Research carried out by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) found that 58.3 per cent of graduates who had used counselling list it as an “important factor” or the “most significant factor” in helping them to complete their studies.
The professional body quizzed more than 1,200 people who had used pastoral support at 42 universities and further education colleges.
Nearly 52 per cent say counselling helped them to improve their academic work, while 57 per cent claim it improved their self-understanding, assertiveness and self-confidence, which had helped them to find employment.
Andrew Reeves, a counsellor at the University of Liverpool, said universities needed to invest money in counselling services to minimise dropout rates.
“University counselling services provide a safe space for students to discuss their troubles when they are feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable about speaking to friends or family,” Dr Reeves said. “Not only does counselling play a huge role in students’ well-being, but these figures show it can also make all the difference when a student is considering dropping out of their course completely.”
Overall, 58 per cent of respondents say that counselling improved their student experience.
The study’s lead author, Patti Wallace, lead adviser for university and college counselling at BACP, said that such services had seen a “marked increase” in demand over recent years, “reflecting the increasing challenges faced by students, including the increased cost of tertiary education and the difficult job market awaiting [them] at the end of their courses”.
She added: “Given the challenges facing the generation currently at university and college, it is particularly good to learn from our analysis of respondents’ comments that, in addition to improving academic outcomes, counselling also helped students feel more confident, optimistic and hopeful about the future.”
The research, titled The Impact of Counselling on Academic Outcomes in Further and Higher Education: the Student Perspective, was presented to the 18th Annual BACP Research Conference, held in Edinburgh on 11 May.