Student Minds are excited to announce that an additional 9 universities have committed to improving the mental health of the whole-university community by joining the University Mental Health Charter Programme.
The following universities have joined the 32 universities that were announced in July this year:
These 9 universities will work together as part of a UK-wide practice sharing network to share practice and improve their approach to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff. As well as accessing a range of events and opportunities to support them to achieve cultural change at university, Programme members can also work towards the Charter Award, an accreditation scheme which recognises universities that demonstrate excellent practice.
The Charter Programme was developed in consultation with staff and students, with initial funding from the UPP Foundation and the Office for Students and further funding from Jisc and the Charlie Watkins Foundation.
Student Minds CEO, Rosie Tressler OBE, said: “Thank you to those institutions that have joined our growing community of universities committed to creating long-term, strategic change in mental health and wellbeing. The mental health of students and young people has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Coming together to understand and implement the very best practice has never been more important if we are to reverse this trend. Together, we can create a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive."
17 Students’ unions join Student Minds SUs demonstrating their commitment to improving staff and student mental health
Student Minds are delighted to welcome the new 2021/22 cohort of the Student Minds SUs Programme, consisting of 17 Students’ Unions who are demonstrating commitment to improving support for staff and student mental health in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Student Minds SUs Programme has been co-created with 11 SU members since its launch in 2019. The Programme is centred around our Mentally Healthy SUs framework, which outlines how SUs can create a whole-union approach to mental health and wellbeing. It includes 10 good practice principles around campaigning for positive change, working with universities and local partners, co-producing approaches with students, creating environments for staff and sabbatical officers to thrive, and more. The Student Minds SUs Programme brings together Students’ Unions committed to becoming leaders in mental health, who are ready to challenge current ways of working and creating cultural change.
Students’ unions on the Programme form part of a UK-wide practice sharing network with access to events, additional training and support sessions and opportunities to come together to improve their approach to student and staff mental health.
Leigh Spanner, Interim Head of Engagement shared “Students’ Unions play an essential role in advocating for students and creating positive, welcoming and safe university communities. They were invaluable in supporting students during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the mental health of students and young people being disproportionately impacted over the past 18 months, it is vital that Students’ Unions continue to build on this great work, to learn from one another and to make mental health a priority right across higher education.”
We are excited to be working with the following 17 Students’ Unions to create cultural changes in their unions and on their campuses:
In August 2020, with funding from the Office for Students and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, at Student Minds, we launched Student Space, a website designed to complement existing support services and to make it easier for students to find the support they need during the pandemic.
We know that the pandemic has had a big impact on student and university communities. In our latest research, we found that 74% of students reported that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. We also know that the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the pandemic will outlast the pandemic itself. That’s why we’re committed to ensuring that students across England and Wales continue to get the support they need.
We are pleased to share with students, the university community and our partners that the Office for Students and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales have agreed to extend their funding for Student Space up until the end of 2021 in the first instance. Colleagues across the sector can be assured that the platform will be available to support the transition into the 21/22 academic year and we continue to plan for the role this intervention plays in the long term.
Our support offer at Student Space is designed to be agile and responsive to the pandemic and students’ needs, so whilst the exact nature of the ongoing support package will continue to evolve in collaboration with our partners and funders, we strongly encourage stakeholders across higher education and mental health to continue signposting to and utilising Student Space, recognising the ongoing impact of the pandemic on student mental health and wellbeing, as well as the value of a sector-wide approach.
Colleagues in universities, students’ unions, schools, colleges, government, the NHS and beyond can all play a role in supporting recent, current and future university students and create HE communities that are positive environments for individuals to thrive.
As we all prepare for the next academic year, we are here to support you with our new dedicated area to help students as they prepare for university.
‘74% of students say Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing’ - Student Minds shares latest report University Mental Health: Life in a Pandemic.
Today we are pleased to be sharing the findings of our insights and listening work with higher education communities throughout 2020 and 2021, in our latest report ‘University Mental Health: Life in a Pandemic’.
At the beginning of the pandemic, back in March 2020, Student Minds began a period of listening. We gathered insights from across the higher education (HE) and health sectors in order to best understand what HE communities were experiencing and what impact the pandemic was having on mental health and wellbeing. Since then, we have built on our insights and listening work through the launch of Student Space and through our own primary research, undertaken in April-May 2021 in partnership with Alterline. Through our own research, we found:
Our findings are explored throughout the report, which covers topics including (but not limited to): the Black and Minority Ethnic Experience in the last year, Women’s Safety at University, accommodation, finances, experiences of online learning, staff wellbeing, and access to support.
Overall, the report highlights the unique, wide-ranging and unequal impacts of the pandemic on HE staff and students across the country. We’ve seen all aspects of students’ lives be disrupted, including their education, living arrangements, employment opportunities and social connectedness. Staff have also been faced with challenges such as increased workloads, the shift to remote working and adapting to a new work/life balance.
