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Student well-being: UT focuses on early identification and prevention

It is a much-discussed phenomenon: young adults struggling with feelings of stress, depression and loneliness. This sign of the times is no different for UT students. The University of Twente feels a great responsibility to support students who experience such problems and who have difficulty getting along within the community. The Student Welfare Implementation Plan, which was presented this week by the UT’s Executive Board to the University Council, may contribute to a successful approach.

The implementation plan is the further translation of the student welfare policy plan, which was presented last year. For the policy plan, the UT initiated a study into the welfare, commissioned by researchers of the BMS Faculty. The study found that two-thirds of the participating students (15 per cent of the students took part in the study) suffer from depression-related symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. This is in line with national trends about the well-being of young adults.

Early identification and prevention

In the UT’s approach, the emphasis is on early identification and prevention of problems among students. The aim is to encourage students to contact their supervisors and counsellors as quickly as possible and to reduce the chance of problems becoming acute. That is why it is necessary that care providers within the UT, but also students who receive and supervise new students in the buddy program, for example, are trained to recognise certain signals. Students can then be helped faster and better. This includes courses in the areas of first aid, mental health, and cultural sensitivity. but also active-bystander training or gatekeepers training.

Study, sports and cultural associations at the UT are also concerned about the well-being of their members and adapt their activities to, for example, the habits of international students.

Caroline van Dijken, head of Student Affairs Coaching & Counseling: “In practice, well-being appears to be a theme that students do not talk about easily. And if it is already on the table, the step to facilities to stimulate well-being is often a big one. We signal this to all students, but with some specific target groups, you can see that this threshold is even higher. One target group that requires extra attention, for example, is the group of international (bachelor) students: they find it a bit scary to discuss their situation with others. Moreover, they are not yet sufficiently home in their new living environment to be able to find the way to guidance. ”

Strengthen the community and professional support

An inventory shows that many different facilities enable students to improve their well-being or to discuss welfare-related issues. These are available at both the UT and the faculty or degree program level.

Students can make use of, for example, group counselling related to study planning or study pace. Specific programs are offered to promote social and personal well-being, such as how to deal with stress or homesickness.

Students can turn to study advisors, student psychologists and student counsellors (the latter are also confidential counsellors). There is also support to prepare students for careers after graduation. A buddy program for new students is offered from educational programs.

The facilities on offer at the UT are well appreciated by students, according to the National Student Survey (NSE): the UT scores above average on themes related to student counselling. The possibilities for supervision, as well as the quality and attention given to this by educational programs are valued above the national average.

Extra attention for vulnerable target groups

The 2019 study found that four groups, in particular, can be distinguished that are particularly vulnerable in this phase of life: female students, students who belong to the LGBTI community, international bachelor students and students with a studying disability.

In particular, for these target groups, the UT wants to further strengthen the chain of student guidance and support. It is about raising awareness and providing information about what is possible for students, to better enable students to ask for help. A digital and physical counter (Contact Center), that is yet to be set up, is an important initiative in this regard, and the social map must also help students familiarise themselves with the possibilities.

For more information on all initiatives, visit the website of Student Affairs, Coaching and Counselling.

L.P.W. van der Velde MSc (Laurens)
Spokesperson Executive Board (EB)