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‘A unique space for students’ – chaplaincy offers hope in universities as complaints hit new high

by Premier Journalist

A chaplain at one of London’s leading higher education colleges has highlighted the work of Christian ministry to struggling young people, as student discontent reaches record levels.

“Chaplaincy offers a unique space for students, they can come and speak to us and know that they can be completely open and honest”, commented Rev Sarah Farrow, chaplain at King’s College, London.

“There's no judgement and there's no agenda from us”, she told Premier Christian News. 

Her remarks follow a statement by government agency, The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), that the number of student complaints about university courses in England and Wales hit a record high for a fourth year in a row, in 2021.

It said they’d received 2,850 complaints and awarded £1,050,114 in compensation.

There are around 2.5 million students in England and Wales, and according to Universities UK, most have positive experiences.

Rev Sarah Farrow is a Lutheran minister, ordained in the Lutheran Church in Great Britain. She has been working since 2021 as Chaplain to the St Thomas’ & Waterloo campuses and Vice-Dean of King’s, London. 

“We do a variety of events for students to come in and just have a cup of coffee, sit and chat with somebody”, she explained.

“And there are other opportunities for students to come and worship together, to approach chaplains from their particular faith background and get support that speaks to them from where they're coming from”.

In a statement accompanying the OIA report, Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator, explained the difficulties faced by universities: “My last full year as Independent Adjudicator was another difficult year for students and providers”, she wrote.

“We are seeing increasing levels of distress among students who are struggling to cope and this is a major concern. At the same time the pressures on providers make it more difficult for them to support students effectively.”

Commenting on these challenges, Rev Farrow explained how chaplaincy could make a difference: “Loneliness, continues to be a real challenge across many communities, and especially students”, she told Premier.

According to the chaplain, Covid lockdowns played a part: “Learning how to build those deeper relationships that they hadn't had the chance to do”, she explained.

“Studying online, you don't get those casual encounters standing in a coffee shop line that you do logging-in to go to a class. So we help support students as they learn how to navigate that new way to connect.”

Rev’d Farrow says chaplaincies in universities play an important part helping students find circles of support: “As they continue to grow and develop, having those peer support networks is really what's going to carry them through”, she added.

“We're here to support the students with whatever they have going on. Whether it's specific issue within the place that they are, if it's a bigger picture, or if it's just them getting to know themselves a bit better. “

“We just make sure that that support is available.”


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