HEDQF Student Life and Wellbeing

The Higher Education Design Quality Forum (HEDQF) recently organised a webinar on Student Life and Wellbeing which explored the impact of the physical environment on providing support for students…

Ian Caldwell (former Director of Estates at King’s College London) was joined by Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr (Pro Vice-Chancellor Strategy, Planning and Partnerships at the University of London) and Dr Caroline Paradise (Head of Design Research at Atkins).

The discussion was full of interesting statistics which showed that youth in the 16-24 year old age range experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group and a recent HEPI survey found that 58% felt their mental health was in a worst state than before the lockdown. Research from UCL in 2013 showed that ‘social isolation has long been known as a key trigger for mental illness’.

HEDQF have commissioned a number of research projects to explore these issues and explored what students wanted from the academic estate and student residences.

  • 51% highlighted a place to socialise with peers
  • 49% choose green and landscaped space

These were found to increase a sense of belonging and an area that Directors of Estates can target for future investment.

Ian Caldwell presented on plans for the pedestrianisation of the Strand Quarter outside King College London’s strand campus which is focused on enhancing the public realm, safety, air quality and a social space for events and community activities. All of these will have a dramatic affect on student well-being. Further details can be viewed at https://strandaldwych.org/

Dr Alwani-Starr talked through the recent developments within student accommodation which cited proximity to campus as a key determinant for students in selecting halls.  She discussed the importance of natural light, views on nature and informal meeting areas as vital considerations too. She presided over the Stirling Prize nominated project at Chadwick Hall which was recognised as creating a ‘welcoming and calm space’. Full details can be viewed here.

We have appointed leadership posts extensively over the years at both King’s College London and the University of London and have always been impressed by their focus on the student experience. It’s clear that future leaders in this space will need to follow their lead in creating environments which enhance well-being and provide supportive spaces that foster strong mental health.

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