Universities role in helping students cope with stress : A multiple case study on Swedish business schools and student health organizations
Abstract: Background: Stress is increasing rapidly in society and especially among those studying. Some studies highlight the unique potential of universities, as a social coping resource, to help students maintain mental health and reduce stress. However, there is limited knowledge regarding how universities are reacting to this stress. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate how universities react to the problem with stress among business students and how they act as a social coping resource. Further, this paper aims at investigating where more efforts are needed. Method: The paper has applied a qualitative research method, using a multiple case study where 14 semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives from business schools and student health organizations from 4 Swedish universities. The study applied a thematic analysis. Findings: Universities react and serve as a social coping resource by working preventative, establishing a positive study environment, easing the transition and adjustment to the university, and by providing information and feedback to the students. Further, they are looking into course dispositions where workload should be evenly distributed. The student health organizations are available to everyone, no matter reason and offer group-activities and individual conversations in accordance with what the students need help with regarding stress. The university also tries to promote certain coping strategies, where the business schools focus on problem-focused coping and the student health organization on emotion-focused coping. Even though some collaboration is found, especially at the beginning of programs, there is a need to further work on the infrastructure between different instances at the university to react faster to issues regarding student stress. Conclusion: Universities tries to work preventative and react fast to the issue, but students tend to seek support when they already have been stressed for a long time. Universities focus a lot on students starting their studies and tend to treat student by student rather than applying a holistic and long-term perspective. To react better to this problem there is a need for a better infrastructure to better serve as a social coping resource, where the student health organization are included more during the studies. Contributions: The study has contributed to further knowledge of universities’ role as a social coping resources and their reaction to student stress, and further contributes to what type of support or activities that can be improved from the universities side to reduce stress among students. The study gives an insight to universities' infrastructure and support system regarding to reduce students' stress.
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