Lessons from our higher education webinar
Back in June, we co-hosted a webinar on emerging risks in the higher education sector. With the help of our claims partner Gallagher Basset, and insurance risk and commercial law firm BLM, we looked at some of the new challenges universities are up against.
One of the topics we covered was student consumerism, and how growing expectations from students are putting added pressure on universities to deliver value for money.
Read on to get a summary of the key issues we touched on and enjoy a short clip of the webinar at the bottom.
Mental health and wellbeing: Everyone’s feeling the pressure
Student life can be stressful. Going from a protected school campus to university brings a level of pressure some young people struggle to adapt to.
University is often the first time some students have ever spent away from home and there’s a lot to deal with. From adjusting to an unfamiliar setting, to making new friends, to succeeding academically, to managing student loan payments and living expenses – it all adds up and can soon feel very overwhelming.
The Office of National Statistics reports that the proportion of students declaring a mental health condition has more than doubled between 2014 and 2019.
And it’s no surprise to learn the pandemic has only made things worse. A lack of social interaction combined with the sudden shift to online learning has brought new pressures for students to navigate.
A survey from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in December of last year showed over half of students believed their mental health deteriorated during the pandemic.
It places a lot of pressure on the sector. As society unlocks from restrictions and universities move into a new normal, the onus is going to be on these universities to develop a robust strategy.
Key to that strategy is going to be clear signposting – its important students know what services are available and where they can go to find them.
Whether that’s internally through schemes like buddy systems, where students can lean on their peers for support. Or directing them to external help through charities like Student Mind. Whatever those services are, universities need to make sure they’re easily found.
Ongoing campaigns around wellbeing can also help normalise the issue amongst the student body and make it easier for people to reach out in times of need.
And university staff need appropriate training, so they can spot when one of their students is struggling and know the steps they need to take to help them.
But it’s not just the students who are suffering – university staff are feeling the strain too.
Referrals to occupational health and counselling among college and university staff are climbing. According to a poll by the University and College Union, four in five university staff and college workers are struggling with their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic.
The poll identifies the pressure to deliver blended learning and excessive workloads as being the main causes of mental fatigue.
Also, with the rise in poor student mental health, counselling services are being overrun, and it has meant some staff members taking on unpaid pastoral work on top of their day-to-day schedule.
They’re also feeling the heat of higher student expectations. With fees at an all-time high, students are more demanding of the quality of their education and that burden often falls on the teaching staff.
Universities need to be proactive. The issue of mental health and wellbeing is always in flux, and those universities that constantly review their mental health and wellbeing strategies are surely the ones that are going to survive and thrive.
Watch Ashley Easen from Gallagher Bassett give her risk management advice
Here’s a short clip from the webinar where Risk Consulting Director Ashley Easen identifies areas universities should concentrate on.
Published date: 3rd September 2021
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