What Does an Effective Student Wellbeing Policy Look Like?

A Student Wellbeing Policy is a set of unique legislation and practices set up by an education provider to give key mental and emotional wellbeing support for students. It’s used to create a culture of wellbeing within higher education institutions. 

Policies such as these help students get the most out of their educational environment and ensure that they can get the support they need if required. So what does a Student Wellbeing Policy look like and what does it include?

NB: This advice is not exhaustive.

Why Is a Student Wellbeing Policy Important?

Tip: If you know exactly why a Student Wellbeing Policy is important, skip to the next section here. If not or if you'd like to read about the importance anyway, keep going.

With the growing levels of mental health issues in the UK’s student populace, there’s a risk of students going through higher education (HE) and not receiving the treatment and care they deserve.

Students will also have different needs and vary in their experience of mental health issues. Going to university represents many significant transition points; changes to lifestyle, area, friendship group, education and finance. These changes add up and can represent significant challenges that influence students negatively and can produce issues such as stress and anxiety in young students.

By providing a framework of support, students can get the most out of their studies as well as being provided a safe environment to develop in. That being said, it’s not purely about studies, as universities have the obligation to provide for the emotional and mental side of student life as well. It is crucial that this support is effective.

A Student Wellbeing Policy helps to create a culture of wellbeing that prioritises the needs of students in HE. It’s about cultivating an environment where mental health and other related issues, such as abuse or maltreatment, are seen as important and are met with the appropriate care and action. 

Wellbeing needs to be put at the core of the student experience so success isn’t viewed as just good quality academic results but also as a healthy mental and emotional state too.

Providing an effective Student Wellbeing Policy gives students a chance of experiencing the following:

  • A structured and purposeful environment.
  • A reduction in isolation and loneliness.
  • The opportunity to learn how to manage different simultaneous demands.
  • A chance for both personal and academic achievement.
  • The knowledge of how to deal with mental health issues.

The challenge for HE institutions is to create an environment where effective studying is not seen as the only thing to aim for. The students need the assurance that they’ll be supported within any wellbeing or mental health issues they may experience and they need to trust that the support offered is successful. 

The necessary task of a HE provider is keeping students safe and providing a caring, supportive communal environment where growth can be achieved unheeded. Good grades aren’t the main aim, they’re a bonus.

Download your free guide to improving student experience in higher education

Wellbeing Training for Staff

All staff should have a base level of training when it comes to the emotional and mental wellbeing of students. With more and more education providers offering these services, it’s vital there are clear ‘champions’ of the services nominated and that training and progression are accessible and universal for all. Training should be kept up-to-date with mandatory refresher courses at least every two years.

However, this means there could be a lot of staff all committing themselves to these responsibilities. For student wellbeing practices to remain agile, they should be pioneered within an institution by a key group of staff who have a range of expertise. 

This may include counsellors, mental health advisors and academic staff. It’s also wise for those members of staff to be involved in the preparation and delivery of staff training. This training should mirror the ideals of equality, diversity and inclusion.

What Services Should the Policy Include?

A positive sign of the times is the growth of services offered to students in HE across the board. The way in which provisions of support and wellbeing are provided are likely to include some of the following (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Mental health advice. 
  • Wellbeing advice and support.
  • Services for disabilities.
  • Financial guidance and resources.
  • Careers services.
  • Multi-faith support. 
  • Peer-led support groups.
  • Student health services.

The policy should also make sure the university makes information available about external sources of support. These may be local or national bodies, including local GPs, clinics and hospitals. These types of external body can include:

  • Mental health services. 
  • Helplines.
  • Independent counsellors.
  • Specialist agencies.
  • Mental health support groups. 
  • Voluntary organisations.

It’s even possible for HE providers to develop partnerships with these organisations.  By developing these partnerships, cross-referrals can be facilitated, care and support provided faster and communication amongst care providers increased.

It also helps both parties to learn about the processes of the other, meaning students in need are more likely to receive accurate support that relates to their situation.

Collaboration With the NHS

Working alongside local and national NHS Services is a vital addition for any effective Student Wellbeing Policy. This helps to enable successful transitions, access to medical and specialist support and also facilitates risk management. 

To implement collaborations, an education provider should map out local NHS Services, resources and communication channels, as well as their own resources to identify any areas that would complement one another. For example, these could be:

  • University mental health teams linked to GP practices.
  • University medical staff linked to local GPs to ensure fast and efficient registration and information sharing.
  • Communication links between staff and local accident and emergency departments.

By bridging the gap between education providers and the NHS, wellbeing support and care can be more effectively administered within a fast time period. 

Further Practices for Higher Education

There are no limits to the extent of your Student Wellbeing Policy and Practices. In the UK, effective policyholders implement a number of actions that work to provide a safer and more supportive environment for students. These could be any or all of the following:

  • Establishing links with a local NHS provider. This includes easily-found contact information on the provider’s website, as well as information on their services.
  • The creation of regular cross-department meetings to review the progress of any vulnerable students.
  • The forming of task groups designed to facilitate the implementation of mental health strategies.
  • The beginning or continuation of staff training in helping students who are struggling. 

Improving the experience and wellbeing of students in HE is an incredibly important task. For more information on how to do this, download our helpful guide.

A Guide to Improving Student Experience

This guide explains the current situation for student experience in HE, as well as where the situation should be at. It includes advice on improving student experience, focusing on wellbeing, participation, attainment and student retention.

To download your free copy of this useful guide, click the link below.

Download your free guide to improving student experience in higher education