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2019 Special Issue


Special Issue – Psychological Wellbeing and Distress in Higher Education

The Student Success Journal (SSJ) is an international, open-access, peer-reviewed, scholarly publication exploring the experiences of students in tertiary education.  The Journal provides the opportunity to disseminate current research and innovative good practice about students’ tertiary learning experiences, which are supported by evidence.  

We are delighted to announce that the 2019 Special Issue will focus on the critical issue of – Psychological Wellbeing in Higher Education. Psychological wellbeing is a state of optimal functioning, in which a person’s personal, social and academic performance is at its best. As such, high levels of psychological wellbeing are conducive to optimal learning experiences for tertiary students. Diminished wellbeing can limit students’ capacity to reach their full academic potential. Current estimates suggest that between 20% and 25% of Australian university students experience elevated psychological distress (Larcombe et al., 2015; Stallman, 2010). There is now a wide range of research to suggest that the problem of psychological distress is widespread, reducing student success and completion, and increasing demand on university support services (Chow, 2007). So saying, there has been significant attempts to mitigate distress and enhance psychological wellbeing in higher education, and this Special Issue will draw together not only current insights on these issues, but also significant advances in how educators can and are improving the situation across the sector.

Topics of interest for this special issue include:

  • Systematic reviews, in-depth theoretical reviews, or meta-analyses. These types of submissions will typically consider the broader challenges impacting on psychological wellbeing in higher education, or explore what is known about psychological wellbeing and psychological distress at university (e.g., prevalence, sequelae, or consequences). Submissions could discuss conceptions of psychological wellbeing and distress; or approaches to assessing and monitoring student psychological well-being and distress in university contexts.
  • Empirical papers.  These types of submissions will typically demonstrate factors contributing to or resulting from experiences of psychological wellbeing or distress in higher education.  They will contain evidence drawn from robust empirical studies using quantitative or qualitative methodologies.
  • Initiatives, interventions and evaluation studies. These types of submissions will have a focus on curricular and co-curricular interventions aiming to improve psychological well-being or mitigate psychological decline. The can report interventions implemented at a subject-level (e.g., within one subject, across multiple subjects) or institution-level (e.g., throughout the university’s student services program or within university-wide policies), or broader context (e.g., community engagement, socioeconomic factors). Submissions about innovative local interventions that would be scalable across the sector, accompanied by quantitative or qualitative data, are also welcomed, along with meta-analyses of initiatives shown to have enhanced wellbeing.
  • Wellbeing of university staff. These types of submissions will focus on the wellbeing of staff working in higher education contexts. They can be presented in any of the formats suggested so far (e.g., systematic reviews, empirical papers, initiatives or evaluation studies).

In particular the Journal is interested in receiving submissions about initiatives that involve institutions and curriculum and extend beyond the boundaries of the institution to involve public policy, infrastructure (places or technologies), structural measures (such as financial or other resources), and communities.

All articles should demonstrate a thorough understanding of previous discussions in the literature, comply with the requirements of a research article, include a 150-word abstract, and be no more than 12 pages in length. Papers must comply with SSJ author guidelines and formatting requirements.

Student Success Author Guidelines Special Issue


Full paper/s due:  Monday 29 July 2019

Peer review: July/August 2019

Final selection of papers:  September 2019

Special Issue Published: late November/early December 2019


Guest Editors:

Dr Abi Brooker is a lecturer at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences. She lectures in developmental psychology and psychopathology.  Trained in lifespan developmental psychology, her research interests include the relationship between curriculum and psychological wellbeing in universities, the relationship between psychological wellbeing and psychological distress, and the challenges of young adulthood in the 21st century.

Dr Lydia Woodyatt is a lecturer in Psychology at Flinders University in the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work. She is the Director of First Year Studies in Psychology, where she develops curriculum embedded approaches to support students’ transition into and out of university. Her research focusses on emotions and wellbeing, particularly after failure.

Abi and Lydia are Co-Convenors of the STARS Network for Psychological Wellbeing in Higher Education.

Full submissions should be emailed directly to Dr Abi Brooker and Dr Lydia Woodyatt


For all enquiries email

Professor Karen Nelson, Editor-in-Chief.  Student Success