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OU partners to embed mental wellbeing in HE

Young person talking to a counsellor

The Open University has joined forces with leading UK universities in a QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) funded study to identify best practice and produce Open Educational Resources (OERs) for the Higher Education sector on ‘embedding mental wellbeing’ (EMW) in the curriculum.

Whilst there has been more focus on student mental health in recent years, EMW has not been addressed sector-wide, until now.  The cross-university project aims to provide definitions for EMW across the HE sector, share examples of EMW already in practice and identify the benefits of EMW for students, staff, providers and the sector.  Project outputs will be made available as open education resources (OERs) early in 2022.

Kate Lister, Lecturer in Education from the WELS School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport, is leading the OU’s contribution to the project which is headed up by De Montfort University. Kate’s research work at the OU focuses on accessibility, wellbeing and inclusion in post-secondary education. She has led a recently completed project on EMW at the OU and for the QAA-funded study will be collating and capturing OU examples of EMW in the curriculum.

She says. “We’re really excited to be invited to share our practice with colleagues across the sector and feed into the QAA collaborative project. Student mental health is a sector priority, and it’s essential that the sector is building on shared definitions, can draw on shared examples of practice, and is working towards a shared vision of success. This is a wonderful opportunity for universities to support each other on this journey.”

 “The OU is uniquely well placed to lead the way in embedding mental wellbeing throughout curriculum, tuition and assessment. We have over 19,000 students who disclose mental health conditions (13% of our cohort), and many, many more who experience issues with their mental wellbeing while studying.

“Since 2018, we’ve been working to investigate student experiences of mental wellbeing in distance learning, and have identified a taxonomy of barriers and enablers that students experience. We’re now working to embed enablers to student mental wellbeing throughout our curriculum, tuition and assessment practices, and are piloting an embeddedness model to measure and evaluate our progress.

Hear Kate speak about how distance learning can support mental wellbeing in students in this recording of her TEDx talk from 2019:


Link to De Montfort University’s recent announcement for more information on the study.

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