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Preprint / Version 1

Time for mentally healthy engineering students




Engineering Assessment, Engineering Education, Engineering stress managment, Engineering students


Mental health issues related to academic stress are experienced amongst undergraduates from different disciplines, with key factors being workload, study skills, resource access and socioeconomic conditions. The status of mental health and well-being of engineering students, globally, has become of increasing concern, but is relatively poorly researched. This paper presents the findings of a faculty initiative at a research-intensive institution in South Africa to determine engineering students’ experience of academic stress. Drawing on a holistic educational model, quantitative and qualitative survey results are presented. Key systemic factors are the volume, intensity and distribution of workload, as well as the experience of “information overload” during the Covid-19 pandemic. On the affective front, students provide detailed accounts of the negative emotional impact, which, in turn, contributes to loss of productivity and confidence. The cohort-comparison analysis reveals clear trends across years of study, as well as problem- versus emotion-focused coping strategies. This faculty case study on engineering student experience of academic-related stresses hopes to demonstrate the synergistic relationship between the systemic, affective and, ultimately, cognitive educational support domains for which engineering faculties are responsible. Suggestions are included for ways in which to facilitate improved mental health in our engineering students.


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