Author Archives: Hannah Wilson

Are universities using therapy dogs in place of counselling?

Therapy dogs have been increasingly turning up at universities across the UK. With exams, coursework and dissertations, student stress is at an all-time high and student unions and societies are trying to help students relax. A cute, cuddly little animal has become the solution.

The logic of using a fluffy animal to make people happy is irrefutable, but many students are concerned with university priorities. Mental health has become an increasing problem for universities with one in four students experiencing some form of mental illness. 63% of students say that they feel stress that interferes with their day to day lives with a majority of it coming from university itself. Much like the NHS, university counselling services are stretched thin and are staffed at a quarter to a third of what is required. For every one full-time counsellor, there are 5000 students to be cared for. This isn’t good enough.

The idea and intention of therapy dogs is a good one. But we have to question whether the funding that goes into these animals could be used in a better way. However, the cost of the dogs is a tiny margin of what’s needed to help fund university counselling services.

There is also the question of those students who are either allergic to dogs, scared of them, or simply don’t like them. What help are they getting to relax?

Many students feel patronised by the idea and think that it reduces the importance of mental health. However, it’s important to note that these services do not pretend to be the solution to the crises many students face.

Some students think universities also need to consider their workloads and the pressure it puts on their students.

It’s not just a problem for UK students.

And some are angry at the idea that therapy dogs are needed at all.

More funding is essential to keep university counselling services going. The mental health care system in the UK is consistently struggling to help those who need it, and students are being increasingly affected by funding cuts to these services. Therapy dogs are a nice idea but are in no way a replacement for genuine mental health care.

Header image credit: The Guardian

National Palestinian demonstrations planned in London on Saturday

A national demonstration for Palestinians will be taking place in London tomorrow afternoon. Assembling at 12 noon in Portland Place, demonstrators will march to Whitehall carrying signs and banners in support of Palestinians.

Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the demonstration is calling for global protests to protect Palestinian’s collective rights. They say they hope to ‘hold Israel to account and push for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people.’


Previous rallies by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Source: PSCupdates

The demonstrations are in partnership with Stop the War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al- Aqsa, and Muslim Association of Britain.

The demonstration comes at the beginning of ‘Nakba week’ where the Palestine Solidarity Campaign organises a week of events to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, which was when 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the Palestine War.

Their most recent London rally occurred on 31st March 2019 when hundreds gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy in Central London. The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees return to their homes, “from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.” The rally was met with a counter-protest of a small group holding Israeli flags.

Sonic the Hedgehog movie given all-new redesign after fan backlash

With the release of Pokemon’s Detective Pikachu, the pressure is on for other video game-related movies. One, in particular, is Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog which is scheduled for release in November. Film stars include Ben Schwarts as the titular character, Jim Carrey as villain Doctor Robotnik, as well as James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Neal McDonough, and Adam Pally. While there have been some questions in the casting of Jim Carrey, it is the appearance of protagonist Sonic in the trailer that has upset fans.

Watch the trailer below:





The trailer itself has received criticism for its use of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, which many fans believe is out of place in a movie about a children’s video game character.

But it was the appearance of Sonic himself that has become a hot topic online in the past week, with fans pointing out the ‘uncanny valley’ effect of Sonic’s teeth, eyes, and body.



Some fans have taken it upon themselves to improve the look of the character. One redesign by digital artist Edward Pun has received over 80,000 retweets and over 320,000 likes on Twitter. Many have criticised the Sonic on the left as looking like a man in a costume, whereas the right’s body and eye shape are more like the iconic Sega character.

This has all lead to the director of the film, Jeff Fowler, to respond to comments on Twitter saying that they will be redesigning the character to best fit what fans want. This redesign comes just six months before the film’s release.

It’s unclear if the film’s release date will be pushed back.




The release of Detective Pikachu and its early positive reviews has lead to comparisons between the two iconic video game characters. While Pikachu is near identical to the character it’s based on, Sonic has been likened more to a cat than its hedgehog roots.


Detective Pikachu released in cinemas to positive reviews

Attention all Poke-fans! Warner Bros’ Detective Pikachu comes out in cinemas across the UK today.

What is the film about?
‘In a world where people collect Pokémon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective.’ – IMDb

Who is in it?
Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds both voices and provides facial motion capture for the titular character, while Justice Smith plays his partner and former Pokemon trainer, Tim Goodman.

Watch the first trailer below:

The film has received 68% approval in early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film’s official trailer was released on 12th November 2018 and was quickly trending on YouTube and Twitter. Within 24 hours the trailer had over 100 million views across multiple online and social media platforms.

In true Ryan Reynolds fashion, on the 7th of May, he tweeted that the movie had been “leaked” but the video linked was, in fact, a one hour and 42-minute video of Detective Pikachu dancing to an upbeat 80s song.

