Pete Quinn, Independent Consultant

Calm, connected and in control: how to make it happen for your students

In the second in his series of guest blogs for us, Pete Quinn, Independent Higher Education Consultant, discusses the strategies you can use to help your students in higher education feel more in control, connected and calm during their studies. 


In the Vitality ‘healthy workplace’ survey, conducted in partnership with RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge, the total calculated loss to business in 2018 as a result of mental ill health presenteeism and absence equated to £81bn – an increase of £4bn compared with 2017. Poor mental health was found to be a significant cause of productivity loss, accounting for £38bn annually. Of this, £17.2bn came from workplace stress.

Young employees were particularly at risk for mental health issues, with 12.5% of 21-25-year-olds indicating they suffered from depression. This figure increased to 17.2% for the 18-20 category. 

Lonliness amongst students

Meanwhile, in the student population ‘loneliness’ is a bigger issue for students than non-students in society despite our societal *interconnectivity* being at record levels. A 2018 ONS survey found 9.8% of young people aged 16-24 said they often or always felt lonely.  But for students this rose to 15% reporting feeling lonely daily. The figures were even worse for disabled, black and minority ethnic and International students. Students living at home i.e.commuting students, were in a similar position.

So, what *is* it that preoccupies student’s worries and anxieties? More than half of students report their top concern at University as ‘coping with their course’. More than a third of students are concerned with making the most of their time at University and about their mental health (including stress and anxiety).

How can we help our students?

What three pieces of advice could you give to students at university to help improve their situation? Here are some suggestions based on work with many universities.

There won’t be a single solution to your challenges. Just as there is a cumulative impact on you from stress, anxiety and loneliness there are a number of solutions which you can use cumulatively. Try these to feel more in control, calm and connected to others:

  • Look to improve your effectiveness in your studies and at work, don’t wait for your workplace or university to improve. Using Assistive Technology (AT) can benefit your ‘coping’ with writing assignments or reports. If you can become proficient in using the AT available to you, you can worry less about coping and focus more on making the most of your time with real people in real time. (see below)
  • Aim to improve your Life-work balance. Here’s a great practical toolkit that you can use and implement: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/work-life-balance.htm Resentment, frustration and energy sapping stress take hold if you lose perspective, control or oversight of this balance. Redressing the balance is within your control and enables you to feel more in control.
  • Seek out in-person social activity which allows you to give back to your community. Stop sitting on your screen and take the plunge and *do* something. This might be easier at University but can be done in your workplace too. Either way it is not something done for you, it must be done by you. Some great examples include simply walking someone elderly to the chemist and back via an organisation like https://movethemasses.org.uk/about or joining your local Parkrun get involved in the opportunities to volunteer with charities within your community.

About the Author

Pete Quinn is an Independent Consultant adept in managing equality, diversity & inclusion, primarily across the education sector for over 15 years. As an Independent Consultant, he applies his skills, knowledge and expertise in equality, diversity and inclusion. He specialises in the delivery of inclusive teaching and learning reviews, disability confidence reviews, training and consultancy currently works with several Universities in England, Scotland and Wales. 

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