Brussels university will call 16,000 students to ask how they are coping with crisis
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Brussels university will call 16,000 students to ask how they are coping with crisis

Credit: Belga

In an effort to better accommodate its mental health policy to the current needs of students during this pandemic, the VUB will contact all its 16,000 students in March.

Over 150 people from the masters in psychology at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) will be individually calling students in March to investigate to what extent the current corona crisis has been weighing on their well-being, according to reports from De Standaard.

If these phone calls reveal that a student may require professional help, the caller will provide them with the necessary information, which can range from a visit to the student psychologist or a VUB-buddy to referring them to centres which offer therapy for young people.

During these calls, data will also be collected for anonymous analysis to help the university make impactful changes at a policy level, explained psychology professor Imke Baetens, who is coordinating the project.

A survey published by the VUB on 8 February found that three out of four students were experiencing high stress levels regarding the results of their exams, pointing at the fact that the current crisis may have an impact on their well-being.

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As part of what will constitute as a student job, the callers will receive the correct training to oversee these calls in the coming week.

Every conversation is expected to last about 15 minutes, meaning that each caller will spend about thirty hours on the phone. If they do not receive a response, they will make two more attempts. There will be also be a second or third call for those who need more help.

It is expected that 80% of the 18,400 VUB students will take part in this project, which is first being tested in Belgium, but may later be rolled out across the international network of the VUB.

The VUB hopes this will show students that the university is doing more than simply giving courage to them, its Rector Caroline Pauwels, who took the initiative, said.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times