The National Forum was delighted to support the USI in the completion of a research project that aimed to take a ‘first glance’ at student wellbeing within the higher education curricular context. This work captures examples of how wellbeing is currently being embedded across curricula of higher education institutions nationally and internationally and identifies features of existing practice to inform future related developments and decision making at national and local level. The research culminated in a report completed by Dr Jessica Surdey and Dr Deirdre Byrne: Embedding Wellbeing across the curriculum in higher education . The research identified three main enablers: making content relevant to students and their personal and professional development, leadership, and intra-institutional collaboration.
Key suggestions to inform future development for embedding wellbeing across the curriculum, with particular reference to how it can best be enabled, include:
- More work is needed to identify what constitutes good practice in embedding wellbeing in the curriculum and to develop an evidence base that supports our understanding of what works and why.
- Staff capabilities in curriculum design and delivery, including approaches to how wellbeing can be embedded, need to be further developed through a strong focus on the professional development of those who teach and related processes and structures.
- Within each higher education institution, it is essential that a whole of institution approach is taken to supporting student wellbeing. This will require time, space and adequate resourcing.
- Senior management, academic and support staff, and students should work in partnership to ensure that institutional capabilities, culture and practices support student success.
- The Irish higher education sector would benefit from an evidence-informed, nationally led, collaborative approach to identifying and sharing the features of good practice regarding student wellbeing.
- A national collaborative network should be developed facilitate collaboration and to share experience and expertise across the sector.
The report was launched at on online event ‘Supporting Wellbeing in Practice’ on Thursday, 14 October 2021. The event brought together key stakeholders in supporting wellbeing from across the sector.
Dr Padraig McNeela, lead researcher on the Active Consent programme highlighted the heightened interest in wellbeing among staff and students as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. Other contributions included inputs on the National Framework for Mental Health (Treasa Fox), the Healthy Campus Network (Biddy O’ Neill); the YP3 project on peer assisted transitions (Ralph Astley) and insights from Ibec on wellbeing in the workplace (Meadhbh Costello).
Tim Conlon, Head of Policy and Strategic Planning, International Programmes and Gender Equality in the Higher Education Authority, briefed attendees on the work being done in the HEA and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to bring together and support the major stakeholders in the area of wellbeing in higher education. These new initiatives include the availability of additional funding for student mental health, and a national focus on issues such as consent, and equity, diversity, and inclusion.
The event culminated in a panel discussion including Rebecca Lane (National Forum Student Associate), Somhairle Brennan (USI Vice President for Welfare) , Meadhbh Costello (IBEC) and Tim Conlon (HEA).