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Bubble wrap, puppies and petting zoos: the new way to reduce exam stress

Its exam time for the country’s student population and, in an attempt to keep stress levels down, many of the UK’s universities have been turning to inventive methods.

The University of Leicester invited its undergraduates to play with bubble wrap in the busy exam period. According to the institution’s student union, popping bubble wrap provides “instant gratification” – they hope the activity will calm anxiety and give students a welcome break from revision. Hundreds of metres of the plastic air cushion sheets have made their way to Leicester and popping stations have been installed across the campus. The university also plans use puppies as a way of reducing stress; the dog petting events will give students the chance to play with a puppy for just £1. Education officer and president-elect of the University of Leicester’s Students’ Union, Michael Rubin, said:

“Trying to reduce stress through providing revision help through our Education Unit, petting puppies and working with Nightline to hand out free tea to keep energy levels up are really important, positive things for us to do.”

Other universities have also followed suit; the University of Southampton provided a petting zoo for their students while Nottingham Trent University invested in an on-campus puppy room. According to Dan Flatt, president of Leicester’s student union, “It’s the quirkier events such as puppy-petting that prove more popular forms of de-stressing,” Flatt believes that “These less traditional forms of stress relief help raise awareness of the other support services within the university and point students in their direction.”

Exam stress has always been a problem across the education sector but it’s the increased tuition fees which seem to have raised the bar. With undergraduates now paying £9,000 a year for their degree the pressure to perform has never been so high. Zoe Archer from Nottingham Trent University said: “I’m paying £9,000 a year for my degree in print journalism, and I feel I need to work harder to get the best possible grades, in order to pay back the huge debt I’ll be left with.”

An increasing number of students are now turning to part-time work in order to cover the exaggerated university costs and some believe that these extra responsibilities are just added to the burden of meeting deadlines. Giulio Folino, president of City University’s student union, argued that: “Studying is more stressful now than it used to be. Due to higher course fees, many students have to work part-time, and are balancing living costs as well. They have more responsibilities now and are under a lot of pressure.”


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