Wellbeing in University of Applied Sciences

Students mental health and the risk of burnout have recently been popular topics in the media. According to 2016 survey made by the Finnish Student Health Service, as many as one in three students suffer from mental health issues such as exhaustion, burnout or stress. Universities of applied sciences (UAS) are facing a number of changes in 2020, including a transition to a new admission system based on previous qualifications. Another major change is the Finnish Student Health Service (YTHS) taking over the health care of UAS students as of the beginning of 2021.

Nuori nainen seisoo kerrostalon pihalla ja vilkuttaa.


Student-orientated support and new ways to work together

The diverse challenges faced by UAS students are being tackled by a new project called ‘Wellbeing in University of Applied Sciences’ (September 2020 – December 2021). The project is coordinated by Helsinki Deaconess Foundation’s Vamos Services in collaboration with Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, Lapland University of Applied Sciences and the Oulu Deaconess Institute. The project focuses on students in Rovaniemi, Oulu, Kemi and Tornio, and it is co-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

The aim is to pilot new ways to prevent UAS students from dropping out by promoting student welfare. The project provides preventive support for students who are just starting their university journey and more intensive help and support for students who are at risk of dropping out.

The project involves developing new, student-orientated approaches and counselling models that foster psychological well-being and give students support throughout their time at university. The core idea is to empower individual students and make them mentally stronger by involving them in various kinds of workshops and other communal activities. The operating models developed in the course of the project will ultimately be shared with all Finnish universities of applied sciences.

Promoting students’ progress and preventing dropping out

The project focuses on students in Rovaniemi, Tornio, Kemi and Oulu and works in partnership with the Finnish Student Health Service, two Student Unions (O’Diako and Rotko), the Finnish Diverse Learners’ Association and a range of other relevant third-sector organisations. The approach is student-orientated, and particular attention is given to students with special needs and the effects of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The project is hoped to create an operating model that different kinds of organisations can use together to respond to students’ needs and promote students’ mental and physical well-being and social inclusion. Among the project’s tangible goals are reducing the number of drop-outs and increasing students’ perceived happiness. The project also provides an opportunity to design and test new operating models that can help to prevent students from dropping out and support them in their studies.

By involving teaching staff in the development and implementation of the new models, the project team is hoping to increase UAS staff’s awareness of the issues associated with social exclusion and make them more attuned to spotting the early signs. The aim is to help and encourage UAS staff to explore a range of different ways to promote student welfare and prevent students from dropping out.

Partners involved in the project

Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Oulu Deaconess Institute
Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
Finnish Diverse Learners’ Association, ‘Learning Living Room’ ESF project
Finnish Student Health Service
O’Diako – Student Union of Diaconia UAS
Rotko – Student Union of Lapland University of Applied Sciences


Minna Kestilä-Suopajärvi, Project Manager
Deaconess Foundation, Vamos Rovaniemi
+358 (0)50 502 2321

Erja Rahkola, Project Coordinator
Lapland University of Applied Sciences
+358 (0)40 731 6055

Ulla-Maija Luoma, Project Worker
Oulu Deaconess Institute, ODL Sports Clinic
+358 (0)50 312 5805

Miia Heininen, Project Coordinator
Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
+358 (0)50 528 4820


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