The University of Edinburgh’s ‘Residence Life’ team has been recognised for its commitment to creating student-focussed initiatives by an international network of student accommodation providers.
The team, which is part of the University’s Accommodation, Catering and Events (ACE) department, received the ‘Outstanding Residence Life Initiative Award 2018’ for developing programmes to improve social inclusion for students and raise awareness of mental health issues.
Residence Life aims to create a welcoming and supporting community for students at the University of Edinburgh. It is made up of more than 200 Resident Assistants - returning students who support newcomers as they join and throughout the year – as well as Wardens and other staff that contribute towards initiatives to improve a student’s university experience.
Highlighted in the award was Residence Life’s animal-assisted activities, from trips to the Edinburgh Cat Café and Edinburgh Zoo, llama therapy sessions, to regular ‘Paws Against Stress’ events, where students have the chance to pet and play with puppies. This is all part of a ‘therapet’ programme, which aims to reduce anxiety, depression and feeling of loneliness through the promotion of social interaction, in conjunction with the University’s counselling service and Canine Concern Scotland Trust (CCST).
The ceremony was organised by ‘The Class of 2020’, a group that encourages cities to adopt an efficient and welcoming model for student living, to attract new students and retain those already there. The Class of 2020 presented the award to Richard Kington, Director of ACE, at the event in Portugal, praising the “genuinely innovative” and “accessible” services, that “objectively improve” a student’s experience at the University of Edinburgh.
Cheryl Hutton, Senior Residence Life Coordinator, said: “In recent years, we have seen a staggering amount of stories and statistics about university students suffering from mental health issues. Earlier this year, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found there had been a fivefold increase in students reporting problems to their university, compared to 2007. While it’s great that students are comfortable talking to people, there is clearly an issue if so many are suffering to begin with.
“Thanks to the dedication of all of our Residence Assistants, Wardens and full-time staff, we have been able to develop a series of programmes that act as a unique break from the stresses that students often face, as well as round-the-clock services to support students when they need it. Receiving this award is a testament to the success of our team and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Mr Kington added: “I was honoured to represent the University of Edinburgh’s Accommodation, Catering and Events team in Portugal and collect the award. The Class of 2020 shares many of the same values we have in terms of encouraging a welcoming platform for students to develop their skills. We hope that our services will ensure that students enjoy their time in Edinburgh and, ideally, continue living here long after they have completed their degrees.”