National research and development project on healthy universities: final report

Dooris, Mark T orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5986-1660 and Doherty, Sharon Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7420-8080 (2009) National research and development project on healthy universities: final report. Project Report. Advance HE, Preston, UK, PR1 2HE.

[thumbnail of 5502_Dooris.pdf]
PDF - Published Version

Official URL:


This report presents the findings of a National Research and Development Project, undertaken by the Healthy Settings Development Unit at the University of Central Lancashire and funded by the Higher Education Academy Health Sciences and Practice Subject Centre and the Department of Health. The aim of the project was to scope and report on the potential for a national programme on Healthy Universities
that could contribute to health, well-being and sustainable development.

The project comprised four strands:
- Literature Review: A rapid review of relevant academic and policy-related literature conducted in order to clarify theory, scope practice and distil key contextual issues.
- HEI-level Research: Comprising an overview audit and follow-up mapping and consultative research, this strand of the project provided an overview of Healthy University activity across English HEIs, generated in-depth data from a purposive sample of universities and explored perspectives on the potential development of a national programme on Healthy Universities.
- National-Level Stakeholder Research: Using semi-structured interviews with nine key national stakeholder organisations, this strand of the project mapped current health-related roles and responsibilities and explored views regarding the potential development of a national programme on Healthy Universities.
- Joint Action Planning and Reporting: In addition to reporting interim findings at relevant conferences and events, an interactive workshop was held with members
of the English National Healthy Universities Network to present findings, validate data, inform the action planning process and secure further buy-in.

The project highlighted that higher education offers enormous potential to impact positively on the health and well-being of students, staff and the wider community
through education, research, knowledge exchange and institutional practice. It also suggested that investment for health within the sector will further contribute to core
agendas such as staff and student recruitment, experience and retention; and institutional and societal productivity and sustainability.

The research revealed the richness of activity taking place within HEIs and evidenced a rapid increase in interest in the Healthy University approach, pointing to a growing appreciation of the need for a comprehensive whole system approach that can map and understand interrelationships, interactions and synergies within higher education settings – with regard to different groups of the population, different components of the system and different health issues. There is a clear challenge involved in introducing and integrating ‘health’ within a sector that does not have this as its central aim, is characterised by ‘initiative overload’, is experiencing resource constraints and comprises fiercely autonomous institutions. However, there is also a widening recognition that such a system-based approach has significant added value – offering the potential to address health in a coherent and joined-up way and to forge connections to both health-related targets and core drivers within higher education.

The report concludes that there is clear demand for national-level stakeholder organisations to demonstrate leadership through championing and resourcing a Healthy Universities Programme that not only adds value within the higher education sector, but also helps to build consistency of approach across the entire spectrum of
education. It issues a number of recommendations with a view to responding to the findings and moving forward.

Repository Staff Only: item control page