University’s intervention programme to be rolled out nationally.

Posted on 16th October 2017

As another academic year begins, a workshop designed to educate students about the consequences of initiation activities in sport is being introduced in universities across the country.

Professor Moira Lafferty, University of Chester.
Professor Moira Lafferty, University of Chester.

CHANGES (Challenging Hazing and Negative Group Events in Sport) is a one-hour intervention workshop, developed by Professor Moira Lafferty, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Chester, in collaboration with Dr Caroline Wakefield, Associate Professor in Health Sciences at Liverpool Hope University.

The workshop uses a proactive, rather than reactive, method of challenging unwanted behaviours. It is the first programme of its kind to be developed and implemented in Higher Education, and has been designed to raise awareness, challenge current practice and educate sporting societies in universities across the country about the dangers of initiation activities.

Having been developed at the University of Chester, it has recently been successfully trialled at the University of Worcester and Liverpool Hope University, and the academics now plan to extend it to include workshops across the country.

As Professor Lafferty explained: “Across the country, despite mandates and university rules, our research over the last five years, at numerous institutions, shows that these events still happen, just underground or off campus. We decided we wanted to proactively challenge the ethos, attitudes and culture of student sport welcome nights, so we developed the CHANGES-Intervention.”

Previously nominated and shortlisted for an Educate North Award, the CHANGES-Intervention workshop involves working with student sport leaders to explore their attitude before and after watching short clips of initiation stories and then working to establish positive behaviour change, including alternative activities and developing the skills to challenge unwanted activities. Professor Lafferty added: “It was really important to us that we developed a workshop where the sport leaders were active participants, where we helped them challenge their views of these activities rather than just saying: ‘Don’t do it.’

“It’s really positive that other universities now want to work with us on this initiative – we believe strongly in inclusivity, and involvement in sport should be a positive experience not a health risk.”

Commenting on the workshop, Sophie Williams, Chief Executive of the Students’ Union at the University of Worcester said: “It was clearly well received by the students and I am so proud that we could offer it to them.”

Having already delivered presentations on the initiative to senior management at BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport), the governing body for university sport in the United Kingdom, and the BUCS senior management team, Professor Lafferty and Dr Wakefield are now hoping to offer this scheme out to universities and colleges across the country.