The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.
This Beacon draws together a series of transdisciplinary research, engagement, and policy strands on loneliness in and beyond Higher Education. The core project of the Beacon uses medical humanities methodologies to engage student co-researchers in transformative work on loneliness and mental health, most recently in the charged and altered context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Led by Dr Fred Cooper and Dr Charlotte Jones, this project uses mixed-media journalling alongside new online spaces for creativity, solidarity, vulnerability, disclosure, and reflection. It also bridges vital gaps between student experience and university policymaking.
Other strands include a creative and pedagogical collaboration with the playwright Natalie McGrath and Exeter’s Northcott Theatre on LGBTQ+ loneliness, stigma, and history; the creation of a loneliness network to bring together academics, students, university staff, community organisations, charities, public health experts, and people with lived experience of loneliness; a policy report for the WHO Regional Office for Europe on the cultural contexts of youth loneliness; and a UNESCO-funded repository for reflections on loneliness and isolation in lockdown in Devon and Exeter, with Olly Clabburn, Devon Libraries and Exeter Phoenix.
The project on The Lonely Campus was completed in late 2021, and the findings have now been published.
From the executive summary:
This study on student loneliness at University of Exeter campuses suggests that student loneliness is a multi-faceted experience, affected by multiple dimensions of life at university. Three key components are discussed in this report. First, students report the need to be authentic with themselves and with other students. This relates to preoccupations with emerging and transformative identity as students negotiate life stage transitions, geographical relocation, and contact with new people and social groups. Second, university infrastructure (such as the university year structure), built environment, and accommodation create certain expectations of how student life should progress which, when unfulfilled, create further loneliness. Third, the students interviewed felt uneasy that opportunities for community and relationships tended to revolve around the university. They expressed a desire to feel more connected to civic and community societies and activities that could help them feel more linked to life beyond the university in Exeter.
For insight into the beacon’s work on student loneliness, read the project report here.