The significance of pastoral care: a Lancaster University and Study Group perspective
The UK is a world-leading academic hub, and every year thousands of Sri Lankan students – from promising undergraduates to skilled postgraduates attend to pursue their studies in British universities. In addition to the country’s academic excellence, Sri Lankan students appreciate the UK’s highly welcoming, multicultural and vibrant society, and now, the country’s efficient COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.
Study Group, a leading international higher education pathway provider, is incredibly grateful that Sri Lankan students choose to study in the UK, and acknowledges a collective responsibility to ensure that they are well cared for. The mental health of many international students has been profoundly affected by the pandemic and disruptions to counselling services. This, combined with different cultural understandings of mental health, means that it is particularly important to guarantee that international students continue to receive dedicated support from their institutions.
As Dr Mark Cunnington, Chief Operating Officer for the UK and EU at Study Group, comments: “At a significant time in UK history, where the country is turning a corner in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic as a result of the world-leading vaccine roll-out programme, we are delighted to see that UK universities are more popular than ever before among Sri Lankan students. According to UCAS, Sri Lankan student applications to UK universities have seen an unprecedented rise during the past few years. As we welcome these students to our country, it is our duty to ensure that they are happy, healthy and confident so that they can get the most from the university life.
To continue to attract Sri Lanka’s best and brightest students, the UK must remain focused on robust academic provision and most importantly on student welfare at both the government and institutional level.
The government’s recent International Education Strategy clearly demonstrates an understanding that Sri Lankan students must be well supported if the country is to continue succeeding as a world-class education destination. The initiatives put forward in the updated strategy will enhance the overall experience of Sri Lankan students from the moment they arrive in the UK to ensure that they can fully integrate into university life in the UK. The policy also aims to increase education exports by 75 percent in under a decade by eliminating barriers to all international students and ensuring their continuing wellbeing.
At Study Group, student welfare has always been a key priority for our organisation. Every student we work with has access to a dedicated welfare officer who can address their academic and pastoral needs. We also implement student buddy schemes with other students to assist them as they integrate into an unfamiliar environment, and we host regular extracurricular activities to enhance mental and physical wellbeing.”
Among Study Group’s prestigious partner institutions is Lancaster University, an excellent UK higher education institution, which was named International University of the Year by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020. Lancaster is playing its role to secure the UK as a desirable international education destination for Sri Lankan students.
Tom Buckley, International Director and Principal of Cartmel College at Lancaster University in the UK, offers his perspective on the importance of establishing a supportive environment for Sri Lankan students: “At Lancaster University, we appreciate that creating a supportive and safe environment enables students from Sri Lanka to flourish. Our College system provides a level of connection and support beyond a standard university offering. I am particularly proud of how our student leaders in the Colleges have focused their efforts on supporting their peers around the globe throughout last year and have already commenced plans for meaningful welcome for the next academic year.
Lancaster takes pride in initiating academic and personal development of our students in the first place and this ethos has been a key to overcome challenges during the last year. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Lancaster community”.
Joe Robinson, Wellbeing and Support Officer at the Lancaster University International Study Centre (ISC) adds: “At Lancaster University ISC, we are aware of the mental challenges faced by the international students and the effect that this has on their academic performance. The national lockdown also brings additional obstacles with so many students facing isolation throughout the academic year and the ISC is fully equipped to support students through this challenging period.
The ISC has a dedicated Wellbeing and Safeguarding Officer who is the designated point of contact for all student wellbeing concerns and also works as a conduit between the ISC and the university. As well as having a range of readily available resources through our Virtual Reception on a range of mental health issues, including therapy sessions external to the university, we work in partnership with the university to refer appropriate students to counselling services. In addition, we offer a host of drop in and one to one sessions throughout the year covering topics such as exam anxiety and techniques to achieve academic goals.
We prioritise our student’s wellbeing over everything and our current provision lets the students know that there is always someone to talk to and there is always help available.”
With the supportive approach demonstrated by globally-minded higher education providers, such as Study Group and Lancaster University, it is not surprising that more Sri Lankan students than ever before are applying to study at UK universities.
About Study Group:
Study Group partners with 39 universities worldwide, to deliver academic pathway programmes (e.g., Foundation Year, International Year 1/Diploma and Pre-Masters courses), which broaden access to high-quality, global Higher Education opportunities for thousands of international students every year, across all subject areas.
Over the past 25 years, we have established a market-leading position in the international education sector, with the highest number of partners within the global top 200 university ranking located in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Our partners include leading ‘Russell Group’ UK universities and ‘Group of Eight’ Australian Higher Education Institutions. In February this year, Study Group acquired Insendi to enhance the organization’s education technology expertise and deliver transformative experiential, intuitive, and accessible online learning experiences for students with the best, most pedagogically powerful digital tools available.