Student perceptions of a healthy university

Holt, Maxine, Monk, Robert, Powell, Susan and Mark, Dooris orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5986-1660 (2015) Student perceptions of a healthy university. Public Health, 129 (6). pp. 674-683. ISSN 0033-3506

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As complex environments within which individuals and populations operate, universities present important contexts for understanding and addressing health issues. The healthy university is an example of the settings approach, which adopts a whole system perspective, aiming to make places within which people, learn, live, work and play supportive to health and wellbeing. The UK Healthy Universities Network has formulated an online toolkit, which includes a self-review tool, intended to enable universities to assess what actions they need to take to develop as a healthy university. This paper presents findings from consultative research undertaken with students from universities in England, Scotland and Wales, which explored what they believe represents a healthy university.

Student surveys and focus groups were used to collect data across eleven universities in England, Scotland and Wales. A priori themes were used to develop our own model for a healthy university, and for the thematic coding phase of analysis.

A healthy university would promote student health and wellbeing in every aspect of its business from its facilities and environment through to its curriculum. Access to reasonably priced healthy food and exercise facilities were key features of a healthy university for students in this study. The Self Review Tool has provided a crucial start for universities undertaking the journey towards becoming a healthy university. In looking to the future both universities and the UK Healthy Universities Network will now need to look at what students want from their whole university experience, and consider how the Self Review Tool can help universities embrace a more explicit conceptual framework.

The concept of a healthy university that can tailor its facilities and supportive environments to the needs of its students will go some way to developing students who are active global citizens and who are more likely to value and prioritise health and wellbeing, in the short and long term through to their adult lives.

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