Student residentials can help new starters stay at university
13 September 2018
As students all over the country prepare to start university, research at Leeds Beckett University has shown that those who take part in an outdoor adventure (OA) student residential are more likely to stay.
An OA residential involves new students experiencing shared living and a range of outdoor activities away from campus. These activities include hill walking, kayaking and team-building challenges with other students and tutors.
Dr John Allan is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Adventure Education at Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Sport. Over five years, he has been researching the impact of OA student residentials on the psychological resilience of over 2,500 incoming students. Resilience is someone’s capability to adapt positively to personal challenges such as those encountered by new students starting university. John maintains OA residentials offer many benefits for students making transitions into university, who may be vulnerable to mental health issues.
He said: “Students may be increasingly fragile on entry to university and suffer more mental health problems than similarly aged young people in the general population.
“The OA student residential has a significant impact on the resilience of new students compared to others who attend campus-based induction programmes. Our data has found that improvements in a student’s resilience is directly connected to their capability to deal with stress and impacts positively on their first year educational outcomes. The building blocks for this positive adaptation comes from students learning new skills with others in natural settings with authentic outcomes for decisions made. Students are most likely to become resilient through acting independently, developing relationships, getting along with others and managing uncertainties.
"The importance of resilience to student achievement cannot be underestimated. If we can get first year students to become more responsible for their learning and deal with inevitable stress, it is more likely they will stay until the end of their course.”
Leeds Beckett University is one of few universities in the UK to run their own student residentials via Carnegie Great Outdoors (CGO). They are now running residential programmes for other UK universities as well.
Mark Robinson is the Director of Carnegie Great Outdoors. He said: “Here at Leeds Beckett University, we recognise that the transition for students can be quite challenging at times. This residential experience allows our students to get to know each other, and get to know their course tutors and the support staff that they will see over the next three years.”
Student Beth Kenney, who is in her second year of BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science at Leeds Beckett, said the experience helped her: “I think without being able to go on the residential it would have been more difficult to make friends and it would have been lonely and I wouldn’t have enjoyed those early days as much.
“On the residential, you’re put in a position where you have to make friends. You’re working closely together on activities and it really helps you get to know the people on your course. It’s a real icebreaker. I think it’s a fantastic idea because it takes you outside the classroom where it can be hard to bond with people and find out what they’re like.”
Professional Mountaineer Alan Hinkes joins CGO on some of the student residentials. He said: “A student residential is virtually essential. It does change people and puts them on a good footing for the rest of their time at university. You definitely notice a difference in the students within just a few hours.”