HWUM seen through a research lens



At Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, we genuinely care about our students’ well-being, not just their academic performance. Our philosophy is influenced by Seligman’s Well-Being Theory – a scientific theory supported by evidence showing that happy students learn better and flourish in a supportive environment. 

Led by academic staff in the Department of Psychology, scientific research was conducted to evaluate the positive impact of our approach to education. These two studies have been accepted for publication in the Malaysian Journal of Psychology (Jurnal Psikologi Malaysia (JPM)). Following are the details of these research:

A mixed method study of growth-oriented outcomes in Higher Education
Led by Assistant Professor Zuhrah Beevi, Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia 

In this project, we evaluated how our holistic EmPOWER course impacted a total of 350 year-1 students who completed pre- and post-intervention measures of happiness and life satisfaction in AY19/20. Although these quantitative data showed no change, interview results with 11 students found that they described the course as unique and a positive step in helping their careers. The selected students perceived that the course increased their self-awareness and developed their soft skills and positive emotions. 

COVID-19 as a catalyst to inspire learning and create fresh, meaningful interpersonal interactions
Led by Professor Deborah Hall, Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia 

In this project, we evaluated how the digital impact statement workshops impacted year-1 students during the MCO in AY20/21. Using semi-structured interviews (n=8), we showed the workshops cultivated a strong sense of belonging, primarily through teacher support and students’ personal attributes, and abilities. Moreover, the pandemic situation seemed to heighten the importance of peer support. Despite obvious challenges, COVID-19 has been a catalyst to inspire learning and create meaningful relationships in higher education.

One student said: “First of all, for me personally, it is really important for the university to get to know their students. And also, in my view, the university really takes care of students' mental and physical health a lot, especially now — because of this pandemic that changed everything, including the online study. So, ever since then, we realised that everyone, including the lecturers and also students, they take care of each other, and they respect each other a lot.”

Another student said: “It goes beyond the four weeks programme. I can talk to my impact coach if I have any problems or anything. And she left the channel in the Teams open if we want to chat with her on the channel.” 

This research will be published in an upcoming Special issue of the Malaysian Journal of Psychology in 2021.

Well done to Prof. Hall and Assistant Prof. Zuhrah!