Richard Gascoigne, CEO of Solutionpath

With the increasingly sophisticated technology at all businesses’ disposure today, it’s relatively uncontroversial that universities today have more opportunities than ever before to make their processes more efficient, achieve more visibility and consequently support their students in the best way they can. With that in mind, the ex-health minister Sir Norman Lamb’s recent comments that universities should be bound by law to meet the mental health needs of their students should be equally embraced.

According to NHS statistics, mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people each year. This clearly demonstrates that mental health issues are a more pervasive problem in society and not just limited to schools. Therefore, given that students starting university are arguably in one or the most vulnerable periods of their life, universities should be proportionately sensitive to their needs while they attend their institutions. Indeed, many are laudably taking direct action to help the students in their care, either by implementing early alert systems or analysing student data to identify at-risk individuals.

Universities of course carry a heavy burden of responsibilities, especially given their limited resources to allocate towards counselling, pastoral or medical services, all of which are normally under the purview of the NHS. Data compiled by Sir Norman Lamb also indicates a significant variation in the volumes of service users at different universities – 19.97% of students were reportedly in counselling at the University of Leicester, with only 1.2% at the University of Bedfordshire. With this all in mind, it is a real problem that, while the motivation behind their actions is an excellent one, their execution and design often are not.

With resources to help students already stretched, many universities decide to focus attention on the limited information they have, normally in the form of superficial demographic data. This leads to them taking action where it may not be needed, therefore squandering efforts and achieving next to nothing towards addressing real problems. Insights and predictions need to be based on real-time data that is objective and specific to each individual. Limited resources can therefore more easily show indicators of need through factors like drops in engagement, rather than profile indicators based on biased data from demographic indicators.

Although there are certainly numerous factors that go into determining why some discrepancies might exist, universities need a uniform method to record and share data to avoid these kinds of severe irregularities. Not having a set procedure in place when it comes to collecting data can lead not only to ambiguity, but to misleading statistics like those above – it is unlikely that students at the University of Leicester are in fact in much more need of counselling than those at the University of Bedfordshire. The clear answer to this issue is that these institutions need to invest in and implement tools that grant visibility of real-time engagement data, giving them a better understanding of natural (and, by extension, irregular) learner patterns.

Advertisement

To give another example, if BAME students are isolated as being most at risk at a given university, how could the institution then effectively approach every BAME student in a timely manner to check if they need help. Bradford and Aston University, for instance, have roughly 70% BAME students, which, while excellent for widening participation, renders the demographic approach simply not feasible if we acknowledge the need for precision and effectiveness. Add to this the recent reports that one university attempted to harvest data from students’ social media profiles in order to identify at-risk individuals and it becomes clear that neither strategy is ideal for quickly addressing mental health issue in individual students. Such overly-broad or privacy-breaching strategies run the risk of degrading students’ trust in their institutions that they can provide the support they could require in a time of need.

There are, of course, numerous universities taking a more responsible, targeted approach. For instance, Nottingham Trent University (NTU), instead of relying on demographics, looks at the patterns of individual student participation in order to uncover the subtle changes in behaviour that are often the top indicators for concern. By implementing a dashboard, easily-accessible to students and staff, that monitors students’ day-to-day activity, including whether they are attending lectures, going to the library or even the union, they can determine whether a student is engaged with their environment or beginning to withdraw from university life. If a lack of engagement is registered for 14 days straight, an alert is then sent to their tutor to prompt them to set up a meeting and address the issue. This approach means efforts are more focused, more effective and far more likely to identify individuals truly in need of support, and played a key role in NTU being named The Guardian’s ‘University of the Year’.

As we begin to see more universities take this proactive approach of using data to support student wellbeing, they will more easily be able to fulfil one of their core objectives, namely caring for the most vulnerable individuals under their care. The first step in achieving this, rather than invading students’ privacy or considering them part of societal groups seen to be ‘potentially vulnerable’, is committing to the collection of detailed, real-time objective engagement data that can be transparently, accurately and efficiently leveraged to support individuals’ overall wellbeing.

Richard Gascoigne, CEO of Solutionpath

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Newsroom Activity

Kerry Boffey added a new event 9 hours

Introduction to Fellowship of Inspection Nominees

Join Kerry Boffey, founder of the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (fin) for an informal session outlining fin support available to providers in...

  • Tuesday, 14 July 2020 02:00 PM
  • On-line. Longdon Hall, Longdon on Tern
Kerry Boffey - updated event, Safeguarding Masterclass 9 hours 59 minutes ago

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page