Andrew Wilkinson, Sodexo CEO for Schools and Universities in UK & Ireland, discusses how Sodexo helps to support students before and during their time at university
Attending university is, for many, the first time that they will live away from their families and home. Therefore, it is vital that with students having returned to university, and exam season upon them it is important that universities provide the necessary support in terms of mental wellbeing to ease the stresses of academic life, but also to assist them during their first foray towards independence.
Our team is hugely focused on creating an environment which supports students, providing a safe and inclusive environment where support services and pastoral care are clearly signposted. Our staff who manage the student accommodation are usually the closest to students outside of the academic environs. They are also often first to see a student experiencing difficulties or loneliness, which is why we ensure that all our staff receive mental health first aid training to identify the signs of a mental health crisis and how best to escalate such issues with the student and university support system. The team also organises social activities designed to encourage students to interact and make connections.
As students today are so reliant on digital devices, particularly social media, we launched an app which has been developed to give students easier access to information about university life such as healthcare information and a booking facility, community ambassadors, social networking and event information, as well as accommodation and maintenance issues; all at the touch of a button.
More than ever the headwinds of technological, economic and cultural change are impacting the way students learn and develop. With this rapid change upon us, it is important for university stakeholders, such as ourselves, to work together to contribute to a successful on-campus experience and aid students’ transition from the comfort and security of home to life as an independent adult.