However, despite these significant impacts, we believe that together we can find positive ways forwards. Colleagues in universities, students’ unions, schools, colleges, government, the NHS and beyond can all play a role in supporting recent, current and future university students and create HE communities which are positive environments for individuals to thrive.
The report includes a set of policy recommendations, aimed at supporting the higher education and health sectors to move beyond the pandemic positively including:
We hope that our learnings, reflections and recommendations are useful and insightful, whatever your student status or role. We wrote the report with the aim of ensuring the student voice is heard and understood, and are grateful for the interest the report has already received from colleagues across the sector.
Read the report in full, or read a summary of our findings and recommendations: www.studentminds.org.uk/lifeinapandemic.html
To access support, visit www.studentspace.org.uk
32 Universities lead the way in demonstrating commitment to mental health in joining new University Mental Health Charter Programme
Student Minds are delighted to welcome the first 32 universities to join the University Mental Health Charter Programme, demonstrating commitment to improving support for staff and student mental health in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Published in 2019, the Charter framework provides a set of evidence-informed principles to support universities across the UK in making mental health a university-wide priority. The Charter Programme brings together universities committed to working towards these principles to share practice and create cultural change. This includes a commitment to working with staff and students to provide adequately resourced and effective support services, as well as creating an environment and culture that reduces poor mental health and promotes good mental health for the whole university community.
Universities on the Charter Programme form part of a UK-wide practice sharing network with access to events and opportunities to come together to improve their approach to student and staff mental health. Programme members can also work towards the Charter Award, an accreditation scheme which recognises universities that demonstrate excellent practice.
With the mental health of students and young people being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, it is vital that we continue to build on the great work universities have done over the past 18 months, continue to learn from one another and make mental health and wellbeing a priority right across higher education.
The Charter Programme was developed in consultation with staff and students, with initial funding from the UPP Foundation and the Office for Students and further funding from Jisc and the Charlie Watkins Foundation. We’d like to give special thanks to the University of Derby, Hartpury University and Glasgow Caledonian University, who supported us to pilot the Programme in 2020.
We are delighted to be working with the following 32 universities to create cultural changes on their campuses:
Joining the Charter Programme
There is still time to join the University Mental Health Charter Programme for 2021/22. Please apply on our website by September 1st 2021.
The conclusion of the 2021 Sewell report that systemic racism does not exist in the United Kingdom is deeply disappointing. While some useful individual recommendations can be pulled out from the report, it fails to name the common root cause underlying the difficulties that people from minority backgrounds face. In doing so, the report upholds the harmful narrative that systemic racism does not exist. At Student Minds, we are wholly invested in ensuring the good mental health and wellbeing of all students in our university communities. This will not be attainable until inequality, discrimination, and racism are addressed not just in higher education but our wider society.
When it comes to mental health at university, we believe that students are experts by experience, and that when they tell you about the challenges they face, it is on us as changemakers in the sector, and in wider society, to listen. We have heard from students from minority groups about the array of challenges and difficulties they face, which make success in higher education less attainable for them than their white peers. These experiences range from, but are not limited to, a lack of culturally competent care, the attainment gap, higher drop-out rates, and racism in social and educational settings. Staff from minority backgrounds are underrepresented at every level, earn less on average, and are more likely to be on casualised or precarious contracts. With this knowledge, it seems evident to us that systemic racism remains a critical problem across higher education and indeed in wider British society.
Rosie Tressler OBE, Chief Executive Officer of Student Minds, said: ”The conclusion of the Sewell Report, that systemic racism does not exist in the United Kingdom, directly contradicts what we hear from students and staff from racialised and minoritised communities and identities. Not only does this report fail to adequately identify and respond to the very real ways in which systemic racism harms people in our society, but in doing so it reinforces the idea that these harms are isolated incidents, rather than the consequence of fundamental inequalities in how our society is organised.
“We’re thinking of everybody in this country who has experienced racism in some shape or form, and for whom the publication of this report serves as a painful, aggressive, denial of their reality. We hear you, we know this isn’t good enough, and we are not going to stop pushing until you can navigate your life in safety, equity, and good mental health. Sadly, this report represents a missed opportunity, and we challenge the government and all leaders in society to recognise systemic racism for what it is in order to achieve tangible change.”
At Student Minds, we understand that this year has been incredibly difficult for students and for everybody in our university communities. Many people are tackling a combination of social isolation,uncertainty, difficulties associated with remote learning and concerns about the future without access to their usual support networks. To help these students, it is crucial we continue to join together to support students now during the pandemic and beyond.
This is why we are excited that today marks University Mental Health Day. Today we bring the university community together to make mental health a sector-wide priority and create ongoing change to the future of student mental health.
This year is slightly different from usual. We can’t come together physically on our campuses, however we have been blown away, as we have been all year of the innovation, resilience and passion of people working together virtually.
We all have a role to play on University Mental Health Day, and all year round, to create the change we need to see.
