Minister of Further and Higher Education works with the USI to enhance student wellbeing

Ria McGuire

The Minister of Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris has announced the formation of a working group dedicated to enhancing the wellbeing of third-level students.

In a press release published last week by the Department of Further and Higher Education, it stated that the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) would chair the group.

Lorna Fitzpatrick, current President of the USI and chair of the working group said: “We’ve seen over the last couple of months the impact of Covid-19 on the learning experience of students.

“What we’re hoping to do is identify the challenges and try to work through them in terms of which challenges are opposing the biggest risk to students,” said Fitzpatrick.

Minister Harris said the working group will focus on “refining and implementing strategies to enhance learner engagement and wellbeing.”

Third-level teaching education has changed significantly since March last year with most educational activities primarily being delivered online.

In the press release, Minister Harris said: “I want students and learners right across third-level education to know that it won’t be the way it is now forever.

“We will get back to a more normal, more interactive experience but in the meantime, if you are finding it difficult, please reach out and seek assistance,” Harris added.

The working group however will not explicitly focus on only enhancing the educational wellbeing experience for students. 

“We have a couple of different workstreams but one of them deals with social issues which specifically links into mental health and sense of belonging,” said Fitzpatrick. 

The group will also incorporate representatives from colleges, further education, and training partners.

Dean O’Reilly, DCU’s Vice President of Welfare and Equality said: “The USI have formed an advisory group with a representative from each member organisation to this committee, which will be represented by Dylan, our VP for Engagement & Development.”

“Many of the issues students are facing can be ignored without their voices centered in these discussions,” said O’Reilly.

“Having the student-led and student-informed interest groups, for example, our own Union and the USI, hopefully, will see that change.”

Third-level students have had to adapt to the ever-changing safety regulations and restrictions implemented due to COVID-19.

Michelle Cullen, a final year DCU journalism student said: “I think this is a really important initiative because many students are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do online.

“Many students feel forgotten about by the government since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Forming this group for students is a step in the right direction to try and alleviate some of those pressures,” added Cullen.

Ria McGuire

Note: This article was reuploaded on 26/03/21 due to a fault with The College View website.