about the project

Emotional educations: students’ views of the history of belonging and the lessons that can be learned from the history of student mental health

While the history of student mental health in Britain is significantly under-explored, still less is known about how today’s undergraduates understand past experiences of belonging at university. This project works with students to illuminate the history of belonging at British universities and to establish the potential impact of this knowledge: what lessons does the history of student belonging and loneliness have for the present? This project puts students at the heart of its exploration of how cultures of belonging have changed in British universities across the twentieth century. Through a series of workshops it enables students to critically examine the experiences of previous generations of students – as shown in student newspapers and Student Union ephemera, alongside medical journals and institutional documentation ¬– and the history of loneliness. It then empowers them to play a collaborative role in creating an online exhibition that showgrounds changing cultures of belonging and to reflect upon how this has shaped experiences of community at universities. It encourages students to assess how expectations of themselves and universities have changed in recent decades. The workshops and exhibition support students to put contemporary discussions about student health within a historical context: a context that challenges the idea that their generation is uniquely vulnerable and empowers them to see the modern university as a product of profound historical changes.

This project is funded from the ESRC, via SMaRteN, https://www.smarten.org.uk/, as part of its ‘answering students’ key questions’ funding call. Grant Ref: ES/S00324X/1.