Free meals provision at UHI Inverness wins Student Support Initiative Awards 2023
The provision of free breakfasts and lunches for all students at UHI Inverness to reduce the number quitting their studies due to financial pressures has won the UHI Student Support Initiative Awards 2023.
Three other UHI Inverness projects were presented with highly commended and commended awards.
These awards recognise innovative student support practice and once again a very strong field of entrants have demonstrated UHI’s extraordinary commitment to our students.
The winning entry 'Supporting student retention and wellbeing during the cost-of-living-crisis' provided a strategic commitment to addressing financial hardship through a variety of means, including the provision of a free breakfast and lunch for every student.
UHI Inverness recognised that students continue to be adversely affected by the cost-of-living crisis, and the disproportionate impact it was having on certain demographics. A key priority post-pandemic was to support students to ensure they sustained their studies, did not come to class hungry and successfully engaged in their learning. Funding was provided through a donation to the UHI development and alumni engagement office and from the Inverness Common Good Fund.
The uptake was extremely high - 44,948 portions of food were served between August 2022 and April 2023. On average, around 650 free breakfasts and 930 free lunches were served each week. As well as the health and wellbeing benefits for individuals, the impact on student retention has been pronounced - early withdrawals reduced by 2.9%, with further withdrawals reduced by 2.6%.
The panel also highly commended five projects drawn from across the partnership, including:
- Engaging students in surveys with a partnership approach - UHI Inverness
- Free-tail therapy - UHI North, West and Hebrides
- Employability challenge fund - UHI Perth
- Summer club - UHI Inverness
- Neurodiverse group - UHI Perth
Nine other projects were commended by the panel, including two entries from our students’ association. Activities ranged from mental health support, to safeguarding support for vulnerable students, and to encouraging students to learn about gender-based violence and gender equality.
Dr Iain Morrison, UHI’s Dean of Student Experience who runs the scheme, commented that: “I set these awards up a few years ago because I wanted to capture and celebrate one of our core institutional strengths: the support we provide to our students.
“This years’ entries are fantastic evidence of the creative approach taken by staff to focus on and support student needs, be they brought on by external economic factors or intrinsic issues relating to particular groups of students.
“As well as providing certificates and a trophy, we will be sharing the great ideas across UHI to maximise the benefits of working in partnership across our region.”
The entries were judged this year by Sheena Stewart, UHI Secretary, Heather Innes, Student President 2022-2023, and Dr Lara Meischke, Director of Student Services at the University of St Andrews.