Video game movies have been notoriously low-rated in the past, with 2009’s Tekken rating 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Detective Pikachu may be the one to change the game.

video game infographic

Avengers: Endgame breaks the box office

Marvel Studios has dominated the box office this week with the release of Avengers: Endgame on the 25th of April. A culmination of 21 films, Endgame has grossed over £357 million at the box office in the US and Canada in its opening weekend. It’s now expected to pass Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time. This is all happening in the week before Star Wars Day (May 4th), a day celebrating another of Disney’s highest-grossing properties. Star Wars and Marvel have been neck and neck in box-office ticket sales since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

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Reactions to the latest film have been positive, with a rating of 95% from 427 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Matthew Norman of the London Evening Standard says in his review that “the only complaint about Avengers: Endgame is that it raises the bar so high that there may well never be a superhero movie to match it.”

Twitter has been packed full of fan reactions and emotional tributes to the 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


UK airport’s first team of therapy dogs introduced to calm nervous flyers

Therapy dogs will be flying into Aberdeen International airport to help soothe nervous flyers from tomorrow.

“The Canine Crew” as they have been dubbed will be dressed in high-vis jackets and bandanas and will work in pairs for two hours at a time once a week, both landside and in the air.


Aberdeen International Airport. Source: Press and Journal

In an interview with The Independent, Aberdeen International airport duty manager Fraser Bain said that they are “excited” to be the first airport employing therapy dogs and they also “recognise the benefit to the mental health and wellbeing of our staff”.

There are fourteen dogs in total in the “crew”, including three Golden Retrievers, two Beagles, two German Shepherds, a Leonberger and a Pug. All of the dogs have “a mixture of brilliant traits and personalities” that will help soothe passengers.

Therapy dogs have been consistently used in hospitals and universities, but this will be the first time they’ve been used in a UK airport.

Header image credit: NPR.

Tributes paid to journalist Lyra McKee on World Press Freedom Day 2019

At the Free World Centre in Farringdon today The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is hosting an event in tribute to Lyra McKee, the Irish journalist killed on 18th April while reporting on riots in Northern Ireland. The event will be from 6:30pm to 9pm.

The NUJ will be discussing the challenges facing journalists and press freedom worldwide. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be in attendance, as well as NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ member and BBC Persian TV correspondent Kasra Naji and Senior Law Lecturer at University of London Carmen Draghici. 

They will also be paying tribute to McKee’s life and work in the aftermath of her death.  The 29-year old was shot during rioting in Derry, Northern Ireland, believed to be by a member of the ‘New IRA’. Members of the National Union of Journalists formed a guard of honour at her funeral on the 24th.

The event costs £10 and all money will go to the International Federation of Journalists’ Safety Fund. The fund provides financial and practical assistance to at-risk journalists and their families.

Buy tickets here:

If you want more information on World Press Freedom Day that can be found here.

Header image credit to The Guardian. 


Trident protest: Christian CND ‘die-in’ outside Westminster

A die-in is taking place outside Westminster Abbey today to protest a service in tribute to Britain’s nuclear deterrent system, organised by The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Protestors from Christian CND are gathering outside the Abbey with banners and placards reading “No Thanksgiving for Nuclear Weapons”. The protest comes in the wake of the planned National Service of Thanksgiving marking 50 years of Britain’s Continuous At Sea Deterrent, the nuclear weapons system. The service was signed by 194 Anglican clerics.

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The die-in is said to represent the victims of nuclear warfare. The CND general secretary Kate Hudson has said that the Abbey “should listen to the thousands of members of the public who have written to the Dean to make clear what ought to be obvious, that nuclear weapons should not be celebrated.”

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“We have failed to learn the lessons from August 6th and August 9th 1945, from Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said a vicar speaking for Christian CND. “Forgive us for this insanity.”

There will be a CND rally from 1pm this afternoon.

Photos by Zubair Karmalkar 

NUS introduces new reforms amid severe financial difficulties

The National Union of Students (NUS) is facing severe financial difficulties with over £3m deficit to cover. In October 2018 NUS advised its members and staff that it was facing bankruptcy by March 2019 and needed to reform.

The NUS has reduced its staff by nearly half and interim budget measures are being put in place for 2019/2020. As part of this “Turnaround Board” their London office is also up for sale and they are moving all operations to Macclesfield.

On the 10th of April, NUS delegates voted at the National Conference in Glasgow to reform the organisation. These reforms include:

  • A requirement for the NUS board to ensure it has corporate expertise from outside the student movement on the board moving forward
  • Introduction of a National Scrutiny Council to ensure transparency and accountability of student officers
  • If NUS is able to afford more officers in future there should be full-time Liberation Officers elected in caucuses

Due to the move, key ‘diversity posts’ due for re-election have been suspended for 2019.

The financial problems facing the NUS has occurred during the two-year presidency of Shakira Martin. The Student Left Network, a newly formed group, called for a ‘no confidence’ vote in Martin, whose term will end this year.


Former NUS President Shakira Martin. Source: FE Week

Her replacement, Zamzam Ibrahim, was elected at the Glasgow conference in April. She said, “our national union and our education sector are facing some of the biggest challenges it has had to confront in living memory and is in dire need of transformation.” Ibrahim’s manifesto promised to “fight for liberation campaigns, including reversing the defunding of the NUS Trans Campaign.”

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NUS’ new President Zamzam Ibrahim. Source: Nouse

Find out more about what the NUS does for you here.

Header image credit: Huff Post UK.


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