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Is international student wellbeing non-negotiable in 2022?

Student mental health and wellbeing is often underemphasised in international education.


With a primary focus on core activities like the acquisition of new students and delivering learning, the effort to understand the complex challenges faced by individual students and responding to them in timely ways with personalised services and support have often taken a back seat.


The times now demand student health and wellbeing support become non-negotiable.


With rising awareness of the issue and more demands for educators to help safeguard mental health and wellbeing (accentuated by COVID-19), it is likely best practice support will need to become embedded in the international student lifecycle, rather than added as an afterthought.


A lifesaving international student lifecycle


International students were at an increased risk of experiencing poor mental health when compared with domestic students even before COVID-19, according to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s June 2020 International Student Mental Health and Physical Safety Report.


“Isolation from families and culture, language barriers, financial stress and academic pressures are among the key drivers [of poor wellbeing]. Further, international students have been found to be less likely to seek help for mental ill-health than domestic students,” it says.


The problem is by no means limited to internationals: 65% of higher ed students reported ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels  of psychological distress in the National Tertiary Student Wellbeing Survey 2016.


Recognising the problem, education providers will be expected to rally a combination of technology, processes and people to support students. For example, behavioural science-driven technology like ReadyTech’s Esher House will allow providers to digitally assess student attitude towards a course to help educators better understand student mindsets as they enrol. This allows them to automatically triage students into tailored support services to ensure they are supported to completion.


Likewise, proactive and automated student check-ins can be integrated as a default into the student lifecycle. Using either professional or peer-based models for connecting with student cohorts, this periodic contact and assessment of wellbeing can be systematised, leaving providers ready to respond to periodic indicators with the services that are required by individual students.


Stronger online and offline communities can also be built to complement new technologies and processes. Combatting the social isolation and loneliness that often leads to poor mental health in international students, providers can facilitate more avenues for online and offline connection, from meet-ups and activities to peer-to-peer buddy systems, that can build collective student resilience.


International educators and wellbeing-as-a-service


Student services are likely to evolve in line with the international student wellbeing imperative in 2022. Increasingly, educators will provide or connect students with a marketplace of health and wellbeing services on campus, off campus or online. With the likes of counselling services available more seamlessly, educators will be able to better manage any risky situations to improve the overall student experience and boost successful outcomes.


It’s likely financial support will be part of the equation in challenging cases. Expanded during the COVID-19 period, in particular by larger education institutions, international students will benefit from more avenues of financial support opening to them when facing periods of significant hardship or financial distress. Through layers of financial relief and hardship funds educators will seek to respond to one of the primary causes of poor student wellbeing.


Interested in learning more about how we help international education providers with student and learning management? Learn more here.