The latest student accommodation data highlights that efforts to support wellbeing and promote cohesion and a sense of community are slowly gaining traction. However, a more fine-grained analysis of the data, with a particular focus on the experience of the UK’s three largest sending markets, China, India and Nigeria, and students with a disability, highlights ensuring that wellbeing support is culturally responsive and promotes inclusion is likely to be critical in making real gains in this area. Key issues highlighted include:
- Mental health issues are framed differently by different nationalities, so ensuring that information about mental health support is communicated in a way that is accessible and minimises stigma is critical. As an example, students from the UK are more likely than international students to report that they struggle with stress and anxiety and report higher levels of loneliness and depression than international students. However, a deeper dive into the GSL Index data suggests that international students do struggle with mental health issues but are more likely to report struggles when they are framed in less formal/medical terminology. As an example, despite reporting lower levels of depression, Indian students are more likely than those from the UK and Ireland to say that they feel ‘downhearted’ all or most of the time and are also more likely than those from the UK to say they feel ‘down in the dumps’ all or most of the time. This is an important consideration when framing and labelling the type of support available for students.
- A one-size fits all approach is unlikely to be effective. The GSL Index data highlights that different cohorts experience different wellbeing struggles:
- Work and career. Students from India and Nigeria are more likely than those from the UK or China to report that they struggle with work and career-related issues. This is likely to cause considerable stress given that these two cohorts are more likely to be funding their rent through part-time work and are more likely to be older post-graduate students with additional responsibilities.
- Financial. Students from the UK are more likely to say they struggle to have enough money to get by and afford the lifestyle that they want, while Indian students are more likely than other internationals and those from the UK to report that budgeting is a problem.
- Academic struggles. Chinese students are more likely than other international cohorts to report difficulties with coursework and exams, gaining the right skills, study skills and understanding how to improve academic performance. Coursework and exams are also a significant issue for students with a disability, with 42% saying they struggle in this area compared to 33% of students without a disability.
- Loneliness. Students from the UK are more likely to report feelings of loneliness than international students. Students with a disability are also significantly more likely than those without a disability to say they struggle with loneliness (52% vs 32%), getting on with others in their accommodation (29% vs 17%), and meeting new people (42% vs 33%). Students with a disability are also less likely than those without a disability to say they enjoy socializing in their accommodation and feel a strong sense of community.
- Students continue to struggle to find information about support. One in five students report that they struggle with knowing where to find support. This figure is higher for students with a disability, with one in four students reporting that they struggle with knowing where to find support. Chinese students are slightly more likely than other international students to say they have difficulty in knowing where to find support. There has been little improvement in these figures over the past three years, highlighting the importance of taking a multi-pronged approach to ensuring students know how to access the support that they need.
The upcoming GSL Live event will include a panel session on fostering supportive, inclusive and data-driven environments for student wellbeing as well as a Masterclass in designing the student wellbeing journey from booking and departure, but tickets are selling fast! Visit the GSL Live event page for more information.