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Share your ideas and experiences with the Student Wellbeing Taskforce

The Student Wellbeing Taskforce, which was launched in September 2018, is almost ready to issue its advice to the Executive Board. It has already heard the opinions of the staff, but before it issues its advice, it also wants to hear what students think. It is keen to hear your ideas and experiences, so why not come along to one of its meetings?

The Student Wellbeing Taskforce was launched because there were various signs that the wellbeing of our students could use some improvement. ONS Leiden, one of the student parties on the University Council, was one of the main advocates of setting up a taskforce. They worked with student parties from other cities because the problem is a national one. 

One in five students

The Taskforce began by conducting a comprehensive literature study of student wellbeing, what affects it and which strategies help promote it. In not only Leiden but also the Netherlands and internationally, one in five students suffer from stress and depression as well as from anxiety, loneliness and sleep problems. The Taskforce also made an inventory of which parties in Leiden were already involved in promoting student wellbeing and conducted surveys of student and study associations.

Share your ideas and experiences

In addition to gathering this information, the Taskforce wants to hear about students’ own experiences. It has therefore scheduled two meetings in spring 2019: one for Dutch students and one for international ones. The international meeting will be held in The Hague.

Each meeting will be chaired by two members of the Taskforce. They will begin by presenting the information that the Taskforce has already collected. They will then ask the students what they think has most priority concerning the topic of student wellbeing and if they have any suggestions on how to promote this. The Taskforce will try to incorporate the students’ experiences and ideas in its advice.

  • Meeting for Dutch students: Monday 1 April, 15.00-17.00. Location: Leiden, where exactly will be announced soon.
  • Meeting for international students: Friday 29 March, 16.00-17.30. Location: Conference room, De Klok, Enthovenplein, 2521 DA The Hague.

Register for one of the meetings

Also read the interview below with Professor of Stress-Related Psychopathology Bernet Elzinga and expert member of the Taskforce.

The Student Wellbeing Taskforce 

Tasks 

  1. Advise on the role of the University with regard to student wellbeing
  2. Suggest how further research can determine the scale and cause of the problem 
  3. Suggest how best to promote student wellbeing


Members

  • Philip Spinhoven, Professor of Psychology, chair (photo)
  • Bernet Elzinga, Professor of Stress-Related Psychopathology
  • Hester Moinat, student psychologist
  • Sofie Delpeut, study adviser
  • Kirsten Lelieveld, former chair of PKvV and member of the University Council
  • Marleen van Dorst, assessor at the Faculty of Science
  • Nienke Wit, chair of Leiden University Student Platform
  • Jeroen ’t Hart, director of Student and Educational Affairs
  • Jasper Bitter, official secretary

Interview with Professor Bernet Elzinga, expert member of the Taskforce

Bernet Elzinga, Professor of Stress-Related Psychopathology, is an expert on stress. She explains how the Taskforce has now met five times and has, for example, carried out a literature study to find out what is known about student stress and which interventions are effective.

Bernet Elzinga:
Bernet Elzinga: 'The transition to a new stage in life is always associated with stress.' ©Petronellanitta Photography

Pressure to succeed and new responsibilities

‘The study showed that the high level of stress is not a typical Leiden problem nor is it a typical student problem, but instead that the transition to a new stage of life always asks a lot of young people. This relates to pressure to succeed, new responsibilities, the loss of a familiar social setting and the fear of not fitting in the group.’ Alongside stress and loneliness, students also suffer from depression and sleep problems. International students appear to have somewhat more problems than Dutch students, probably because the ‘break’ with their country, family and friends is more drastic.

Buffer against loneliness and stress

Social cohesion in the form of a friendship group, a friendly face to come home to, a close year group or any other form of belonging creates a buffer against stress and loneliness. Spending a lot of time at university with other students, for instance in practicals as is the case in medicine and a number of science programmes, can be a drain on your time but can actually be a remedy. Elzinga: ‘There are indications that students on a programme with a lot of contact hours have fewer problems than students with few contact hours.’

Students want a lot

It is clear that students also feel a lot of pressure outside their studies. Elzinga: ‘They want to put their energy into their social life and sport, and they want to work to earn money and improve their CV. They are also scared of missing out on everything that is going on around them. The dynamics of social media also bump up the pressure.’

Factors that can be influenced

Elzinga says that the Taskforce will focus on factors that the University can influence. It has little influence on measures from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: improving the study success rate or ensuring that at least 10% of students follow an excellence programme, for instance. The Taskforce is considering options such as a handy platform that brings together all sorts of information, intervention tools, apps and literature. ‘A lot has already been done for student wellbeing, for instance by study coordinators and deans, mentors and student psychologists. We still need a clear overview and an organogram of who to contact about what.’ More should also be done about psychoeducation, Elzinga adds, and students should be able to monitor and improve their own wellbeing with eHealth apps.

Start in September

The Taskforce wants to issue its advice before the summer. This will be presented to the Executive Board and will then be sent to the University Council. Elzinga: ‘We are very decisive. The aim is that students will start reaping the benefits of the Taskforce from September.’

Text: Corine Hendriks
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