A sense of belonging.

The results of the recent Architects Journal Annual Student Survey recently placed the competing pressures Architecture students across the UK are experiencing under the spotlight; and reports of stress related illness and mental health problems among students are widespread. This is a serious concern both for current students and for a future generation of Architects. But here at Brighton we have long placed a priority on tackling some of the practices that can trigger mental health issues and worked hard to create a really supportive school culture. One where students feel they are listened to and not alone when they experience difficulties either in or out of University. Students regularly tell us that there is a strong sense of belonging and community within their course.

We work hard to promote a culture of well being across the school. This year building on the very successful symposium that our student society BIAAS ran last summer for the Architecture Student Network Conference (ASN) around the mental health of architecture students. The students worked with the ASN to put forward a manifesto with a list of recommendations; challenging the culture of all-nighters and to promote better ways of dealing with stress related to architectural study.

Whilst studying architecture does require passion and 100% commitment students are supported in managing their workload and in understanding the intense design scrutiny placed upon them. However from time to time any student regardless of ability may find they need some additional support or advice with particular issues that are affecting their engagement with their course.

As such a dedicated Student Support and Guidance Tutor (SSGT) for Architecture and Design works closely with teaching staff and has an office within the current teaching spaces meaning such support is easily accessible.

The service is well used and highly valued by the students. In 2015/16 285 of the total cohort of 565 accessed  the service. Sometimes it is a one off query sometimes for something more more serious no matter how big or small the issue may seem they know help is there.

Because the service is well promoted students are aware there is no stigma attached to seeking advice when they experience personal and/or academic difficulties. The SSGT has a good working knowledge of the course curriculum and assessment methods so can help on a very practical level.

Experience shows that students studying architecture often find mechanisms such as crits and presentations difficult and sometimes need additional help with anxiety and confidence issues. As such they find having a member of staff who understands the subject but is not their academic tutor can really help them to overcome some of the difficulties these assessment methods trigger.

Students increasingly face a whole range of pressures and many have complex lives, but at this time of year as the happy graduation pictures show with the support of their friends, families and staff they do get through.