What environmental data should universities collect for student mental health and wellbeing?

Over the last two months, we have been delving into the UK Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) publicly available datasets. And when I say, “we”, I mean Kieran. It is mind blowing how much data is available for each university. And it is such a rich dataset which researchers can use for any amount of secondary data analysis research.

In a recent research bid I was putting together for an Irish Higher Education context, I recognised the lack of data that is available for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in other countries in comparison to the UK. If we are to understand the university environment in different international contexts and how they impact on student wellbeing then we need governments to implement plans to collect sufficient and the right data for higher education.

What constitutes the appropriate/right data that HEIs and governments need to collect to understand student mental health and wellbeing is something that our project hopefully might be able to contribute to. We recognise that collecting this type of data requires a huge resource and infrastructure investment and hence we hope to provide clear guidelines in the future about what may be the best data to collect to understand how the university environment affects student mental health and wellbeing.

At the moment we are exploring from the HESA dataset, various cultural, social and built environment variables that contribute to the university environment, including investment in arts, proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students, and the size of green spaces and sport fields. We know from the work of WhatWorksWellbeing that the arts, a sense of belonging, and taking part in sports affect mental health and wellbeing. Hence we’re checking the extent to which these variables contribute to a university environment that supports mental health and wellbeing.

So, watch this space and if you can think of any variables that HESA should have for measuring mental health and wellbeing – let us know.

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