Staff and students from Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen recently undertook an innovative international pilot project promoting sport, health and wellbeing in Indian communities. The RGU GO: India project, funded by The Scottish Government’s Outward Mobility Fund, aimed to promote student mobility amongst RGU students, as well as develop their ability to work in multidisciplinary and multicultural contexts. To achieve this, an inter-professional approach was adopted, with students from six subject areas involved: sport and exercise science, nutrition, event management, PR & media, journalism, and communication design.
In October 2015, students from participating subject areas submitted 2 minute vlogs outlining why they should be selected for the programme. Those shortlisted then worked online in multidisciplinary groups to develop and present project ideas. Once selected in December 2015, the successful students then spent time raising £6600 for the project, researching the health challenges in India, and working with their Indian counterparts - 10 MSc Exercise Science students from Manipal University, Karnataka - to refine their project ideas.
In August 2016, 12 RGU students and 2 staff members travelled to Manipal University, Karnataka in South India. They spent 3 weeks working alongside their Indian counterparts developing and delivering their community project. From initial research, the combined group of students identified that nutritional awareness, physical literacy, and female sport participation were all challenges faced amongst young people in the local community, and they developed activities to address these. The first week of the project involved the RGU students acclimatising to their new environment, as well as planning for their activities. In week two students prepared resources, and upskilled one another to deliver various activities. Week three saw the students deliver coaching and educational sessions to over 200 primary school pupils, culminating in a festival celebrating sport, health and wellbeing.
During the fourth week of the project the students travelled to Mumbai and spent time visiting community organisations who use sport to engage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They gained insight into the delivery of sport in various communities and schools in the megacity. They also visited a women’s university to share their experiences of the project with students and promote the role of sport within education. The project culminated in a reception hosted at The British Council’s offices in Mumbai where students presented their project to an audience of RGU alumni, prospective students, recruitment agents, local academics, and members of The British Council team.
Core to the project was a partnership established between RGU and The British Council, who saw an opportunity to provide support to the RGU GO: India project as a part of their Generation UK-India initiative. The British Council delivered pre-departure workshops and online activities for students, and assisted staff in planning. It is hoped that the learning from the pilot project can result in The British Council offering similar services to other academic institutions that might seek to develop and deliver similar projects.
The evaluation of the project is ongoing, but early results indicate that students gained invaluable knowledge and skills from their involvement. They have reported that the experiences and challenges faced will be valuable during their remaining studies and future employment. In particular they have benefited from the opportunity to problem solve, work in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams and settings, and their increased confidence in their understanding and application of their subject knowledge as well as awareness of the expertise that other subject specialists can contribute within projects. As well as this, students will gain 15 additional university credits through reflecting on their personal and professional development during the project.
The RGU GO: India project team hope to use the evaluation of the project to demonstrate the value of such student mobility projects. This model provides benefits for a range of partners, including strengthened international links between academic institutions, promoting UK institutions globally and amongst prospective students through international community activities, and tangible benefits for student learning and employability.
Written by Bryan McCann, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science, BPS Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist HCPC Practitioner Psychologist. Robert Gordon University.
Photo Credit, Robert Gordon University