We had the pleasure of holding a ProtectED Conversations event at UCL last month – the second in an ongoing series of talks where higher education professionals, academics and ProtectED Member institutions meet to discuss issues impacting student safety and wellbeing.
The theme of July’s ProtectED Conversation was ‘Staff and Student Resilience within HE’, and it was a privilege to hear from ProtectED Founder Members and Keynote Speakers on their approaches and success stories around improving student resilience.
Hearing from Founder Members
Opening the event were speakers from two ProtectED Founder Member institutions: Lesley OKeeffe – Deputy Director of Academic and Student Services at Brunel University London, and Simon Lee – Deputy Director, Resilience, Sport and Wellbeing at Teesside University. Both shared their ProtectED journey to date.
After hearing about ProtectED, Lesley arranged a meeting with her Head of Security. Both read the ProtectED Code of Practice beforehand, and were able to get a conversation started about where the University sits in relation to these requirements. Lesley observed that, while at the size of the document can feel intimidating, working through it turned out to be a valuable fact-finding exercise which “led to some key relationship building between the appropriate people and departments across the University.” Recognising the scope of the task ahead of them, Lesley explained that she was fortunate to have assistance from a recent Brunel graduate:
“We are part of the Ambitious Futures graduate scheme and ProtectED became a six-month project for one of our graduate students. She was able to work through the Code of Practice, speaking to staff, students and different departments across the University. Throughout this process, she kept a record of where we stood in relation to each ProtectED Indicator, and how we could evidence this.”
Meanwhile at Teesside University, Simon described how perceptions of student safety helped influence their decision to join ProtectED: “TV programmes such as ‘Benefits Britain’ showed the area in a bad light and, like many universities, we were concerned about being ‘lumped in’ with city centre crime statistics that don’t provide a true reflection of student safety levels.”
Indeed, this is one of the problems that ProtectED aims address. At present, prospective students and their families must rely on crime statistics that do not relate specifically to students. A better indication of safety levels at a university is whether it can clearly demonstrate a responsible, preventative approach to student safety and campus security. Simon explained: “We can use ProtectED as a tool to show that the University is a safe place to study. It really appeals that we can develop a holistic approach under one framework.”
Addressing student safety, security and wellbeing
Next, Simon and Lesley discussed their experiences addressing each area of the ProtectED Code of Practice, providing invaluable advice for any university wishing to do the same.
Beginning with the Core Institutional Safety and Security section, both discovered that many required initiatives – such as having appropriate CCTV policies or working with local police to enhance student safety – were already in place at their respective institutions. Simon found that “alth