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April 2023

Community wellbeing in a university setting

Researching what community wellbeing means to the staff and students of Northumbria University

Community wellbeing in a university setting
In partnership with
  • Northumbria University
  • We are supporting Northumbria University’s work to develop an understanding of what ‘being well together’ means in universities.

    To do this, qualitative research will be conducted that will involve:

    • Asking staff and students to take photographs relevant to their sense of community wellbeing.
    • Interviewing university staff and students about what community wellbeing means, using their photographs as anchors to facilitate common understanding.
    • Holding a focus group with staff and students to discuss differing and overlapping perspectives.
    • Historical research that includes exploring university archives and oral history interviews with past Northumbria University students and staff.

    The research team at Northumbria University are using the What Works Centre for Wellbeing’s community wellbeing conceptual framework which has people, place and power as the key components.

    Data will be analysed using thematic analysis.

    Why is this important?

    In our role as an independent evidence centre, we are supporting work to address a gap in the evidence.

    Wellbeing research in universities, for both students and staff, has tended to focus upon individual wellbeing, often through the use of self-report questionnaires.

    Research has looked at student and staff well-being separately, often focusing on specific roles and factors underpinning wellbeing linked to these. While this is important, the sector also needs to develop an understanding of what ‘being well together’ means in universities.

    At a policy level, leading organisations in the Higher Education sector such as Universities UK advocate a ‘whole university approach’. This promotes student and staff mental health and wellbeing through facilitating healthy settings, learning approaches and support provision.

    To do this, universities need high-quality evidence to inform effective decision making at an organisational level.

    Developing a framework for conceptualising and defining university community wellbeing will inform how we measure wellbeing from an organisational perspective, and how we evaluate initiatives developed to improve this.

    What is community wellbeing?

    Community wellbeing is about being well together. It can be thought of as the combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential for them to flourish and fulfil their potential.

    Community wellbeing is not the same as the sum of individual wellbeing in a given community.

    What will the outcomes be?

    This work will culminate in the development of a preliminary framework of community wellbeing in universities.

    How you can engage with the study

    We will be updating this page with publications and outputs from the project so you can explore the insight and recommendations.

    Could this study be replicated at your institution or university? 

    If you work in Higher education and are interested in this work please provide your contact details here.

    Call out for students and staff

    The research team are also looking for students at all levels of study and staff in any role working either within a university or in a relevant organisation to provide up to three hours of input between May and July including reviewing the work and attending virtual meetings. You will be given £25 per hour as a thank you for your time. Sign up.


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    In this project

    April 2023
    Participant call out
    Read more