‘We can learn a lot from one another about student well-being’
Student well-being is an enormously broad subject. Students and researchers can gain inspiration and exchange knowledge at the online EUniWell symposium ‘Good Practices on Student Well-Being’ on 30 September and 1 October. We take a look at the forthcoming symposium with co-organiser Jasper Bitter: ‘I’m looking forward to hearing what other universities do, and areas where they have had good experiences.’
Why a symposium on student well-being together with EUniWell?
Jasper Bitter: ‘EUniWell is a partnership of seven universities that together make up the European University for Well-being. The partnership aims to bring together knowledge and expertise in the area of well-being. Student well-being is, of course, an important part of this. Each of the seven universities organises its own well-being activities, basing their approach on their own experiences. The aim of the symposium is to learn from one another: what do you do, what works, and what doesn’t?’
What will the themes and topics be?
'Student well-being is, of course, an enormously broad theme: it’s about physical and mental well-being, and the activities, courses, and support services that a university offers. But it’s also about what students do for one another, lecturers who incorporate the subject in their teaching and scientists who do research on it. We will include all these different aspects in the programme of presentations, panel discussions and networking activities.’
‘Something that’s particularly good is that earlier this year we asked staff and students of all universities to share their good practices. A committee of students made a selection from all the inputs, and these will be presented at the symposium. There are topics that student mentors and lecturers have submitted, but also initiatives that students have set up for their fellow students. And from all the participating universities; a group from our Faculty of Social Science, for example, will present their MoodPep project, a self-help programme with coaching that they developed themselves for students who are suffering from low mood.’
Which parts of the programme are you yourself most looking forward to?
‘What I find really interesting is the scientific part of the programme. There are a lot of universities that have collected data on their students and on the projects they have organised to promote student well-being. That means you can measure whether your approach is effective. I’m curious to know whether they can conclude from the research whether or not a particular activity works.’
‘And, of course, I hope to get some inspiration for our own programme. For example, a course at another university on a subject that we don’t have here in Leiden, or a particular service that others offer. In Leiden we do a lot with student support, but there’s always room for more, for doing things differently or more smartly.’
What is your role in organising the symposium, and how are the preparations going?
‘My team and I have written an application for a subsidy from EUniWell for organising the symposium. We now have a group of organisers, in which Leiden University and Semmelweis University have taken the lead, and I’m the project leader. I maintain the contact with the partner universities and make sure that the content of the programme is in line with the aim of the symposium. I and my team of student assistants also take care of all the practical issues, such as promotional activities, logistics, speakers and keeping the participants informed, etc. It’s all going well so far – the students are a great help. And we’ve found a great online platform with an app for the symposium that facilitates and also encourages interaction among the participants.’
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Why are you so closely involved with this theme?
‘I work as a policy officer at Student and Educational Affairs (SEA) in Student Support Services. Obviously, student well-being is at the heart of the department, so I’m working with this topic every day. Following the report on student well-being, we set up a fully integrated approach at the university. I originally went to work at SEA because I realized that there was a lot that could be improved in student support, and I wanted to play an active role in that. For me, it’s really motivating to think about what can be done better – and then to actually make those improvements.’
Last question: why should our students and staff take part in the symposium on 30 September and 1 October?
‘Student well-being is such a current theme in the university world, and this symposium is the ideal opportunity to see how and what other universities are doing in this area. You don’t have to be involved with the topic in your work or your studies; everyone who’s interested is welcome. The aim is to inspire one another, share knowledge and maybe build new networks so that we can work together on student well-being.’
Text & photos: Marieke Epping
EUniWell Symposium ‘Good Practices on Student Well-Being’ – 30 September and 1 October
In this two-day online symposium students, staff and researchers will come together online to share their knowledge and experiences of student well-being. With inspiring presentations and panel discussions on the responsibilities universities have for the well-being of their students. The themes that will be addressed include: well-being as part of the curriculum; scientific research on well-being; a student-student approach to support, tools and resources for support staff. It is also possible to join for just one of the two days.