Salford launches 'gold standard' for student safety and wellbeing
A ‘gold standard’ mark for assessing the work done by universities to look after their students’ safety and well-being has been developed by the University of Salford.
Academics and professional staff from the University in partnership with security experts K7 Compliance have worked with organisations including the British Council and the Security Industry Authority to develop the new ProtectED code of practice.
The scheme, being launched at a conference of the Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO) held at Salford's MediaCityUK campus this week, will provide for the first time a quality standard for the work higher education institutions do to ensure the safety, security and well-being of students.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that 19 per cent of full time students were victims of crime in 2014-15, compared with 16 per cent of all adults in the general population, while a 2015 National Union of Students survey of more than 1,000 students found that 78 per cent of them had experienced mental health issues in the previous year.
The accreditation scheme, which is supported by the British Council, Greater Manchester Police, the University Mental Health Advisors Network, Endsleigh – which specialises in student insurance – and other organisations, is designed to ensure universities provide the services and structures that enable students to avoid these problems and focus on their success.
It looks at a wide range of measures which successful universities will be expected to have in place to ensure the safety, security and well-being of students throughout their entire time at university.
Universities applying for the ProtectED mark need to sign up to a code of practice demonstrating they have measures in place to deal with a wide range of issues affecting students.
This code of practice evaluates the university’s own security services as well as other measures the institution has in place to ensure the students’ psychological wellbeing is being looked after, while it also evaluates the university’s approach to the safety and wellbeing of international students.
Universities applying for the accreditation will also be expected to work closely with agencies including local authorities, police and healthcare providers to make sure their students’ needs are met and potential risks are well managed.
As well as demonstrating a university is doing all it can to guarantee students’ safety and wellbeing so they can concentrate on their studies, it may also reassure parents and loved ones and lower the rate of drop-outs – six per cent of entrants aged under 21 who enrolled in 2013-14 did not continue their studies beyond the first year, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Having the accreditation in place could also support a university’s recruitment of both home and international students and boost its reputation.
Institutions across England are now being invited to apply for the accreditation, firstly by assessing themselves against criteria looking at their competency in dealing with these issues, and applicant institutions will then be visited by a trained assessor.
It is hoped successful universities could begin displaying the mark as early as the 2016/2017 academic year.
If successful, the scheme could be rolled out to universities in other parts of the UK and Europe, and could even be adapted for introduction in further education colleges.
Professor Helen Marshall, Vice Chancellor of the University of Salford, said: “The problem which the higher education sector has grappled with for years is that different institutions have different ways of considering the safety and wellbeing of their students. These are huge issues to students and parents but up until now there has been no standard way of assessing how seriously universities treat them.
“The ProtectED scheme will provide, for the first time, a standard mark which universities can display, demonstrating that they have put the measures in place that a team of independent experts believe should be expected from a 21st century institution. Seeing the ProtectED mark will provide a huge reassurance to any current student and to prospective students looking into which university to attend.
“ProtectED doesn’t just look at security on campus – for too long seen by the sector as our sole concern – it considers the entire student experience, and looks at the wide range of pastoral care for which universities are responsible. I am confident that this code of practice will create a much needed unified approach, while raising standards and improving confidence across all universities.”
Helen Clews, External Relations Adviser for the British Council said: "Personal safety in the UK for students, their dependents, visitors and workers coming to the UK is a duty of care the British Council takes very seriously and we work with partners such as ProtectED to help international students take care of themselves and settle happily into their community.”
Ben Lewis, chairman of AMOSSHE said: “ProtectED in establishing a Code of Practice for the delivery of effective support and security of students, is making explicit the connection between a range of services (Security services, Mental Health Services, Students' Unions, Student Services).
“This gives real potential for Institutions to think more strategically about how they structure their security and support services, how they work with one another and how they can improve all aspects of the Student experience. AMOSSHE is fully supportive of the work being led by ProtectED and the team at Salford University.”
Mark Sutton, chairman of AUCSO, said: “The ProtectED code of practice gives a clear opportunity to benchmark processes and procedures that will allow universities to focus on sector best practice, continuous improvement and the student experience. It will raise standards throughout HE and therefore I fully support this excellent initiative.”