The Office for Students is offering £6 million in funding to encourage English universities to find new ways of tackling the rise in student mental health issues.
The Student Mental Health Challenge Competition is designed to support collaborations between higher education providers and the NHS, charities, or schools and colleges.
The OfS said that proposals could support innovative ways of supporting students to make the transition from school into university, or from there into postgraduate study and employment; boost early intervention efforts by improving mental health awareness training for staff and students, or using data; and address barriers to access support involving different agencies.
Between £250,000 and £750,000 will be on offer for each successful project, on a matched funding basis.
The initiative is a response to a fivefold increase over the past decade in the number of first-year undergraduates reporting a mental health concern to their university, and growing concern over the number of student suicides.
Yvonne Hawkins, the OfS’ director of teaching excellence and student experience, said that there was “a growing recognition that more needs to be done if all students are to benefit from their experience at university and thrive”.
“We know that many factors affect students’ well-being, and also that there are particular vulnerabilities when students transition from school or college to university, and from university into postgraduate study or work.
“Through this competition we want to see responses to student mental health addressed in innovative and strategic ways. These should support the whole student population, address the issues that are damaging student mental health and show universities collaborating with health services in the wider community to combat this growing problem.”