Here's how one student accommodation company plans to improve student well-being
Student well-being and mental health are growing concerns for universities worldwide. Source: Shutterstock

Apparently, many Chinese students studying abroad aren’t willing to engage in community events organised by the university or accommodation providers.

This isn’t because they’re unfriendly or cold, but rather because they’re afraid to look foolish in front of their peers, according to The Pie News

This often leads to feelings of isolation and depression, issues that Global Student Accommodation (GSA) plans to address with its new well-being framework.

Connecting with the Chinese student community was one of the major challenges faced by GSA, a long-term player in the accommodation sector, during a trial run of the framework in the UK.

To solve this, GSA introduced Chinese-only events, which eventually led to bilingual events, language cafes and programs.

Another factor that tends to lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of community building is something most students are probably not aware of: living in studio apartments.

While the studio life can seem luxurious and perfect in terms of privacy (no annoying roommates to deal with!), it could actually be detrimental to students’ well-being and overall university experience.

Bobbi Hartshorne, GSA’s Global Head of Student Well-being said, “We are advocating reducing the number of studios. Half the beauty of living in a property that has been designed for students is that there is loads of activity. Students in studios don’t necessarily get to be part of the camaraderie and the community spirit in each of the flats.

“[We should] make sure that we are not only building good buildings but we are also thinking about what the service standard and the care package looks like.”

Communal spaces and activities for students to interact with one another helps them feel less isolated. Source: Shutterstock

GSA is launching this nine-pillar framework after it’s successful run in the UK. It offers residents a broad variety of locally-relevant activities, between four and eight a month organised by residential assistants.

The Student Wellbeing Framework will be rolled out for 30,000 students across eight countries.

The framework will tackle the following areas: spiritual, mental, cultural, social, environmental, physical, academic, financial and career needs.

It intends to do the following:

  • Raise awareness of potential catalysts for stress
  • Provide opportunities to develop the skills and resilience needed to overcome stress
  • Involve students in the planning and delivery of events and activities
  • Provide staff training and knowledge
  • Build strong communities
  • Provide quality in-residence services to support students during vulnerable life transitions

GSA is a long-term player in the accommodation sector, designing student communities in many countries with market-leading technologies, communal spaces, mixed-use developments and advanced security systems.

According to FE News, GSA has called for collaboration across more on- and off-campus university service providers to help improve and promote student well-being.

In June 2018, GSA launched a study entitled, Student Wellbeing Matters. Exploring on and off campus student wellbeing in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Australia.

The research was conducted by Red Brick Research and commissioned by GSA, seeking to gain a better understanding of the role purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) plays in enhancing student well-being.

Arofan House in Cardiff, one of the properties under GSA. Source: Campusboard

The global framework and deliverables remain constant in all countries involved, and the residence teams will receive training and implement flexible event schedules specially-tailored to local student markets.

Hartshorne said, “80 percent of National Student Housing Survey respondents in the UK said their accommodation has a direct impact on their overall sense of well-being. Our research is focused on practical examples of what can be done and the benefits that joined-up action delivers for student mental well-being.

Student health, physical and mental, is becoming more and more important for universities. Many have designed or renovated their campuses with this in mind, offering more recreational activities, community events and counselling services.

Nicholas Porter, chairman of GSA said,“Our student residents are now Gen Z, a generation which continues to wow the world with its conscientious, politically and socially aware approach, its determination to make the world a better place and a keen eye for fairness and value for money.

“We don’t want to see this generation continuing the struggle with mental health. GSA’s mission is to make a real difference to students’ lives and we are asking to collaborate with universities to break down silos and better integrate mental health provision for students, both on and off campus.”

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