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Creating a Culture of Support: Strategies for Promoting Academic Institution Wellbeing

It’s becoming increasingly important for academic institutions to create an environment where students and faculty feel supported. Institutions can undertake various wellbeing strategies to create a supportive culture, which is particularly important under the pressures and stresses of a higher education environment. 

How can wellbeing be implemented in an academic institution?

There are several strategies academic organisations can undertake to create a strong culture of support. Students are often in a new and stressful environment with a challenging workload. Mature students may juggle family commitments, a job, and their studies. Ensuring students access on-campus counselling services can offer struggling students valuable emotional and psychological support.

Peer-led groups, where students can connect with students in similar situations and improve their social lives, can also be a tremendous support. Mental Health Awareness campaigns and workshops also support raising awareness about mental health issues and help students feel supported by reducing stigma and making them aware of available resources. For example, at Oxford Business College (OBC), students are encouraged to become student representatives and be a part of the Student Council, where pupils come together and share ideas. The council meets every quarter with the Head of Student Services to outline the needs and goals of the student body. The student voice is pivotal in creating a culture of support. There is also one overall student president across OBC who very actively liaises with both the students and members of staff for all things student-related.

Regarding specific academic support, having personal academic tutors in charge of a group of students is significant support. It can help students manage course loads, set goals and create study plans.

For disabled students, it’s essential to ensure these students receive appropriate accommodations to support their learning and personal needs. Flexible scheduling for these and other students with work and personal commitments also helps foster a supportive environment.

Making sure students are aware of financial aid options that are available to them, as well as any scholarships and bursaries, is also an essential part of making an academic establishment a supportive environment. Creating a safe and inclusive campus with security, consent workshops, and promoting diversity and inclusion is another crucial step.

It’s also essential to support staff.

Supporting staff in your academic institution also leads to success in research and teaching, resourcing and retaining great faculty members.

Investing in staff development programs is one of the critical ways that staff members can feel supported, as their teaching and research skills will be developed and improved. Implementing policies supporting as much work-life balance as possible, such as flexible scheduling and work-from-home options, also improves staff satisfaction and productivity.[1]

For academic faculty, research support is also very beneficial. Offering grants, resources, and administrative support helps researchers create better research from your institution and improve staff development. 

Leadership training with mentorship programs is also essential in helping staff members become more effective mentors and leaders. Mentorship programmes aid junior staff members in becoming future leaders and will make them feel supported with experience-informed guidance.

Recognising staff who have excelled with bonuses, benefits and awards is another great way to create a culture of support within your institution. Other incentives such as health and wellness services, clear communications for any concerns and faculty committees to address issues are all additional strategies which are essential for a supporting and thriving academic environment.

Why is a supportive culture so influential?

There are several reasons why a supportive culture within an academic environment is so important and offers many benefits for both staff and students. Supporting students and staff with mental health and wellbeing services will reduce stress, leading to better success for studies and research. Research also shows that providing academic and emotional support can increase retention rates, as students are more likely to persist and graduate.[2]

For example, at Oxford Business College students are supported with virtual workshops for assignment-specific tasks for those who need extra support. Generic workshops, such as IT and academic writing support are also offered. Students also have personal tutors assigned to them for any academic-related issues along their journey. Students are also supported with references for job applications and can get help with council tax, setting up bank accounts and getting guarantors. These measures help students feel fully supported and foster a sense of being for their student experience. We also try and boost their confidence and break all barriers – such as language and socioeconomic issues – which could halt their progress.

Study support services, such as tutoring, academic advice and study skill workshops, can improve grades and academic performance. Comprehensive support services also contribute to positive student outcomes, including higher grades, graduation rates and post-graduation success. At Oxford Business College, each campus is staffed with various Student Welfare Officers, and the college also has a counsellor. These schemes have seen higher rates of student satisfaction and reduced dropout rates.

What are the challenges associated with creating a culture of support?

Acknowledging the challenges academic institutions often face when implementing a supportive culture is worth owning. Allocating resources, including funding staff and giving time to support initiatives promoting a culture of support, can be costly and, therefore, challenging for institutions with limited budgets.

Creating a culture of support for academic institutions with diverse student and faculty populations, each with unique needs and wants, can also be challenging. These complex needs are often difficult to address for large institutions with diverse needs.

Creating a supportive culture is also a time-consuming and long-term commitment, and it can often take some time to see and review results. Supportive and wellbeing measures are often ongoing efforts which require time and commitment from leadership. Leaders who can only put in short-term efforts might not see the full benefits. 

Stopping counselling and wellbeing services from becoming overwhelmed can also be challenging. Especially with limited resources, counselling services may become overwhelmed with the demand, leading to long wait times with students needing help accessing support. A culture of support in academic institutions may also often focus on student wellbeing. Still, staff members’ wellbeing must be equally addressed to be effective, although this can be challenging with limited finances and resources.


The journey toward creating a culture of support within academic institutions is pivotal in promoting the wellbeing of both students and faculty. As highlighted, the significance of this endeavour cannot be overstated, as it influences academic success, retention rates, and the overall quality of the educational experience. 

By addressing the challenges of resource constraints, diversity and time commitments, institutions can pave the way for a more supportive environment. The commitment to supporting faculty and bringing them into your mission for a supportive culture are crucial steps to this transformative process.

The evidence through case studies and research shows the critical benefits of investing time and money into support and wellbeing services. Institutions that prioritise their community members’ mental health and wellbeing and champion inclusivity, diversity and engagement stand as beacons of success. 

The positive impact of these endeavors resonates in their graduates’ achievements and in the transformative effect on the academic environment. While there are some challenges, educational institutions which foster a culture of support will be empowered to reach their full potential, contributing to a brighter and more inclusive future for all in academia.

By Diana Munoz Gumiel, Student Services & Welfare Manager at Oxford Business College

[1] Doing more with less? Flexible working practices and the intensification of work, Clare Kelliher and Deirdre Anderson

[2] Academic Support as a Predictor of Retention to Graduation: New Insights on the Role of Tutoring, Learning Assistance, and Supplemental Instruction, Michael C. Grillo, Ph.D. [email protected] and Cathy W. Leist, M.A. & M.A

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