COLLABORATION

This university partnership is helping students stay emotionally-fit

SOURCE: Mariam Soliman/Unsplash
With the Fika app, students can select from over 200 context-specific emotional workouts designed by psychologists.

The student mental health crisis remains a growing concern of universities everywhere, with institutions stepping up efforts to encourage sufferers to come forward.

But as more do, campus leaders are finding themselves contending with a different challenge altogether: meeting the increasing demand for mental health services.

According to the UK’s Office for Students, student mental health reports have doubled in five years, putting a major strain on institutional budgets and resources. At the University of Bristol, for example, spending on wellbeing and counselling services doubled from 2016 to 2017.

Other universities are similarly responding, taking steps to reduce wait times for counseling, also launching courses on managing stress and anxiety and offering training programmes to encourage peer support and tap faculty help.

Still, despite their best efforts, there remains a gap between the demand and the availability of student mental health resources at universities.

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At the University of Hertfordshire, a new partnership with a technology firm is helping to fill this gap.

Thanks to the partnership arrangement, the university is piloting Fika across the School of Life & Medical Sciences, making the mental health app available to the school’s over 4,000 students.

Launched earlier this year, the Fika app helps students build confidence, resilience, motivation, focus and empathy through simple, five-minute workouts. 

Students can select from over 200 context-specific emotional workouts designed by psychologists with a specific aim of helping students navigate the daily challenges of university life.

In addition to improving overall student wellbeing, the workouts are also designed to boost academic performance and employability, a major area of concern for graduates in an ever-evolving world of work. 

According to Fika data, students using the mental health app agree it has improved their mental health and wellbeing. Some 83 percent have reported increased positivity, while 81 percent say it has reduced anxiety and stress and 82 percent that it improved their ability to handle challenges.

The app has also increased the motivation levels of 81 percent of its student users, while 79 percent say it has made them more confident.

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According to Bdaily news, in addition to offering the app as a service to students, the university’s partnership with Fika also includes research opportunities in tackling the student mental health crisis.

For example, the school will actively contribute to the firm’s academic research programme, working with its Head of Research and other university partners to understand the impact of regular emotional exercise on student wellbeing, attainment and employability.

Joanne Askew, a PhD student at Hertfordshire, will even devote her thesis to understanding and measuring Fika’s overall impact on these scores, looking at how it has been able to transform, improve and maintain student wellbeing in the UK.

“Fika is a proactive tool to build students’ mental fitness, equipping them to cope with the inevitable challenges they will face, at university and beyond. 

“As a university that values our students as partners, we’re delighted to join forces with Fika, proactively giving students the tools they need to thrive,” the school’s Associate Dean of Education Dr Philip Porter said.

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The University of Hertfordshire boasts the highest graduate employment rate in the East of England, with an impressive 96.5 percent of students entering employment or further study within six months of graduation.

The university also scores high on teaching excellence, earning the top gold ranking in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2018.

Its partnership with Fika will help the university strengthen its reputation as a global leader in student experience and employability.

“We’ve now seen the extent of student demand for Fika, with students across more than 50 UK universities using and championing our app,” Fika CEO and co-founder Nick Bennett said in Bdaily News.

“We invite all UK universities to contact us about making Fika available to their full student bodies, helping us safeguard the next generation’s wellbeing, relationships and careers.”

Apart from the University of Hertfordshire, Fika also partners with many other higher education institutions such as Bath Spa University, the University of Exeter, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Lincoln, London Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales.