Postgraduate: Counselling research; treating rabbits; MA in media talk

How does a mother react to the news that her son is gay? Cathy Falconer, who has a gay son, researched the issue as part of a masters in guidance and counselling.

How does a mother react to the news that her son is gay? Cathy Falconer, who has a gay son, researched the issue as part of a masters in guidance and counselling. Her findings are to be published in a non-academic book, which she hopes families of young gay men will find helpful. "My son came out to a friend of the family, who has two gay nephews, and my husband," says Falconer. "I was just devastated for my son - what was he going to have to face? I was shocked and didn't want it to be true." Mothers in this situation tend to feel fear, guilt and sadness, says Falconer, who spoke to 11 women for her study at Ulster University. They may worry that their son will encounter bigotry, or that he is leading a promiscuous lifestyle that could lead to HIV infection. It is common for mothers to wonder whether their son's upbringing contributed to their being gay, and to feel unhappy that he is unlikely to become a father. Families of gay people have to go through their own "coming out" process, says Falconer. "You have to decide how to tell people and when." Falconer found that there was almost no information or support available in Northern Ireland for families with gay children. "Support services for families would help to do away with the misconceptions about gay people," she says. The book is due to be published by the Guildhall Press, a Derry-based company, this autumn.

* A clinic for rabbits has been set up in Bristol with the help of a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College, London. Brigitte Reusch, who graduated with distinction, is involved with the clinic as part of a three-year residency at Bristol Zoo Gardens, a unique new post sponsored by the Rabbit Welfare Fund. She is being trained in the treatment of exotic animals and will gain a postgraduate qualification. Despite being the third most popular pet in the UK after dogs and cats, rabbits are classed as exotic pets by vets and training in the care of them is limited. Reusch, supervised by Sharon Redrobe, head vet at the zoo and honorary lecturer in zoo and exotic animal medicine at Bristol University, will also be training about 500 undergraduate vets during her residency. The scheme will help to show vets the importance of excellence in zoo and exotic animal medicine and raise standards in the field, says Redrobe. The rabbit clinic, which is based at the university's animal hospital, sees first-opinion cases and provides a referral service for clients in the South-west and South Wales. Students will be able to come into the clinic to get experience of treating rabbits. Redrobe hopes that the residency will be emulated elsewhere.

* Recordings of celebrity interviews and soaps will be among the course materials of a new masters course at the University of Wales, Swansea. The MA in media talk will be run jointly by the university's media and applied languages staff from this autumn.

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