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Nick Higgins

Professor, Director of the Creative Media Academy, Chair in Media Practice

19962019
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Personal profile

Area of academic expertise - outline

Professor Nick Higgins is the Director of the Creative Media Academy and Chair in Media Practice in the School of Media, Culture and Society.

His research explores the nexus between media forms, subjectivity and cultural change.

The early period of his research career involved a combination of explorations in cultural and political philosophy and prolonged periods of fieldwork, first in East Africa and then in Mexico, where he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the Colegio de Mexico. The research outputs from this period take the traditional written form of a monograph, chapters and journal articles, including publications in top rated journals such as International Affairs and were presented at international conferences.

Since 2004 Professor Higgins' research has increasingly become concerned with practice-based research whereby the form of research output is intrinsically linked to the experience of the fieldwork itself. The outcome of this research has resulted in 6 short form and 4 feature length documentaries that have received numerous awards including Best Short Documentary (Berlin 2004), Best Human Rights Documentary (WACCS/SIGNIS 2008) and a 2013 BAFTA Scotland nomination. The films have screened at over 90 international film festivals, academic conferences and broadcast on 9 international television networks, resulting in audience figures of over 5 million viewers.

His documentary films have been screened by international broadcasters including the BBC, STV, ZDF (Germany), SVT (Sweden), YLE (Finland), VPRO (the Netherlands) and at over 60 international film festivals including Edinburgh, Rotterdam and Morelia.

He is known for his willingness to explore documentary form having produced innovative shorts such as Mentiras, the portmanteau The New Ten Commandments, the crowd-sourced We Are Northern Lights, online interactive documentaries on uws.io and most recently the 360 virtual reality documentary film, The Circuit.

Professor Higgins is currently the producer and executive producer on a number of active screen projects including the feature documentary, Colours of the Alphabet currently screening at festivals internationally.

Professor Higgins currently sits on the executive of the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) and is trust secretary of Screen Education Edinburgh.

Current research activities

Professor Higgins research continues to explore both the form of documentary film and its modes of exhibtion through practice-based research both as a producer and director.

Currently, alongside Dr Alastair Cole at the University of Newcastle, Professor Higgins is delivering the impact campaign of the practice-based research feature documentary project, Colours of the Alphabet that interrogates the relationship between childhood and language. Filmed in Africa over 12 months, the documentary follows three Zambian children and their parents as they come to terms with the fact that the langauge they speak at home is not the languge in which they must be educated. In the case of Zambia, a country of 72 indigenous languages, the choice of english as the only language for formal education has consequences for indigenous culture and the film is unique in the manner it captures a process of enculturation rarely seen outside the communities themsleves.

A second project is a practice-based exploration of the potential of virtual reality and the immersive documentary form. The first output of this research is the virtual reality 360 degree documentary film, The Circuit. The VR project premiered at the 2017 Glasgow Short film Festival, where Professor Higgins also organised the symposium on Virtual Reality with contributions from the BBC, the National Theatre, Scottish Ballet and several international VR practitioners.

Desired research direction

Professor Higgins is interested in the potential of virtual reality and augmented reality to transfrom the way we teach, conduct our research and collaborate with society. To this end Professor Higgins is the institutional lead on a University wide project, UWS Immersive, and works with colleagues across all schools and subject areas to originate inter-disciplinary research projects.

Target collaborative companies

Professor Higgins has been collaborating with the award winning ISO digital design studio since 2012 and continues to explore projects and possibilities with the ISO team.

As Creative Industries lead for the School of Media, Culture and Society, Professor Higgins works with a variety of film, tv and audio companies and works closely with Film City Glasgow, the production centre for film and TV companies in Scotland.

Professor Higgins also works closely with STV and is the University lead on the STV/UWS local television partnership that will see STV 2 broadcast live from the UWS Ayr campus from April 2017.

Target collaborative organisations

Professor Higgins has a strong track record of developing research links with stakeholders in the UK as can be demonstrated by his work with the Black and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure for Scotland (BEMIS) and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF Scotland), both of whom were cultural partners on the Northern Lights project.

He has also worked with the NHS, the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools project, all of whom were partners on the Learning Through Film: Human Rights in Scotland project that in 2016, with Creative Scotland funding, resulted in the multi-media teaching resource being distributed to every secondary school in Scotland as featured on BBC Scotland (Dec 2016).

More recently Professor Higgins has established a research collaboration with the AfriDocs broadcast network that will see the feature documentary, Colours of the Alphabet, distributed to 49 sub-saharan African nations as part of an ongoing research and impact campaign with Dr Cole of the University of Newcastle to affect understandings of mother tongue education across the continent. 

Other areas of expertise available for knowledge exchange

Professor Higgins has excellent links with the media industry and since 2013 has established the Creative Wednesday sessions at UWS Ayr where he delivers an illustrated conversation with an industry guest on a regular basis. To date he has conversed with 24 industry guests including 4 Oscar winners, several BAFTA winners and other significant industry players.

These sessions have resulted in considerable news coverage including radio and television and, on the occasion of the visit of the producer of Star Wars, international press.

Professor Higgins is the University lead on the STV/UWS local television partnership that will see STV 2 broadcast live from the UWS Ayr campus from April 2017.

Professor Higgins has chaired or participated on Media juries and selection panels including: BAFTA, Royal Television Society, Alt-W, Creative Scotland, the Scottish Documentary Institute and Edinburgh International Film Festival and has represented the Scottish Film industry both internationally (Bosnia, the Netherlands and Canada) and domestically at industry and academic events.

Professor Higgins also influences media policy in a variety of ways, not only through providing evidence to the likes of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission (2013), the Film Sector Leadership Group (2016), and the Scottish Select Committee on Creative Industries in Scotland (2015) but also through active participation on a number of relevant industry committees including: Creative Skillset National Board (2013-2016), Creative Skillset Media Academy Network (2013-2016), STV local television national board (current), Independent Producers Scotland (IPS) chair of documentary sub-committee (current), Film Sector Leadership (FSL) skills subcommittee (current), Screen Education Edinburgh (SEE) trust secretary (current) and the Pacific Quay Film Studio Advisory board. 

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Research Output 1996 2019

From doctoral project to cinematic release: a dialogue on the impact pathway of Colours of the Alphabet

Higgins, N. & Cole, A., 24 Jan 2019, In : Media Practice and Education. 19, 3, RJMP 1529477.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Alphabet
Pathway
Documentary
Methodology
Collaborative Projects

The Circuit: Virtual Reality 360 degree film

Higgins, N., 18 Mar 2017

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

Open Access
virtual reality
travel
ability

Colours of the Alphabet

Higgins, N., 21 Feb 2016

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

2.4km: Living with Nuclear Power

Higgins, N., 10 Oct 2015

Research output: Non-textual formWeb publication/site

Open Access
nuclear power
France
resident

River: a sonic journey from source to sea

Higgins, N., 10 Oct 2015

Research output: Non-textual formWeb publication/site

Open Access
acoustics
student
river
sea
sound

Profiles