In the last academic year, there were 2.34 million students studying at UK higher education institutions. Whether as a result of teaching excellence, widening participation schemes or simply an increased demand for education, more students than ever, from all walks of life, are choosing a path in higher education.
One of these students dies by suicide every four days. Whether as a result of academic pressure, social isolation or external issues, more students than ever, from all walks of life, are making the choice to end their lives after coming to the conclusion that they just can’t live with the path they’ve chosen any longer. Somewhere along the way, we’re losing them.
So, what’s going wrong?
The rise in student suicides is scary to say the least. It begs the question: are we doing enough to support them? It’s worth noting that Universities and academic staff really are trying their best. Student services, on-campus counselling, study support and integration schemes are readily available.
More than this, considerable time and effort is placed into making sure these schemes are as visible and helpful as possible. But the fact remains that student engagement with these services is comparatively low. It just isn’t reasonable to expect the generation who express emotion through emoticons, check their bank balance using their thumbprint and find love by swiping right on an app to engage with this face to face contact in the same way that they would have done twenty years ago. It’s less a fault in the system, and more a fault in its delivery. So, how do we reach them?
Communicating with students in a way they understand
At Tyfy.co, we want to help you support your students before they reach crisis level. Our peer mentoring software allows students to communicate with each other, to share knowledge and experiences and alleviate the pressures of academic life. All from their phones. We take the support you’re already offering, enhance it and make it applicable to 21st century life. Crucially, we make sure students know that its there, and this has the potential to save lives.
An extra point of contact
Quality monitoring doesn’t just mean making sure your students are safe using a website. It allows you to keep track of their problems, in real time. If, in a discussion with a mentor, a student discloses something concerning, this is reported and the University can reach out to them. When, using our group discussion forum, 100 students reveal that they haven’t received information from their tutor on time, you can resolve this issue in real time, rather than waiting for a module evaluation form at the end of the semester. If a student, previously active in helping others, suddenly stops communication, you can reach out to them, instead of waiting to see if, per chance, they come forward and ask for support.
By reaching out to students on their level, not only do we engage them, we allow you to keep track of their satisfaction and well being. In a way that has never been available before.
Relieving academic anxiety
The pressure for students to succeed is greater than ever. For many, this pressure is so great that one bad grade equals failure. And the risk of disappointing tutors, parents, themselves is unbearable. This is where many spirals can start. At Tyfy, our algorithm matches students with mentors who have already studied the module they need help with. They can access the support they need (without taking up the valuable time of their tutors); ask a question; get an answer and get on with their day, instead of spending hours in the library panicking and convincing themselves they’re not good enough to be there.
Perhaps even more common is the fear over graduate employment. An every increasingly competitive employment market means that many graduates are leaving University without the tools they need to find work. Simply having a degree appears to no longer be enough. At Tyfy, our system of reviews provides mentors with a metric they can use to demonstrate their employable skills: leadership, communication, all the things we include in our CVs unthinkingly. Tyfy allows them to prove it, and allows them to rest assured knowing they’re doing something to secure their futures.
One of the biggest factors contributing to mental health issues in students is social isolation. The common misconception that University will be amongst the ‘best years’ of their lives leads to many students being disheartened when they arrive and don’t immediately meet ten new friends, ace their course and meet their soul mate, all in the first week. This misguided expectation has the potential to be seriously damaging to student’s mental health. Especially if they feel like they don’t fit in, or have no one to talk to.
At Tyfy, we provide an online community to help students settle into University. Mentors provide academic support to help ensure students settle into their course and campus (especially crucial for international students and other minority communities) and we refer them back to all the fantastic student services you already provide. This ensures they feel fully integrated into campus life.
Levelling the playing field
In 2018, 20.7% of English domiciled, 18 year olds from low participation neighbourhoods entered higher education. This is compared to 11.2% in 2006. University is not the exclusively-rich-white-and-male experience that it once was, and more and more students from widening participation backgrounds are beginning to believe that they belong. But once they arrive, they find that not much has changed. The rising costs of student living are impacting not only the University experience for these students, but their ability to succeed. The average student can expect to spend between £450 and £1070 on books and equipment per year. But what happens when they have to make a choice between buying this week’s reading or affording dinner? They miss out on the book, they can’t participate in the seminar, and their grades have the potential to suffer. Suddenly, they’re at a disadvantage.
At Tyfy, we want to help level the playing field, so that all students get equal opportunities, regardless of parental income. By providing a platform whereby students can buy and sell secondhand textbooks, at a fixed rate, we allow them to participate in their own studies as equals. Without any of the barriers they otherwise face.
A final word
It would be a hard sell to suggest that using an app would absolve your students of all their problems, worries and mental health issues. But the fact remains that one of the biggest causes of poor mental health is loneliness; one of the biggest reasons why young people see suicide as their only option is because they never asked for help. At Tyfy we want to bring students together, and let them know exactly where they can find help. A connected campus is a safe, supportive campus, and one every student should be part of.
If you’d like to hear more about how we can help you help your students, please visit tyfy.co or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org for some more information.