A latest study by Global Student Accommodation Group (GSA) has shown that students are subjected to several ‘stressors’ that impact their wellbeing.
The study, titled Student Wellbeing Matters, analysed over 10,000 pages of evidence from more than 280 studies, reports and articles worldwide.
GSA and its research partner Red Brick Research have established several clear patterns that are prevalent across all the respective student populations globally.
The report found that students were impacted by known ‘stressors’ which generally fell into seven categories: financial pressures; academic stress; long commute times; social pressures – including making friends, leaving established support networks, living in close proximity to others; concerns about employability/labour market competitiveness post-graduation; balancing work and study and housing problems.
Professor Lindsay G Oades, director, Centre for Positive Psychology, University of Melbourne, Australia, said, “The study addressed the challenges and opportunities of university student wellbeing, including the contribution of the physical and social attributes of accommodation.”
Student wellbeing in the Middle East
“With increasing numbers of overseas students studying in the UAE, it is hardly surprising that in effect these ‘stressors’ are far reaching and not simply confined to any particular region. We operate in a global economy, so it is only logical that students in the UAE, feel the same pressures as students in other parts of the world, especially with intense competition for top international career openings, post graduation,” said Tim Klitscher, Managing Director, GSA Middle East.
“This study identifies that housing is a key contributor to student wellbeing. It found that student housing and management staff are well placed to act in an ‘early warning’ capacity, and can play a vital role in supporting early interventions, as well as acting as ‘first responders’,” Klitscher added.
In light of the findings, the study proposed five key recommendations to provide an all-embracing holistic view of the student experience.
1. Create networks that go beyond the boundaries of university geography and service provision and link the partners that influence the entire student experience.
2. Universities and student service providers need to invest in the skills and networks required to effectively signpost students across a wide spectrum of health and wellbeing issues to ensure that support is appropriate and proportionate to individuals. There is also an opportunity here for those who partner with universities (such as purpose-built student accommodation providers), albeit with the right training, to work more effectively with universities and healthcare providers to assist with better sign-posting and referrals.
3. In-residence community environments with on and off campus student accommodation providers recognising the additional challenges such accommodation presents to students. Private accommodation providers must work harder to provide a community environment where students are supported by an in-residence team and social activities and staffing structures can be designed to support students as they transition away from home.
4. Beyond basic services and features of rooms and spaces, the quality of accommodation design has a significant role to play in the health and wellbeing of students. Design factors should, therefore, be considered alongside the quality of services provided, in judging how well a development or building is likely to serve the wellbeing of its occupants, and (as established earlier) their academic outcomes.
5. There is an urgent need for large-scale research to be undertaken in collaboration with the further education sector (16 – 18 in the UK) to understand the pre-arrival social and psychological conditions that may predict or prevent the emergence or manifestation of mental health issues and other wellbeing challenges once in higher education.
GSA's wellbeing programme
GSA, which has created a community of students calling Uninest their home, provides safety, security and 24/7 on-site assistance for resident students. From September Uninest will implement GSA’s bespoke structured wellbeing progamme in ME in September. The prgamme has akready been rolled out in other locations globally.
“Student Well being strategy, designed by GSA, will be introduced in our Uninest Dubailand residence. At Uninest Student Residences, We have an excellent 24/7 staff for resident support. However, to execute student well being in utmost capacity, our staff at Uninest, Dubailand will undergo a month of training on student well being specifically designed to implement well being programs by the in house staff,” said Klitscher.
“We are ready to take our community to the next level and we’re pleased that this approach is consistent with moves from the Dubai Health Authority, to acknowledge and address mental health issues, through promotion, prevention and early intervention.