Student Wellbeing and Experiential Learning Spaces (SWELS)

How important is the nature of spaces within which learning activities take place, both from a learning and a wellbeing perspective? In other words, are learning spaces able to help students to feel and learn better?

These question have become even more pressing during the current Covid-19 pandemic, with the cessation of virtually all on-site, face-to-face teaching, as both students and teaching staff are now working in a huge variety of spaces, most of which are not designed to support learning.

Student wellbeing and experiential learning spaces (SWELS) will build on growing bodies of research concerning the wellbeing benefits of engaging with culture (including museum, collections, art galleries, libraries and the outdoors) and apply this specifically to experiential learning environments in higher education; an area of work that has only seen very limited research to date. SWELS will bring together and investigate a range of programmes that engage with cultural spaces and collections for experiential learning purposes from three different UK universities; University College London, King’s College London and the University of Oxford.  Looking across the programmes at these three institutions, the project will map out how activities that take place in alternative learning environments engage with the question of student wellbeing. On the flipside, SWELS will also seek to identify what role cultural assets can play in supporting student wellbeing, through online provision, if such experiential learning spaces are inaccessible.

Comparing and contrasting data from these three universities, covering both curricular and extracurricular activities, we hope to establish what a holistic approach to student wellbeing in higher education might look like. Ultimately, we will propose a model for a larger study that promotes the use of alternative learning spaces to enhance student wellbeing, aimed at tackling the current student mental health ‘crisis’ from a number of angles. 

SWELS is funded by SMaRteN, a national research network, led by King’s College London, focusing on student mental health in higher education, which in turn is funded by UK Research and Innovation.

SWELS Survey 2021

Throughout June 2021 we will be conducting a survey among students from the participating institutions (and beyond) to establish a baseline of their engagement with University cultural assets and experiential learning opportunities and how this may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before partaking in the survey please read the Participant Information Sheet and Privacy Notice. For any queries regarding the survey, please contact and for queries about the SWELS project more generally, please contact 

The survey can be accessed here.

SWELS Investigators

Thomas Kador, UCL Arts & Sciences

Twitter: @object_lessons

Lucy Shaw, Oxford GLAM

Twitter: @LVShaw

Flora Smyth Zahra, Kings College London, Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences

Twitter @HumanitiesinHPE

Other project collaborators:

University College London:

Helen Chatterjee

Esme Elsden

Helen Jury

University of Oxford:

Emma Webster

Susan McCormack

Gillian Hamnett

Stephanie Tierney

Suzanne de la Rosa

King’s College London:

Kim Piper

Graeme Earl