This chapter directs attention to calls to integrate compassion training in curricula throughout the education system. Following a review of current Higher Education (HE) aims and objectives, and the potential psychological impacts that these can have on staff and students, we outline a case for compassion based initiatives in education. We discuss the nature and functions of compassion, as well as how compassion can heighten prosocial competencies. We then consider how compassion based approaches can be - and have been - implemented in education settings, including HE, to promote the health and well-being of staff and students, as well as academic performance. We argue that elements of compassion should underpin the training of lecturers (and teachers), as well as students, if UK institutes of learning truly embrace the various core values they advertise.
- Compassion-based motives
- Higher education
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
In this paper the taught and assessed use of the micro skills of compassion for use in group work, are only one example of a burgeoning development of empirically driven, CMT-based, compassion-focused pedagogy that is being developed in some universities.
e.g. ‘The big picture’ (Educational Endowment Foundation, https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/school-themes); the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (https://www.corc.uk.net/) and the Mindfulness in Schools Project, University of Southampton (https://mindfulnessinschools.org/research/).
Additionally, a further pilot is underway with students in the Life Sciences (i.e. Psychology) department of the University of Derby.
Al-Ghabban, A. (2018). A compassion framework: The role of compassion in schools in promoting well-being and supporting the social and emotional development of children and young people. Pastoral Care in Education, 36, 1–13.
Arch, J. J., Brown, K. W., Dean, D. J., Landy, L. N., Brown, K. D., & Laudenslager, M. L. (2014). Self-compassion training modulates alpha-amylase, heart rate variability, and subjective responses to social evaluative threat in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 42, 49–58.
Bloom, A. (2017). Government puts 200k behind plan for mental health first-aiders in every secondary. Retrieved from: https://www.tes.com/news/government-puts-ps200k-behind-plan-mental-health-first-aiders-every-secondary.
Carmichael, N. (2017). Recruitment and retention of teachers. Retrieved from: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmeduc/199/199.pdf.
Chang, Q., Liu, R., & Shen, Z. (2013). Effects of slow breathing rate on blood pressure and heart rate variabilities. International Journal of Cardiology, 169(1), e6–e8.
Chickering, A. W. (2010). A retrospect on higher education’s commitment to moral and civic education. Journal of College and Character, 11(3), 1–6.
Coles, M. I. (2015). Towards the compassionate school. From golden rule to golden thread. London: Institute of Education press.
Cowan, C. S. M., Callaghan, B. L., Kan, J. M., & Richardson, R. (2016). The lasting impact of early-life adversity on individuals and their descendants: Potential mechanisms and hope for intervention. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 15(1), 155–168.
Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2008). Creating and undermining social support in communal relationships: The role of compassionate and self-image goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 555–575.
Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2012). Consequences of self-image and compassionate goals. In P. G. Devine & A. Plant (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 229–277). New York: Elsevier.
Crocker, J., Canevello, A., Breines, J. G., & Flynn, H. (2010). Interpersonal goals and change in anxiety and dysphoria in first-semester college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 1009–1024.
Destination of Higher Leavers. (2018). Experts in UK higher education data and analysis, and the designated data body for England. Retrieved from: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/.
Di Stasio, M. R., Savage, R., & Burgos, G. (2016). Social comparison, competition and teacher–student relationships in junior high school classrooms predicts bullying and victimisation. Journal of Adolescence, 53, 207–216.
Doolan, M., Gilbert, T., Beka, S., Spencer, N., Crotta, M., & Davari, S. (submitted). Compassion on university degree programmes at a UK University: The neuroscience of effective group work. Special issue: Neuroscience of learning and development: Implications for the design and evaluation of student learning and development. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching and Learning. Emerald Publishing. ISSN: 2397–7604.
Duarte, J., McEwan, K., Barnes, C., Gilbert, P., & Maratos, F. A. (2015). Do therapeutic imagery practices affect physiological and emotional indicators of threat in high self-critics? Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 88(3), 270–284.
Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.
Gilbert, P. (1989/2016). Human nature and suffering. London: Routledge.
Gilbert, P. (2009). Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15(3), 199–208.
Gilbert, P. (2010). Compassion focused therapy: The CBT distinctive features series. London: Routledge.
Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53(1), 6–41.
Gilbert, T. (2016). Assess compassion in higher education? Why and how would we do that? LINK, 2(1). Available at: http://www.herts.ac.uk/link/volume-2,-issue-1/assess-compassion-in-higher-education-how-and-why-would-we-do-that/.
