In the UK, pre Covid-19 pandemic, one in four students experienced amental health difficulty, with 71% reporting that academic work from university istheir main source of stress (Brown, 2016). Recent guidance from Student Minds (Hughes &Spanner, 2019) and Universities UK (2020) highlights the need for clarification of therole of academic staff in student mental health through appropriate training and development.


Hence, a QAA Scotland Collaborative Cluster on Student Mental Wellbeingand the Curriculum was formed as part of the 2017-2020 Enhancement Theme,Evidence for Enhancement: Improving the Student Experience. The key work ofthis Cluster was to organise a series of professional development events forthe higher education sector in order to develop the capacity of academic staffin their design of inclusive curricula, against the backdrop of a globalpandemic.


In total there were 794 registrants across the four events from 141different organisations across 22 countries, including Australia, Malaysia andIceland, with 505 converting to attendee status, giving a mean registrant toattendee conversion of 64% (range 57%-71%). Academic staff formed 50% ofregistrants, followed by Professional Service staff (25%); Academic Quality andAcademic Development staff (15%); and Student Officers and students (10%).


Across the four events there were 10 presentations/workshops withtopics such as: the role of the academic and the curriculum; digitalaccessibility; 5 ways to mental wellbeing; personal tutoring; principles thatsupport teaching, learning and wellbeing during the COVID19 pandemic; theconnections between curriculum co-creation and student mental wellbeing; andcompassionate assessment.


An electronic survey was distributed to all 794 registrants, to gaugethe felt need for a student mental wellbeing special interest group. There were85 respondents (10% response rate), with 88% from Universities. The surveyindicated a continuing appetite and expressed need for work in this area toraise awareness of student mental wellbeing and equip staff and students indesigning inclusive curriculum through further events, resources, working groupsand collaborative research.


Therefore, it is recommended that continuing professional developmentwork is carried out across the higher education sector in the aforementionedareas; additionally, providing a focus on specific groups of learners for whommental wellbeing often is evidenced as a particular concern, for example, thosefrom Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and LGBTQ+ communities.



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Cite as

Gray, H. & Shanmugam, S. 2020, 'Student mental wellbeing during a global pandemic: leading a QAA Scotland Enhancement Themes Collaborative Cluster', Enhancement Themes. https://researchonline.gcu.ac.uk/en/publications/42590c40-d047-4f3f-afb0-a46350a14e53

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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