The Buchanan Institute – Scotland’s only student-run think tank – recently put forward a motion for the University of Edinburgh to purchase nap pods. These pods would provide 40-minute sessions for students to nap on campus. This idea was proposed as a solution to improve the wellbeing of students.
It is widely recognised that although The University of Edinburgh ranks very highly worldwide (19th in the QS World University Rankings), it does not perform as well in nation-wide rankings (19th in the UK). This is due to the fact that despite Edinburgh’s impeccable academic reputation and research quality, its student satisfaction is very low. Despite ranking 9th and 10th in the UK for entry standards and research quality respectively, Edinburgh ranks 120th for student satisfaction. Clearly something isn’t working.
In addition to this, a staggering number of students at the university receive counselling – with 8% receiving counselling in 2014. This was a 75% increase in a space of three years – making it the highest increase seen in any of the Russell Group Universities.
The Buchannan Institute released a 30-page report detailing the “Proposal for Nap Pods and Rest Facilities for Students” in order to alleviate student sleep deprivation by being placed in university libraries. It is thought that these pods could cost £10,000 each. Edinburgh University Students’ Association ran a student vote to determine the consensus on this proposal and 84% voted in favour of this motion. From an outside perspective, this motion would seem like an overwhelming success.
As a student of The University of Edinburgh myself, I was initially in favour of this concept. However, upon further reflection, it is likely that this idea would act as a mere plaster over a much larger wound.
It is argued in the proposal that many health professionals deem sleep as the “third pillar” of health, and therefore it directly affects well-being. Furthermore, short naps of 20-30 minutes are proved to be very effective in improving productivity. True, a good night’s sleep is imperative and small naps are also effective. By implementing these devices, periods of 40 minutes would be available for individuals between the times of “11am-8pm”. However, one of the most common solutions to improving wellbeing is to separate home from your place of work. Associating a work environment with a place of rest may not be such a healthy practice.
Very few British universities have implemented a similar idea, aside from the University of Manchester and The University of East Anglia. Manchester has one nap pod and there “has not been a demand for more pods”. This suggest that it is a popular idea in theory but not in practice.
Perhaps, instead of providing opportunities to nap on campus, the university should be thinking of more effective ways to teach and assess students that don’t leave them sleep deprived. Furthermore, the primary residential area for students at the university is a mere 15-minute walk from the main library, making nap pods seem relatively unnecessary.
The university recently pledged to invest £140,000 on student counselling, as well as funding wellbeing practices such as mindfulness classes. These services reach a wide range of students and have been shown to effectively improve wellbeing. In my opinion, the university should be funding similar practices and improving the spaces within the Chaplaincy.
When voting upon the motion, I initially thought of the nap pods as a harmless addition to university. However, it is clear that these funds could be put towards more effective practices, such as mindfulness training, that promote long term rather than short term well-being and are more readily accessible.
Furthermore, methods of security, safety and hygiene also must be considered. The library is already short on study spaces and securing 4 additional rooms for rest may not be productive. In this report it is noted that students would be in charge of ensuring the hygiene of the pods themselves – an idea which may not work in practice.
The answer to boosting student satisfaction at The University of Edinburgh is not to promote gimmicks – but to find the real answers as to why students are dissatisfied with their student experience. It is possible that the university – which prides itself so highly in carrying out research at the top of its field – is prioritizing this research over the needs of the students it educates. Nap pods are not the answer to this problem.