Psychology students partner with Luton Council

Wed 24 August, 2022
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The University of Bedfordshire has launched a new paid placement opportunity for third year Psychology students who are interested in research, in partnership with Luton Council.

This new project has seen three final year Psychology students undertake engagement surveys in the local community and across several cultural events in Luton. The aim of the activity is for the feedback to enable both Luton Council and the University a better understanding of audience interests, and how to best align local cultural events provision with community demand and interests.

Questions from the surveys included why audiences attend certain events, how they hear or find out about them and the location of the attendees – whether they are local or purposely come into the town to participate or engage with a particular event.

After being approached by the council about the need for this research, the Arts and Culture Projects team partnered with the University’s School of Psychology and put a call out for third year students who had an interest in research to get involved. Interested students then had to submit an official application and undergo an interview for the role.

Emma Gill, Arts and Culture Projects Manager, said: “The opportunity for Luton Council to support the University on this project has been ground-breaking in how our Arts and Culture Projects team collectively and operationally works. The students have blown our expectations out of the water, empowering and harnessing the voices of local people and capturing critical feedback that will assist the council in how they support and programme cultural events in the future. I thank Jitty Marwaha in my team, for the support she has given to make this opportunity viable.”

As well as scouting residential areas across the town, the trio of students has also attended a number of events in and around Luton town centre to help gather information for the survey. Over the past few months these community events have included the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Luton Carnival and Luton Pride which have all proved fruitful in terms of results. In October, the team will also be in attendance at Luton’s Diwali celebrations.

Ioana Necsa, one of the students involved in the project, said: “Luton is a multicultural city, so being fluent in five languages has helped me to break the communication barriers with those participants that otherwise would have not participated. After this experience, I decided to apply for a Masters by Research at the University of Bedfordshire. I loved collecting data and direct interaction with the participants, so I decided on a qualitative design for my Masters research.”

Speaking about what skills this research has helped her improve, fellow student Helen Damisa commented: “I decided to participate in this evaluation project because I want to have a practical experience of what I have learned. Having studied Psychology, I am able to apply and demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of what I have been taught in both qualitative and quantitative research. I have developed a love for research and would want to see myself growing in this field.”

Cllr Sian Goding, portfolio holder for Regeneration and Inclusive Growth at Luton Council said: “Upskilling and providing pathways to employment is one of the key aspects of the 2040 vision for Luton Council. Working alongside the University’s Psychology students has not only helped to establish a more unified way of working between two key organisations in the town, but has also helped us to develop trust within the town.

“The students were friendly, approachable and exceeded all of our expectations. The feedback gathered and submitted will give us visibility on cultural activity in the local area which, in turn, will feed into the council’s cultural strategy which is set to benefit more than 250,000 residents.”

This community activity is one of many supported by the dedicated Arts and Culture Projects team, whose work delivers across cultural education, community engagement, partnerships and advocacy, and skills development agendas.

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