Students, how are you doing?

The wellbeing of university students has received a lot of attention in the media – for a good reason. While the coronavirus period is not easy for anyone, it is particularly difficult for those who should be actively making new acquaintances in their current situation.

Encounters and interaction are at the heart of University operations for researchers, teachers and other University staff as well. Collaborating with others is the best way to engender new thoughts, ideas and solutions. No wonder that inclusivity is one of the values of our University. It not only carries us forward, but also makes it possible for us to work for a better world.

Students are a very diverse group, which is why their challenges associated with coping are also diverse. For some, studying remotely has made their everyday lives easier, as it has been possible to complete studies in increasingly flexible ways. At the same time, there are a lot of students whose wellbeing requires special attention from the University. Support is needed, for example, by first-year students who have only recently relocated to Helsinki from elsewhere in Finland or from abroad.

Student wellbeing has been promoted in a range of ways during the coronavirus period. To facilitate studying, in the spring the University of Helsinki instructed its degree programs to ensure the appropriate scaling of the student workload caused by the way in which remote instruction is provided – we now wish to remind everyone of these instructions. Just as we did before the pandemic, we are regularly monitoring the number of credits accumulated by students in order to offer support to those who need it in their studies. Our students’ wellbeing has also been boosted, for example, by compiling good practices associated with remote teaching and by organizing group study and coffee break sessions on Zoom. A warm thanks to our staff for these efforts!

Still, a lot remains to be done. Another likely indication of the strain experienced by university students during the pandemic is the fact that the number of treatment need assessments carried out between January and October by the Finnish Student Health Service increased by nearly a quarter compared to the corresponding period last year. However, research evidence indicating that many students were already having difficulties with coping before the pandemic is a particular cause for concern. We must consider what in our society and culture impacts negatively on the mental and physical health of young adults, and what we can do about it.

University students must grow into future professionals, but you cannot change the world on your own or when you are exhausted. The University of Helsinki wishes to contribute to ensuring that no one is left behind. To this end, each of us can do something. In the spring, the University community started a new tradition: We ask the question “How are you doing?” at least from three university-colleagues every day. I now urge all of us to continue this new tradition, which got off to a fine start in the spring, now as well as after the pandemic!