The impact of cleanliness on learning
It might seem obvious, but no one likes mess. Dirty spaces expose us to sickness and poor air quality. What’s more, in high-pressure environments such as universities, the impact of cleanliness on learning can be enormous.
What do students think?
According to UCAS, 43% of respondents to a survey listed cleanliness as the most important factor in student housing. Bedrooms, libraries, and classrooms are among the most frequently-cited spaces which students prefer to be thoroughly and comfortably clean. Cooking and eating areas, common rooms, and faculty offices – all spaces which see a high volume of foot traffic and tend to be ripe breeding grounds for bacteria – are equally important for any healthy, happy environment.
Is the importance of cleanliness on the rise?
To that end, the importance of student accommodation cleaning services has risen along with increasing numbers of students at UK universities. When assessing the impact of cleanliness on learning, factors such as cultural perceptions of cleanliness, as well as sex, play a large part. A 2018 study of students in universities in Lithuania and Turkey found that:
• 50% of Lithuanian students consider the value of cleanliness to be ‘very important’. The other 50% stated that it was ‘important’.
• 77.5% of Turkish students remarked that it was ‘very important’. 17.5% said it was ‘important’.
The perception of cleanliness
Another study conducted at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, USA, found that there were significant differences in the perception of cleanliness between male and female students and those with health-related degrees. However, both groups felt it was important.
From these examples, it’s clear that there is hard data which proves tidiness and hygiene are important for students. In fact, 99% of respondents to the UCAS survey stated that “the standard of their accommodation had an influence on their well-being.” 79% said it was an “important” or “very important” factor.
The impact of cleanliness on learning
According to research carried out by Dr. Michael Berry in Healthy Schools are Clean, Dry, and Productive, “there is growing evidence that when a school building is in disrepair, teaching and student achievement suffers; the school environment works against the educational process.” With this in mind, let’s consider how cleanliness impacts on learning more specifically:
Being clean and organised are essential practices for good health, so spaces which contain clutter make for easy distractions. This has the potential to prevent someone from processing information effectively. Poor indoor air quality may also reduce a person’s ability to perform tasks which require memory, calculation or concentration.
Berry also states that “Clean schools not only lower the threat of the spread of illness, but also convey a caring message to the students and teachers.” If a learning environment remains clean, there’s less chance of students and staff falling ill, which will reduce absence rates across faculties and institutions.
There is a growing body of research which suggests there is a correlation between the condition of the educational facility and student academic performance: “Emerging evidence suggests that environmental conditions that create a sense of ‘well-being’ and send a ‘caring message’ contribute directly to positive attitudes and elevated performance as measured by fewer health complaints, improved student attendance, teacher retention, and higher test scores.”
Clean rooms is just good business
However, it’s not just UK students who recognise the benefits, international students do as well. Many international students rely on university accommodation more than UK students, who may have the option to live in private housing. 96% of international students responded that bedroom cleanliness was important to them in the UCAS study.
Institutions such as the University of Leeds and the University of Sheffield are paving the way, and have sought the help of companies such as Crystal Facilities Management Services to ensure the most comfortable, productive environment for all of their students.