Necessary measures in desperate times
The Rectorate at UCPH has announced a student well-being help package to the faculties, intended for student-run activities and for hiring more counsellors.
The continued lockdown of the university challenges students’ well-being. This has been documented by new data from the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, which shows that 70 percent of students find that the corona situation has removed some of the joy of undertaking an education. 43 percent said they had experienced loneliness during their studies in the autumn.
For this reason, the Rectorate at UCPH has launched a corona help package to improve student well-being and, hopefully, the package will benefit those who are struggling the most in the current situation.
“Until we can meet on campus again as part of an everyday life that is a little more normal than today, we will maintain a strong focus on helping those who are most challenged. That’s why we have put together a help package to support student well-being as a broad effort that involves heads of studies, teaching staff, students and study administrations," Prorector Bente Merete Stallknecht says.
Commitment and community are key
An evaluation report of teaching at UCPH in spring 2020 highlighted problems regarding student well-being. Despite variations, many students found the online emergency teaching difficult. Both students and lecturers described that they lacked presence, contact and the opportunity for direct dialogue, all of which are important elements of a dynamic classroom. The absence of spaces for normal social and academic interactions has resulted in loss of motivation and less collaboration with fellow students.
“From the work in the UCPH think tank on stress and student well-being, we know that the feeling of being part of a community and seeing others believe in you are key factors for student well-being. The same is true for the experience of academic or social commitment. That’s why it’s important to earmark the help package for these areas. I expect to see even greater focus on getting, for example, group work and study groups to function. I also hope that our student associations will make a strong effort to organise events that can bring students closer to each other – although not yet physically," Prorector Bente Merete Stallknecht says.
Local initiatives matter
So what are we actually doing at UCPH to help students through this difficult time? Teaching staff, student counsellors, study boards, academic councils and students are driving excellent local initiatives with zest and commitment. For example, student counsellors at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics who have devised a 'reverse phone service', where they call students to hear how they are. It might seem like a time-consuming administrative task, but the outcome has proved its worth. Or first-year Physics student Sune Halkjær, who has set up a virtual H.C. Ørsted Institute on the gaming platform Discord – an attraction where you can delve into electromagnetism or hang out at a film night on 'Watch2gether', depending on whether your mood is for physics or feasting.
The Rectorate suggests applying freedom of methodology in the faculties’ initiatives so the package can get to work quickly, and be put to use at the faculties precisely where lack of well-being is felt the most. However, the Rectorate urges the faculties to think in broad terms and embrace both the few students who feel very bad – and the many who might just miss each other and their lecturers.
By Christina Grauballe and Simone Hauskov
The UCPH help package contains
- Financial contribution to hire well-being counsellors at all faculties.
- Financial support for student-run activities for a reopening.
- Inspirational catalogue with current initiatives.
- Definition of student well-being from the UCPH Think tank on stress and student well-being.
- Example of proactive counselling aimed at vulnerable and potential dropout students.
- Scorecard to get an overview of the well-being initiatives.
- Ideas from summit on young people’s well-being under Covid-19 (November 2020).