of Goffman's ideas to subsequent research trends.

Other contributions at the conference came from Paul Atkinson, Distinguished Professor at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Professor Gregory Smith (University of Salford) and former Cardiff PhD Student, Dr Susie Scott, who is now a reader at the University of Sussex.

Click here to view the abstracts from each speaker: 

The findings from the biggest hate crime study ever carried out in Wales and England will be publicly launched at the Senedd today (September 23rd) by Jeff Cuthbert, Communities Minister.

The All Wales Hate Crime Research Project is a groundbreaking three-year Big Lottery funded partnership between Race Equality First and Cardiff University. 

The project surveyed 1,810 people and interviewed over 60 victims. The findings make it clear that hate crime is still a daily reality for many people in Wales and provide a wealth of information on the nature and impact of hate crime. This includes the kinds of incidents that people experience, where these incidents happen, and the psychological and physical effects on victims' lives. We already know that hate crime is hugely underreported and the findings will provide important information about how people report hate crime and, just as importantly, why they so often fail to report. 

Dr Matthew Williams, Principal Investigator and senior lecturer at Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, said:

"This research represents the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted in England and Wales dedicated exclusively to understanding the nature and impact of hate crimes and incidents. 

"By examining the experiences of different types of victims from various backgrounds, we have generated the first evidence globally that hate crimes have unequal impacts across the seven recognised protected characteristics. 

"The research also highlights which victim groups are more or less likely to be satisfied with the response of the criminal justice system to hate crimes and garners opinions on what should be done with hate crime perpetrators."

Nearly a third of victim respondents said they were victimised at or near their home, while around a quarter were victimised in a public place. Two-thirds indicated they had been targeted by the same perpetrator multiple times, while 70% said they were victimised by multiple perpetrators. Interview respondents believed that hate crime was motivated by drink and drugs, hostility towards certain groups and negative and stereotyped portrayals of minorities in the media.

Many victim respondents reported experiencing multiple impacts, such as anger, depression and loss of confidence. Nearly a third (29%) said they thought about moving out of their area and nearly one in five had considered moving out of Wales altogether. 

Worryingly, one in seven victim respondents reported having suicidal thoughts, with those experiencing repeat-targeted victimisation being four times more likely than any other victims to experience these thoughts.  The findings also show that so-called "low level" incidents (e.g. spitting, name-calling, being treated with disrespect) have a profound impact, even though victims are often reluctant to report this kind of disorder. 

Almost 44% of victim respondents said they had reported the most serious incident to the police, but many did not, and the most common reasons given for not reporting were based on the belief that incidents were "too trivial", that the police would not be able to do anything and that the current victim focused reporting system is at odds with the crown prosecution services' evidential approach.

Jeff Cuthbert, Communities Minister, said: "The Welsh Government is committed to taking action to make our country inclusive, equal and fair. An example of this is our consultation on a tackling hate crime framework, which I launched in July. The Framework outlines how we want to work with partners across the three key areas of prevention, supporting victims and improving responses. This will ensure we focus on making a real difference to people in Wales.

"Our consultation is open until 18th October and I encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to respond to it. I will be launching the final version of the Framework in spring 2014.

"Change cannot be done or driven by one agency or partner working in isolation. The only way we will see real change is by working together."

Aliya Mohammed, Chief Executive of Race Equality First, said:

"Hate crime devastates individual lives and creates fear and distrust in our communities. We are grateful to Big Lottery for funding this research which will be used to improve the lives of hate crime victims in Wales.  We are calling on decision makers in Wales to acknowledge the findings from our research and make a pledge to take action on hate crime. Our report outlines 10 key recommendations for consideration by Welsh Government, the police and a wide range of other organisations".

Look out for news about the launch on Race Equality First's website, Facebook and twitter @waleshatecrime

For more information about the launch please contact Mair Rigby (Race Equality First) on 029 2048 6207/07554454027 or email: mair.rigby@raceequalityfirst.org.uk

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