Healthy Universities and Colleges

Regional Centre for Expertise Cymru

Healthy Universities and Colleges – Working towards a Healthier and More Sustainable Wales

The RCE Cymru encourages collaboration for sustainable development among learning communities in Wales and the wider world. It actively seeks to connect those in different institutions, sectors and public services towards a shared common goal – the well-being of current and future generations. In collaboration with colleagues from Public Health Wales a Healthy and Sustainable Colleges and Universities network or circle of interest has been established. This circle of interest seeks to attract those in or connected with our many university and college communities from across Wales and beyond to work together towards making a difference to the health and sustainability of the people of Wales and the wider world.

So what makes a healthy university or healthy college?

Healthy Universities UK defines this as being a place where a university or college is adopting a holistic, whole systems approach to health. This involves seeking to create a learning environment and shared institutional culture where health, well-being and the sustainability of communities are recognised as being core to success. Healthy institutions characteristically provide supportive and welcoming settings, increase the profile of health and sustainability and connect with, and contribute to, the health and well-being of the wider community.

What’s happening in Wales?

In Wales we have a better opportunity than most to make a difference. The Healthy and sustainable Colleges and Universities network provides an opportunity to build on successful previous healthy settings development in Wales. The Welsh Healthy Schools and pre-school schemes established some years ago put health at the centre of the agenda for children in Wales and a similar approach for universities and colleges can do the same for young people and all those connected with the learning environment.

The Healthy Schools scheme developed a series of standards around a broad range of health topics against which schools in Wales were measured. The scheme not only improved the facilities and provision for health in schools but by encouraging schools to take responsibility for maintaining and providing for the health of all who learned, worked, played and lived there, it not only taught children about how to live healthier lives but it also enabled pupils and staff to take some control over aspects of the school environment which influenced their health.

Those schoolchildren are becoming young people now and many of them have gone to, or will be going on to study in further and higher education. Many of them in one or more of Wales’ 23 universities and colleges. The further and higher education sector is large in Wales – there are more than 275,000 students studying in Wales at any one time and more than 30,000 people are directly employed in further and higher education here. This provides a compelling reason for the healthy settings approach to be further developed in our universities and colleges.

The Healthy and Sustainable Colleges and Universities Framework for Wales

Following the healthy schools model, a group of people from across the university and college sectors as well as policy makers from Welsh Government and leading experts from Public Health Wales have come together and developed the Healthy Universities and Colleges Framework for Wales. The Framework provides best practice standards in six health topic areas;
• Physical activity
• Mental and emotional health and well-being
• Substance use and misuse
• Personal and sexual health and relationships
• Healthy and sustainable food
• Sustainable environment

There are six core principles which underpin these standards and are included within the framework;
• Equality and diversity
• Participation and empowerment
• Partnership
• Whole system approach
• Applies to staff, students and wider community
• Use of evidence, sharing and learning
One of the tasks for the Healthy and Sustainable Colleges and Universities network is to explore how it can work with other networks and bodies in Wales with shared or similar goals and objectives to the common aim of a healthier and more sustainable Wales.


Chris Deacy
Cardiff Metropolitan University