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One in four students feel lonely while studying at University of Limerick either frequently or all the time, while one in five students found it difficult to make new friends and develop relationships, according to new research findings from UL Student Life.

UL Student Life, the student representative body at University of Limerick, highlighted some stark findings in a Wellbeing Action Plan launched today at the Lakeside Hotel in Killaloe.

The action plan was produced by UL Student Life following a large-scale survey completed last year in which 3,800 students (27% of the student body) gave feedback on their student experience at UL.

The research showed that one in four students have considered leaving college due to their mental wellbeing. The results cited isolation, loneliness, wellbeing supports, equality, diversity, and inclusion as key areas of concern for students.

UL Student Life have produced a 15-point action plan to target those areas of concern for students with a commitment to working with the university on addressing four key pillars; loneliness, isolation and increasing connections, increasing visibility and engaging with wellbeing supports, enhancing inclusion and increasing confidence and self-efficacy.

Speaking at the launch of the Wellbeing Action Plan, UL Student Life President Ronan Cahill said the need to ‘check in’ with students post-pandemic was evident from their survey results. “We became acutely aware that a high percentage of our students, mainly 2nd and 3rd years, had never experienced a full year on campus, and had not been afforded the opportunity to engage in the real student experience. Since the pandemic the student landscape has changed significantly, and we felt it was time to represent these students and to showcase the reality of their experience at university.”

With the data showing most students being satisfied with campus facilities and the general college environment cited as big positives, challenges arose for students when it came to connection, wellbeing and the cost of living.

40% of students are not coping well financially, which backed up the trends from Student Life’s Advice team, who saw a 50% increase in financial aid applications this academic year.

UL Student Life General Manager, Martin Ryan explains that the student experience has changed significantly due to the cost of living crisis, the accommodation crisis and the rise in commuter students: “As both a representative body and service provider, it is our job to not only lobby the university and the government, but also review our own operational plan to ensure that the student voice is heard, and real change occurs.

“In recent years, we have seen an accommodation crisis and a cost-of-living crisis erupt, both of which are seriously impacting students’ wellbeing. This is our biggest piece of research to date and the actions we’ve committed to will help us shape our work for the 18-24 months.”

Work has already begun at UL Student Life to enhance the student experience on campus this year, particularly with commuter students and students with a disability, who felt the most disconnected to the campus community.

With 8% of students surveyed travelling over 50km to college daily, UL Student Life have established the Commuter Hub, an initiative launched in 2022 that now engages over 180 students weekly for free breakfast and a place to go before classes start.

UL Student Life now offers a number of events and initiatives such as wellbeing workshops, a sensory room, daytime non-alcoholic events, smaller intimate events such as speed-friending and paint and sip. Putting accessibility at the forefront of all their offerings has seen sensory friendly spaces being made available at events, more accessible communications through their socials and in person, becoming the first students’ union that is Jam Card certified.

The organisation also plans to launch a new Volunteer Programme in the autumn that will integrate, appreciate, and reward over 1,000 student volunteers that support the organisation each year.

To see the full list of actions UL Student Life have committeed to, along with a summary of our key findings, read the Wellbeing Action Plan in full.



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