Most universities have at least one designated 24 hour study spot, here at the University of Manchester we have the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, commonly known as the Ali G.
There are many benefits to 24 hour study spots, mainly because they create an accessible learning environment for students at all times of the day. They’re particularly useful for individuals who prefer to study in the evenings, as the Ali G provides them with a comfortable working environment if they do not wish to study at home.
However, by providing 24-hour study spots are universities encouraging a lack of work-life balance, and therefore perpetuating poor wellbeing? I think yes.
There has always been pressure on students to do well in their academic studies, but the expectations of millennials seem to go a step further. There is now immeasurable pressure as the message seems to be to not only achieve but also to overachieve. This can lead to overworking, as well as keeping up with a myriad of activities to build our CVs to be considered employable.
Stress can induce insomnia, anxiety, headaches, acne and even effect our eating to name a few. Such affects have been demonstrated in studies including one by Uni Health which reported that 80% of those in higher education have had symptoms of anxiety. And the NUS carried out a survey which found the 9 in 10 student experience stress during their university education, and highlights further the poor wellbeing of students.
The issue with 24 hour study spots is that there is no shut off point or enforced ‘home-time’. If you have the ability to study into the early hours of the morning with no one making you leave, there is the risk of over-working yourself and burning out.
So, should universities be doing more to ensure the wellbeing of their students? We’re all guilty of sometimes procrastinating but when stressed I’m sure many of us are also guilty of not taking enough breaks.
I think universities could help encourage better wellbeing for students by implementing measures to tackle this, for example pausing computers after around an hour of working for 10 minutes to ensure their users take breaks, especially as it is detrimental to our eye health to look at screens for several hours in one go.
Likewise, university cafés are overpriced and not open 24 hours. This encourages those studying in these places to either skip eating or buy something quick and cheap like snacks from vending machines – I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy snacks but do people feel like this is their only option without breaking the bank, instead of buying a meal. The university should implement affordable meals to support individuals using these study facilities.
It is important to work hard whilst at university but not at the expense of your wellbeing. Take breaks, make sure you’re eating and sleeping properly. Stress can be made more manageable by exercising regularly and creating a timetable. If 24 hour study spots work for you, that’s great but do not study at the expense of not sleeping. If you don’t want to break the bank consider taking snacks or a bring dinner with you to fuel your studying. Remember, you will study better if you’re looking after yourself.