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Thriving and well-being in higher education

Building back better in the wake of the pandemic

15.02.2021 | Søren S.E. Bengtsen

Dato ons 28 apr
Tid 14:00 16:00
Sted Online Webinar (Zoom)

Time: April 28th, 2021, at 14.00-16.00 CET

Place: Online on Zoom (a Zoom-link will be shared with the participants closer to the day)


Press here to register for the event




A cross-institutional CHEF webinar organised by:

  • Lene Tanggaard, Professor, Rektor, Design School Kolding
  • Thomas Szulevicz, Associate Professor, Vice Head of Department, Aalborg University
  • Hanne Leth Andersen, Professor, Rektor, Roskilde University
  • Berit Eika, Professor, Pro-Rektor, Aarhus University
  • Susan Wright, Professor, Co-Director of CHEF, Aarhus University
  • Søren S.E. Bengtsen, Associate Professor, Co-Director of CHEF, Aarhus University



Well-being has been on the agenda in universities and institutions for higher education for some years now, and even before the Covid-19 situation academics and leaders have been concerned with the increase in numbers of students reporting that they suffer from stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. During the pandemic, the numbers have risen due to lockdowns, online teaching, remote supervision, disruption of the study environments, and the challenging entanglement of institutional, curricular and private spheres. While a responsible approach might be to monitor and continually evaluate students’ mental health and well-being, there is also a danger of pathologizing the individual student. The well-being agenda threatens to turn well-being into the individual student’s own personal responsibility.

As a counterpoint, we suggest a move away from a discourse about well-being in higher education and towards language and action by management, academics and students themselves that focuses on thriving and community building. In order to change the atmosphere, discourse, and identity formation, we need to realise that thriving is a collective endeavour (and not only individual); it is cultural (and not only structural), and is a cross-level institutional responsibility. The focus on thriving will move the focus from management to leadership, and from performance indicators to solidarity, empathy, and care. The aim is for students to have a better chance to claim ownership over their own student experiences and learning trajectories and to develop individual and community-based agency.



The webinar will take place in two parts, with a break between.


Part 1: 14.00-15.00

  • The organising team sets the scene in their institution and/or discipline and presents their ideas and experiences of trying to enable students to thrive through developing community-based agency
  • Invited discussants from various levels within universities (students, teachers, support staff, leaders) comment and discuss from their individual perspectives.
  • Facilitated Q&A and plenary discussion.


Part 2: 15.00-16.00

  • Facilitated group discussions in break-out rooms.
  • Groups report back in plenary, continued plenary discussion
  • Concluding remarks by the organizing team, and next steps