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Sense of purpose and student wellbeing

The well-being of students in higher education is under pressure. More than half of all students do not feel well. There is heavy substance use, often related to performance pressure, stress and student debt. With the corona crisis, the urgency to deal with student well-being has increased: almost half of the students indicate that this crisis has a negative influence on their lives. Because wellbeing is a condition for learning and functioning well in life during and after studies, it is of great importance for education to contribute to the wellbeing of students in higher education. Universities are already actively working on student welfare.

Within Radboud University too, this theme is on the agenda and work is being done on student welfare. In 2018, a number of students formed a think tank within the Radboud Honours Academy. They searched for solutions to improve student welfare within the university. And with result: the work the students did has led to the Radboudlife & Care programme.

The client of this project is the Expertise Centre for Inclusive Education (ECIO). As a national expertise centre, ECIO advises and supports universities, universities of applied sciences and vocational schools on relevant themes when shaping inclusive education and student welfare.

The essential question underlying student welfare may well be a philosophical one. As a student, you find yourself in a crucial phase of your life, one in which you go from being an adolescent to a young adult. You discover who you are, what you want and what you cannot do. This search for identity and meaning is often a process of trial and error, which sometimes requires good guidance. This quest often coincides with a period in which a great deal of independence is expected: you will be living on your own for the first time, have to manage your own finances and arrange everything yourself at university. In addition, we know from psychology that psychological problems often manifest themselves for the first time between the ages of 16 and 25: a period of life in which many young people are in the middle of their studies. In short: for many young people, a period of study is a period that revolves around meaning and identity, while at the same time a great deal of independence is expected.

At a macro level, we can see that sense of purpose has a different meaning for the current generation than for previous generations. Religion and collectivism often play a lesser role and the emphasis is more on self-development and the individual. In addition, life choices such as buying a house, getting married and having children are often (forced) postponed. This can lead to extra uncertainty and a search for (a new interpretation of) meaning.

This project addresses questions such as: How can the academic community contribute to student welfare in relation to a sense of purpose? What works for you and your peers? Who exactly within the university can play a role in this? Which (inter)national examples can we learn from?

Weekly meetings
The weekly meetings will take place on Mondays from 18.30-20.30 unless the group decides otherwise in consultation with the supervisors.

Kick-off weekend
The kick-off weekend of this think tank will be on 28 and 29 October 2022. The kick-off weekend is a mandatory part of the think tank.

prof. dr. Hans Schilderman, professor of Empirical and practical religious studies
Casper Kirkels, MA, MSc, programme coordinator Radboud Honours Academy