Experiential learning spaces and student wellbeing: a mixed-methods study of students at three research intensive UK universities

Thomas Kador*, Esme Elden, Hannah Sercombe, Kim Piper Good, Emma Webster, Melissa Barkan, Flora Smyth Zahra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is clear evidence that university students are experiencing significant mental health difficulties, further exacerbated by the temporary closure of university campuses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Against this backdrop, our study – Student Wellbeing and Experiential Learning Spaces (SWELS) – explored the role of experiential learning spaces in supporting student wellbeing. We adopted a mixed-methods approach, consisting of an online survey and interviews with students from three research intensive UK Universities. The survey results revealed that compared to the national average of 16–25-year-olds from the UK Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) wellbeing questionnaire, the sampled students exhibited significantly lower levels of life satisfaction, happiness, perceived worthwhileness and higher levels of anxiety. The qualitative results further confirmed that students perceived their wellbeing to be affected by their university experience and the COVID pandemic. However, the results also suggest that experiential learning spaces (such as museums, collections, libraries, and gardens) hold strong potential to support student mental health. Accordingly, the study indicates that diversifying module content and conscientiously considering both physical and digital learning spaces can positively impact students. In short, curricula that are cognisant of the physical learning environment and embed a focus on wellbeing into their content might help to bolster student wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Early online date20 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2023


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