Student support in Flemish higher education that provides several means of support including financial support, counselling and other support services. It focuses on students dealing with personal or psychological problems and this way they may appeal to the student services for professional help.

Objectives of the Intervention

It focuses on students dealing with personal or psychological problems so that they can appeal to the student services for professional help.

The therapists and psychiatrists run various trainings and therapy sessions according to the individual needs of the students. They may offer assistance in case of psychological, relational and psychosomatic complaints.

The main objective is to support and encourage under-represented groups in higher education, to reduce the barriers towards higher education for under-represented groups and to support and encourage equality of opportunities through the provision of clear and accessible information for students, their parents/caretakers and advisers.

This project aims at strengthening the social character of the university colleges and promoting equal access and participation.

Student service offices pursue that objective by providing financial and social services and by giving opportunities to every student regardless his cultural and financial background.

The project stands on its own and includes all the university colleges in Flanders.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

This initiative was developed taking into account the limitations many young people have nowadays accessing higher education based on their problems. In order to make university colleges more accessible, this project was developed in cooperation with the colleges across Flanders. It is also based on the priorities of university colleges that wish to strengthen their social character and step up as higher education institutions with equal opportunities.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The target group is based on the general student population, from lower socioeconomic backgrounds as well as with disabilities. It focuses on students from various background facing difficulties in accessing higher education as well as continuing it.

Students dealing with personal or psychological problems, also students who have to perform for the audience or judges and are coping with performance anxiety and stress. Students who are stuck in their creative process and those who are coping with performance anxiety and procrastination.

As an initiative of Flemish higher education institutions, it covers students in Flanders.

The project involves and focuses on students, while special training is given to staff, as well as additional staff is being employed in order to facilitate the project.

The project has no effect on the curricula.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

This project developed as cooperation between the university colleges in Flanders and therefore can expect a stronger success. As the problem was noticed on the regional level, there has been a strong commitment by the institutions to develop this initiative. It is guided by VLHORA – Flemish Council of University Colleges.

The project is supported by the Flemish government and certain funds are coming from them.

As the current high level unemployment pulls the trends of studying more to professional higher education, due to more practice-oriented programmes, the demand from the side of students has increased as well, and the efforts have been put to enabling access to various groups.

The success is seen in that all the colleges have enrolled, increasing the dimension of the whole initiative.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

Besides the various tools used to increase access to higher education, psychotherapeutic support is there to assist the students throughout their studies with various issues, including facing problems one might have in order to continue the studies.

It focuses on students dealing with personal or psychological problems and this way they may appeal to the student services for professional help. The therapists and psychiatrists run various trainings and therapy sessions according to the individual needs of the students. They may offer assistance in case of psychological, relational and psychosomatic complaints.

The project is well promoted among students but the services are being provided on a confidential basis.

As the final output, there is a lower dropout rate of students during their university years and a higher percentage of finishing studies. This will however be well measured only after a first trial period of 5 years.

In practice this initiative consists of the following steps:
Students dealing with personal or psychological problems are welcome in the care department for an intake talk. During that conversation specialists will look together with the student how their problem can be solved.

The care department offers no therapy, but looks during an intake talk for a personal solution according to the special needs of the student. In case if the therapy is needed, the specialists transfer the student to the psychiatrist of PSYNET. PSYNET is a network of independent/self-employed psychiatrists working on personal and psychological problems as depression, eating disorder and depression.

During the intake talk the student fills in a VASEV questionnaire. After this talk with one of the specialists from the care department, the personal case, based on VASEV questionnaire, is examined by the student service commission. A positive decision gives the student the opportunity to follow 10 therapy sessions (€ 2,50 each). After these 10 sessions psychologist gives feedback to the Care department and if needed, extra sessions can be followed.

Group trainings.
Beside intake talks and therapy the student service department organises trainings for those who are coping with performance anxiety and procrastination. Each group training consists of several sessions and must be followed completely. The student service department offers also the possibility to start individual training.

For students of School of Arts there are two workshops available:

  • To deal stronger with the blockades in your creative process
  • To deal better with performance

To deal stronger with the blockades in your creative process
This workshop is meant for those who are stuck in their creative process and also for students coping with performance anxiety, stress and tensions. The workshop costs 20 euros, restitution of 10 euros is possible after the workshop. A psychiatrist from PSYNET leads the workshop.

To deal better with performance
This workshop is meant for those who have to perform for the audience or judges and are coping with performance anxiety and stress. During this workshop, students will learn how to deal with stress and feelings. The workshop costs 20 euros, restitution of 10 euros is possible after the workshop. A psychiatrist from PSYNET leads the workshop.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

With dedication from all the colleges involved, as well as with the staff trained and employed for this project, in the long run there is a sustainable system for continuing this service to students. The costs of staff still exist but a dedication of colleges shows that this is expected throughout the year.

Resources used in the initiative

The project is financed by the university colleges and receives support by the Flemish government.
The workshops cost 20 euros, restitution of 10 euros is possible after the workshop.
For each therapy session with the psychiatrist students have to pay 2,50 euros

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

In order to measure the success of the initiative and qualitatively, staff involved are providing reports on the developments of the project, the frequency of using the service by students is being counted, and overall, the dropout rate is being taken into account, or rather the decrease in this rate.

The first real results will be only visible after the trial period.