£14.5 million for projects to improve student mental health

Schemes awarded funding include early intervention scheme developed with support of father of student who took his own life

June 5, 2019

More than £14 million is being invested in projects designed to help address student mental health issues in England.

The projects, awarded funding by the Office for Students in an announcement on 5 June, include an early intervention scheme being developed by Northumbria University in partnership with James Murray, whose son Ben killed himself last year while studying at Bristol University.

The tool will analyse data such as patterns in grades, lecture attendance and library usage – as well as additional data sources such as social media – to identify students at risk.

In total, the OfS announced £6 million of funding for 10 collaborative projects, alongside co-funding of £8.5 million.

Other projects securing funding included a University of Derby-led project that aims to provide guidance on curricula, pedagogy and assessments that support better mental health; a University of Nottingham project centred on international students; and a project focusing on postgraduate mental health at the University of Newcastle.

The proportion of full-time UK undergraduate students reporting mental health concerns when they enter higher education has more than doubled over the past five years. In a recent poll, more than 87 per cent of students said that they struggled with feelings of anxiety, and one in three experienced a serious psychological issue that required professional help.

Nicola Dandridge, the OfS’ chief executive, said that the sector was addressing mental health problems but could do “much more”.

“We know that many complex factors impact on students’ mental health and well-being, so addressing mental ill health is always going to be challenging. But universities and colleges are uniquely placed to rise to that challenge: through the expertise of their staff, insights from their own students, and their ability to bring groups and other organisations together to tackle complex problems in partnership,” she said.

“The OfS is funding these new and innovative projects in universities and colleges across the country in order to incentivise the change that is needed. We will be reviewing the progress of each project through a comprehensive evaluation strategy to understand effective practice, and will be sharing the outcomes widely so that students everywhere can benefit from the work being done.”

nick.mayo@timeshighereducation.com

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