Keele pays tribute to Audrey Newsome

Photo Credit: Roger Bartley.

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to Audrey Newsome, founder of Keele’s student counselling service in the 1960s which was the first of its kind in the UK, who has sadly died.

Audrey arrived at Keele in 1962 as the Assistant Appointments Officer in the careers department and quickly recognised the emotional difficulties students faced during university, and the lack of formal mental health provisions in place.

Previous experience of working with teenagers within youth employment services armed Audrey with the knowledge that much of the student population had nowhere to turn for the day-to-day problems they encountered. Audrey found that her professional responsibility for career guidance could not be separated from developing an understanding of their non-academic lives in which a host of problems - social, emotional, romantic, familial and others - could inhibit their ability to study and learn effectively.

When Audrey was made Head of the Appointments Service (Careers) in 1964, she soon set to work on a proposal for a unified counselling service, which won enthusiastic agreement from the Vice-Chancellor at the time. This service was to be offered to all students as they adjusted to campus life, with the aim of eliminating stigma around mental health.

For over 21 years, Audrey counselled thousands of students and staff members, putting Keele at the forefront of student support and counselling in the UK. During this time, she published ‘Student Counselling in Practice’, the first textbook devoted to student counselling in the UK which went on to influence the development of similar services in many other universities.

Audrey was a formative member of the Association of Student Counsellors and British Association for Counselling. She was awarded an honorary degree by the Open University for services to education and also made a Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

In 2015, Audrey was welcomed back to Keele for the naming ceremony of the Newsome building, home to the University’s Counselling and Emotional Wellbeing Service.

Mark Fudge, Head of Counselling and Mental Health Support, said: "Audrey was an early pioneer within student services both nationally and at Keele. Through her compassion for students, and passion for education, she created a resource for early Keele students which was replicated across the sector throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Her early work, supported by Harold Taylor, is a testament to the pioneering spirit of the Keele experiment in its formative years.

“She created a road map for other universities and was instrumental in the formation of the Association of Student Counsellors which later became the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. I'm sure Audrey's work and the team she formed helped many students throughout their academic journey and beyond. She was a truly spirited woman who contributed greatly to education in the UK."

Gerry Northam, Keele alumni and friend of Audrey, said: “She was a remarkably attentive and astute listener, who spoke in a warm, secure voice inflected with her native Leeds. Nobody could doubt her integrity or the depth of her insight into the human soul.”

Audrey passed away on Monday 22 June 2020.

There are two video interviews with Audrey, the first from 2015 in which she gives a personal account of her life and the motivations of her work, and a second from 2019 in which she talks about her time at Keele. You can watch both videos here:


Read the full obituary on The Guardian.