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Give new students mindfulness classes to help them settle, report urges

College students should be assigned mentors, offered relaxation and mindfulness classes, and put into 'houses' to help them settle into university life, according to a new report.

Students should be assigned mentors, offered relaxation and mindfulness classes, and put into 'houses' to help them settle into university life, according to a new report.

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The paper, which examines how to create 'positive universities', also suggests first-year students take psychology courses that teach them about the importance of wellbeing and good mental health, and be offered activities that would be an alternative to heavy drinking sessions.

The proposals, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), have been drawn up by University of Buckingham vice chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon and the institution's dean of psychology, Alan Martin.

They set out a plan which they argue will help to tackle mental health issues among staff and students, and help new students make the transition from school to studying for a degree.

Teaching resilience

The paper includes 10 ideas for creating positive universities for students, including asking students to fill out a form at the start of each year outlining what they hope to achieve, academically and personally, which they then review with tutors at the end of the year.

It suggests all students should be offered mindfulness classes as well as a psychology programme in their first year that teaches them skills such as resilience, how to deal with emotions, build relationships and identify and use their own strengths.

It says more should be done to help students feel they belong by adopting a house system like those used by many schools.

'Belonging is vital to mental health and reducing loneliness,' the report says.

Managing stress

'Every house should have an experienced member of staff who oversees the students within the group.

'These groups can form the basis for social events and competitive events within the university, across a wide range of sporting and cultural activities.'

The paper argues that universities should encourage students to exercise and eat healthily and provide relaxation spaces, with students taught how to breathe deeply to help them manage stress.

The authors also list 10 ways to help students make the transition from school to university, which include opt-out disclosure of mental health conditions so that information is shared between schools, universities and medical agencies, as well as more early contact with new students, from the moment they get an offer of a university place.

It says every new student should be assigned a mentor who is an undergraduate already at the university, and argues that there should be activities for first-year students to discourage them from drinking heavily.

Mental health

The paper also suggests formal joining or matriculation ceremonies to introduce newcomers to the ethos of the institution.

Sir Anthony said: 'Research shows that a high proportion of students suffer from mental health problems at university.

'We need to do much, much more to help them with the transition, which is the biggest change in their lives.

'If we don't tackle this problem urgently the mental health crisis will deepen and there will be more lives lost needlessly.'


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