Student well-being, is there a course for that?

More attention is being paid to the well-being of Hanze students than ever before. The brand-new Hanze Student Support comprises 1,400 hours of courses, training sessions and workshops. Nynke Beintema: ‘The students’ needs take priority.’

‘Life seems to be more and more of a competition, with winners and losers. That is unsustainable’, said Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven during the National Education Meeting on Student Well-being on 19 March. Student well-being is a priority for the minister, who is a member of the D66 social-liberal political party. During the opening of Hanze’s academic year, Van Engelshoven reiterated that universities of applied sciences and universities need to be there for students. ‘All students deserve the attention they need to get the best out of themselves’, she emphasised on 3 September, in the Atrium at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences.

Students suffer from the obligation to be successful. They feel unnecessary pressure

They’re taking the words out of Nynke Beintema’s mouth. The policy drafted by the manager of Student Services and Juliette Odé from the Education & Applied Research Staff Office during the past year significantly expands the number of facilities for students. The package now consists of about 40 workshops, courses, training sessions and campaigns that are designed to create awareness.

Awareness, what is that?
Becoming conscious. Victims of sexual abuse, for example, students who are struggling with an addiction. We want to let them know that they are not the only ones, that Hanze UAS can offer them a sympathetic ear and can advise them on the steps they can take to get help. If they need it, of course.’

The facilities for student well-being are grouped under the name Hanze Student Support. ‘Three words that nicely indicate what we stand for in two languages. As such, we will no longer be using Study Success Centre.

The word success has somewhat lost its sheen in recent years. ‘The association is no longer just positive. Students suffer from the obligation to be successful. They feel unnecessary pressure. With our range of services, we’re offering them something to help them through their studies and prepare them for the job market. Their needs take centre stage. We want to offer them the answer that will benefit them in their situation. In other words, we don’t necessarily focus on success.’

Too many students don’t know how to reach us. We propose setting up a portal.

The number of participants in the courses and training sessions has been growing steadily in recent years (from just over 200 in 2016 -17 to 350 in 2018 -19). Effective study habits is by far the most popular activity, attracting nearly 100 participants. That reflects the findings of Professor of Rehabilitation Lies Korevaar, who discovered that a lot of the stress experienced by students is related to a lack of study skills, such as organising and planning study activities.

Wouldn’t it be better to integrate study skills into regular education?
‘That’s not up to me. And besides, it always depends on how many students would benefit from it. So, if a substantial amount would then yes, you could do that. For now, the services offered through Hanze Student Support are a good alternative. Incidentally, it also offers students the opportunity to interact with other students facing the same challenges. That, too, is extremely valuable.’

How do you ensure that more students learn about these facilities?
‘Too many students don’t know how to reach us. We propose setting up a portal, on which students can quickly and conveniently find out about the services that are available. For now, we only have a web page. Perhaps at a later stage we can start thinking about a physical office or desk. But that will also depend on the students’ needs. They may just prefer a digital environment. We haven’t looked into that yet.’

Student Support offers workshops for Healthy Life Skills; what are those?
‘They’re short training sessions of all kinds of skills that make life less stressful. Examples include healthy use of social media, adequate sleep and nutrition, as well as how to handle money and debts. They’re the result of the exploratory study conducted by Juliette’s Healthy Life Skills project group during the past year. The study paid close attention to the suggestions from students.’

Student Support: 1,400 hours of student well-being
Hanze Student Support offers some 1,400 hours of courses, training sessions and workshops, which are taught by both Hanze lecturers and external experts. In total, Student Services estimates the costs of these activities for student well-being at €217,000 per year. The actual costs that the Hanze earmarks for promoting student well-being are much higher. The €217,000 does not include the costs associated with academic counselling, the university doctor and the Student Counsellors’ Office (which comprise approximately five full-time jobs). Nor does it include the costs associated with the appointment of university psychologists.