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Promoting the wellbeing and social inclusion of students through visual art at university: an Open Arts pilot project

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posted on 2023-07-26, 13:26 authored by Kerrie L. Margrove
The proportion of students studying in higher education institutions who are experiencing mental health needs and social isolation is increasing. Innovative ways to improve wellbeing and social inclusion are urgently required, as the growing demands on student counselling services exceed capacity. Previous research in a variety of different populations has shown that participatory arts projects may have beneficial effects on general wellbeing. Therefore the aim of this pilot study was to ascertain whether such a course could be feasibly developed within a university setting, and whether there was any preliminary indication that this could be useful for students who wish to benefit from increased wellbeing and/or social inclusion. In collaboration with student services, a twelve-week participatory arts course was advertised across the university. A total of 14 students attended the pilot participatory arts course, Open Arts, and students attended a mean number of six visual art sessions. Students providing both baseline and post-intervention questionnaires (50%) reported gains in confidence (71.4%), motivation (85.7%) and in their social relationships (71.5%). Non-significant encouraging trends for improvements on validated measures of wellbeing and social inclusion were found, and all students feeding back reported that they intended to continue making art, had enjoyed Open Arts and would recommend the course to a friend. Those attempting to gain accreditation with the course attended more sessions than those not attempting accreditation. Recommendations based on the results from the pilot project can be used to develop future participatory arts courses for students within higher education.



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Journal of Further and Higher Education




Taylor & Francis


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ARCHIVED Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education (until September 2018)

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