The Union of Students Ireland to chair a group on student wellbeing and engagement

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

A new working group is being created to help improve the overall wellbeing and engagement of students learning remotely due to the pandemic.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science, Simon Harris TD, announced the new working group on the 14th of January. The group will consist of a student representative from colleges, further education institutes, local community educators and training partners. The group will be chaired by the President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Síona Cahill. The USI president will work at engaging with students about their wellbeing and identifying where enhancements could be made to improve remote learning.  

Speaking at the press conference Minister Harris stated, “this is an extraordinarily difficult time for our students and learners, and it is having a massive impact on their wellbeing”. Higher education facilities have been operating strict online learning strategies since March, placing unforeseen pressure on students from primary education, secondary education, and further education learning at home. 

In this press conference Minister Harris also mentioned his goals for the group: "as we move forward in our overall response to the pandemic, a working group will be established by my department, chaired by USI, dedicated to identifying, refining and implementing strategies to enhance learner engagement and wellbeing.” Minister Harris also recognised the stress that students doing examinations or assessments may feel, stating: “I know there are many students with assessments in the coming weeks who are enormously stressed and I am keenly aware of the depth of the challenges they have been facing”. It remains to be seen whether this working group will continue to cater to the pressure of students from all levels of education after the pandemic. 

When asked to comment on the new working group the President of the UCDSU Conor Anderson stated: "We at UCDSU welcome the creation of a working group to address student well-being, and look forward to contributing however we can. We would have liked to have a part in its creation, but that's the price of not being members of USI”. He further stated that UCDSU “would also hope to see the working group continue past the end of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Students of all levels of education can only hope this group will bring new practical ideas on how to improve their at-home learning experience, both for their engagement in classes and their health.