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Understanding how the university curriculum impacts student wellbeing: a qualitative study

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Rebecca Upsher, Zephyr Percy, Lorenzo Cappiello, Nicola Byrom, Gareth Hughes, Jennifer Oates, Anna Nobili, Katie Rakow, Chinwe Anaukwu, Juliet Foster

Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education
Published2 Dec 2022

King's Authors


There is increasing pressure within universities to address student mental health. From a whole university or settings-based perspective, this could include curriculum-embedded approaches. There is little research about how this should work or what approaches might be most effective. Semi -structured interviews were conducted with fifty-seven undergraduate students from five disciplines (Psychology, English studies, Nursing, International Politics, and War Studies) to understand students’ perspectives. Students reflected on wellbeing module content and, more broadly, on curriculum processes (teaching, pedagogy, assessment) within their degree. Reflexive thematic analysis was applied to transcripts, generating three themes: embedding wellbeing in the curriculum; assessment, challenge, and academic support; and social connection and interaction. The findings provide evidence for teaching, pedagogy, and assessment practices supporting higher education student wellbeing. These align with recommended good teaching practices, such as considering appropriate assessment methods followed by effective feedback. Students saw the benefits of being academically challenged if scaffolded appropriately. Strong peer connection, teacher-student interaction, and communication were crucial to learning and wellbeing. These findings provide implications for future curriculum design that can support learning and wellbeing.

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