Gilbert, P. (2017a). Compassion: Concepts, research and applications. London: Routledge.
Gilbert, P. (2017b). Compassion as a social mentality: An evolutionary approach. In P. Gilbert (Ed.), Compassion: Concepts, research and applications (pp. 31–68). London: Routledge.
Gilbert, T. (2017). Chapter 13: When looking is allowed: What compassionate group work looks like in a UK university. In P. Gibbs (Ed.), The pedagogy of compassion at the heart of higher education (pp. 189–202). London: Springer.
Gilbert, P. (2018a). Living like crazy. York: Annwyn House.
Gilbert, T. (2018b). Compassion-in-HE. University of Hertfordshire. Available at: https://compassioninhe.wordpress.com/.
Gilbert, T., Doolan, N. T. F.,. M., Beka, S., Spencer, N., Crotta, M., & Davari, S. (2018). Compassion on university degree programmes at a UK university: The neuroscience of effective group work. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning, 11(1), 4–21.
Gilbert, P., & Choden. (2013). Mindful compassion. Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to transform our lives. Little: Brown Book Group.
Grove, J. (2018). Half of UK academics ‘suffer stress-linked mental health problems’: Scholars at greater risk of stress-related illness than police, medics and local authority staff, research suggests. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/half-uk-academics-suffer-stress-linked-mental-health-problems.
Gyimah, S. (2018). Delivering value for money in the age of the student. Speech: The universities minister calls for a better deal for students at the HEPI annual conference. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/delivering-value-for-money-in-the-age-of-the-student.
Hanh, T. N., & Weare, K. (2017). Happy teachers change the world. London: Parallax Press.
Hamilton, T. K., & Schweitzer, R. D. (2000). The cost of being perfect: Perfectionism and suicide ideation in university students. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(5), 829–835.
Hjeltnes, A., Binder, P. E., Moltu, C., & Dundas, I. (2015). Facing the fear of failure: An explorative qualitative study of client experiences in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for university students with academic evaluation anxiety. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 10(1), 27990.
HR Review. (2014). 88% of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work. Retrieved from: https://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/l-d-news/school-leavers-are-unprepared-for-the-world-of-work/53791
Irons, C., & Gilbert, P. (2005). Evolved mechanisms in adolescent anxiety and depression. The role of attachment and social rank systems. Journal of Adolescent, 28, 325–341.
Kirby, J. N. (2017). Compassion interventions: The programmes, the evidence, and implications for research and practice. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 90(3), 432–455.
Kirby, J., & Gilbert, P. (2017). The emergence of the compassion focused therapies. In Compassion: Concepts, research and applications (pp. 258–285). London: Routledge.
Kirby, J. N., Tellegen, C. L., & Steindl, S. (2017). A systematic review and meta-analysis of compassion-based interventions: Current state of knowledge and future directions. Behavior Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2017.06.003.
Knowledge Exchange Framework. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.hefce.ac.uk
Lavelle, B. D., Flook, L., & GhahremaniIn, D. G. (2017). A call for compassion and care in education: Toward a more comprehensive prosocial framework for the field. In E. M. Seppälä, E. Simon-Thomas, S. L. Brown, M. C. Worline, L. Cameron, & J. R. Doty (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compassion science (pp. 475–483). New York: Oxford University Press.
Maratos, F. A. & Sheffield, D. (in preparation). Brief compassion-focused imagery dampens pain responses.
Maratos, F. A., Montague, J. Aziz, H., Welford, M., Wood, W., Barnes, C., Sheffield, D., Gilbert, P. (submitted). Evaluation of a compassionate mind training intervention with school teachers and support staff.
Matos, M., Duarte, C., Duarte, J., Pinto-Gouveia, J., Petrocchi, N., Basran, J., & Gilbert, P. (2017). Psychological and physiological effects of compassionate mind training: A pilot randomised controlled study. Mindfulness, 8(6), 1699–1712.
Matos, M., Duarte, J., Duarte, C., Gilbert, P., & Pinto-Gouveia, J. (2018). How one experiences and embodies compassionate mind training influences its effectiveness. Mindfulness, 9(4), 1224–1235.
Mayseless, O. (2016). The caring motivation: An integrated theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mental Health. (2016). Fundamental factors about mental health 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016.pdf.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. Guilford Press.
Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Mitsui, N., Asakura, S., Inoue, T., Shimizu, Y., Fujii, Y., Kako, Y., Tenaka, T., Obe, K., Inoue, T., & Kusumi, I. (2013). Temperament and character profiles of Japanese university student suicide completers. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 54(5), 556–561. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2012.11.002.
NASWUT. (2019). The Big Question Report (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.nasuwt.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/6c7508a4-9051-4d1d-8cdedb297ed7170a.pdf
National Union of Students. (2010). Race for equality. Retrieved from: https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/race-for-equality/.
Office of National Statistics (GB). (2017). Student suicides in those aged 18 and above, by sex and usual place of residence, deaths registered in England and Wales between 2001 and 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/005991studentsuicidesinthoseaged18yearsandabovebysexandusualplaceofresidenceindicatordeathsregisteredinenglandandwalesbetween2001and2015.
Research Excellence Framework 2021. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.ref.ac.uk/.
Ricard, M. (2015). Altruism. The power of compassion to change itself and the world. London: Atlantic Books.
Richardson, M., McEwan, K., Maratos, F., & Sheffield, D. (2016). Joy and calm: How an evolutionary functional model of affect regulation informs positive emotions in nature. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 2(4), 308–320.
Rockliff, H., Gilbert, P., McEwan, K., Lightman, S., & Glover, D. (2008). A pilot exploration of heart rate variability and salivary cortisol responses to compassion-focused imagery. Journal of Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 5(3), 132–139.
Rodway, C., Tham, S. G., Ibrahim, S., Turnbull, P., Windfuhr, K., Shaw, J., & Appleby, L. (2016). Suicide in children and young people in England: A consecutive case series. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(8), 751–759.
Seppälä, E. M., Simon-Thomas, E., Brown, S. L., Worline, M. C., Cameron, L., & Doty, J. R. (Eds.). (2017). The Oxford handbook of compassion science. New York: Oxford University Press.
Singer, T., & Bolz, M. (2012). Compassion: Bridging practice and science. Retrieved from: http://www.compassion-training.org/?lang=en&page=about.
Teaching Excellence Framework. (2018). Retrieved from.http://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/
The BPS. (2016). Standards for the accreditation of undergraduate, conversion and integrated Masters programmes in psychology. Retrieved from: https://www1.bps.org.uk/system/files/Public%20files/PaCT/Undergraduate%20Accreditation%202016_WEB.pdf.
HR Review (2014)88% of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work. Retrieved from: http://www.britishchambers.org.uk/press-office/press-releases/young-people-need-more-support-to-make-transition-from-education-to-work,-says-bcc.html.
The Educational Support Partnership. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/.
The Key. (2017). State of education survey report 2017. Retrieved from: https://stateofed.thekeysupport.com/.
The Times Top One Hundred Graduate Employers for 2017–2018. (n.d.). The Times. Retrieved from: http://www.top100graduateemployers.com/employers.
UCU. (2018). Higher education branch access note. Retrieved from http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/9311/UCUBANHE29/pdf/HE_Pay_claim_submitted.pdf.
Universities UK. (2016). New programme to address mental health and wellbeing in universities. Retrieved from: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Pages/New-programme-to-address-mental-health-and-wellbeing-in-universities.aspx.
Universities UK. (2018). Regulation of higher education. Retrieved from https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/Pages/regulation.aspx
Wang, X., Cai, L., Qian, J., & Peng, J. (2014). Social support moderates stress effects on depression. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 8, 41. (on line). https://doi.org/10.1186/1752-4458-8-41.
Welford, M., & Langmead, K. (2015). Compassion-based initiatives in educational settings. Educational and Child Psychology, 32(1), 71–80.
Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Shackman, A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z., Olson, M. C., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(7), 1171–1180.
Weng, H. Y., Lapate, R. C., Stodola, D. E., Rogers, G. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2018). Visual attention to suffering after compassion training is associated with decreased amygdala responses. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 771.
Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890–905.
Yalom, I., & Leszsz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Maratos, F.A., Gilbert, P., Gilbert, T. (2019). Improving Well-Being in Higher Education: Adopting a Compassionate Approach. In: Gibbs, P., Jameson, J., Elwick, A. (eds) Values of the University in a Time of Uncertainty. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15970-2_18
Publisher Name: Springer, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-030-15969-6
Online ISBN: 978-3-030-15970-2