Be kind to yourselves
We want to remind students that it is okay to find things difficult from time to time, or to feel angry or frustrated or lost. This year has been hard with lots of uncertainty, university life has not looked like what you thought it would.
We also want you to know that support is out there. Student Space, developed by our team at Student Minds, is a dedicated support programme to help students through the pandemic. Student Space offers direct support via telephone and text, online resources such as articles and webinars, and a directory of university support services to help students access support that is right for them. Student Space is free and confidential.
To start a conversation text ‘STUDENT’ to 85258. We are here to listen and support you, whatever you are going through please reach out.
More financial support for students
We know that the pandemic has had a negative financial impact on many students, whether they’re paying rent for accommodation they cannot use, or they’ve lost their job, or they’ve had to invest in technology to successfully engage with online learning. This is no small sum - the 2021 National Student Accommodation Survey found that students in the United Kingdom had wasted almost £1bn on accommodation they were not allowed to access due to lockdown restrictions. We’re pleased that the government is taking a first step providing material support to students most in financial distress. However, while the means-tested fund of £50m announced earlier this year is a start, it’s not nearly enough to make a noticeable difference for the majority of students.
Today, we are calling for the government to provide a more comprehensive package of financial support available to all students in higher education.
Planning for a Sustainable Future
The response of many hardworking university staff to the coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary. As higher education institutions prepare for the possibility of a post-pandemic life, it is vital that the wellbeing of staff and students remains at the heart of all decision making. Student Minds has crafted guidance to support institutions through this process. Download our “Planning for a Sustainable Future: the importance of university mental health in uncertain times” for more information.
Only by protecting our mental health will we shape a sustainable future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.
Thank you for joining us today. We are proud to work with so many incredible people. Although we can’t be together physically, we will come together virtually to inspire conversations, take action and create change. Now more than ever it's important to get the nation talking about student mental health!
Find out more about University Mental Health Day: www.unimentalhealthday.co.uk
“A start, but not nearly enough”: Student Minds responds to £50m student hardship funding announcement
This week, the government announced £50m in funding targeted at students in England who are experiencing financial difficulties as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Student Minds welcomes news that the government has provided more material support for students, however the £50m figure will fall far short of what is needed at this time.
The government funding announced on 2nd February for students amounts to roughly £25 per head, which is the equivalent of just over a single day’s rent for the average student, according to the latest available figures (1). This is inadequate to address the negative implications the pandemic has had for the financial stability, academic success, and mental wellbeing of students.
The link between financial hardship and poor mental health in students is well evidenced in academic literature and in our own research. Higher education students have not only experienced financial difficulties as a consequence of the pandemic, but they also do not have access to the same monetary support as other members of the population. Full-time students, for instance, are currently not eligible for universal credit, while international students have no recourse to public funds.
Data from NUS research (2) in November shows that a quarter of student respondents said the pandemic had a major impact on their finances, while three in five said the pandemic had at least a slight impact. On 29th January, troubling coverage from Channel 4 captured the plight of international students who were forced to rely on foodbanks and were sharing rooms with four or five others while studying remotely (3). We are deeply concerned about the extent of hardship being faced by students and are worried that some will be struggling to meet basic needs.
Rosie Tressler OBE, Chief Executive Officer at Student Minds, said: “Every student’s university experience has been impacted by the pandemic in some respect. We’re pleased that the government is providing material support to students most in financial distress. A means-tested fund of £50m is a start, but not nearly enough to make a noticeable difference for the majority of students. We look forward to seeing details of how this funding will be distributed. If the demand for this hardship funding is as high as we would expect, processing funding applications could place a significant administrative burden on university and students’ union staff. This could delay the distribution of funds when we are already in the eleventh month of this pandemic.”
She continued: “Hardship funding applications can be daunting for some students, and we are concerned that those who need this support the most will not have the means or awareness of their options to access their support.”
We believe the government should seriously explore the possibility of providing a non means-tested, basic grant to all higher education students. This acknowledges the fact that all students have been impacted by the pandemic and would also empower them to use financial support to address their own needs best, whether they help pay for living costs, enhance access to digital learning, or are invested in their own mental health and wellbeing. We hope that any financial support for students during the pandemic comes as part of a wider package of measures which will ensure the long-term sustainability of the higher education sector and support student mental health.
Need support now?
If you are a student struggling because of the pandemic, support is available. Student Space is a free, online, confidential mental health support platform, available for all higher education students in England and Wales. Student Space provides direct support via text, phone, email and web-chat, alongside plenty of online resources and a directory of support services at your university. Student Space launched in August 2020 with a £3m grant from the Office for Students and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and will be available throughout the rest of the academic year.
You can access Student Space at studentspace.org.uk. We are here to make it easier for you to find the support that you need during the coronavirus pandemic.
We are thrilled to share with our supporters that Professor Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor at Bath Spa University has been appointed as chair of our trustee board. Sue has been on the board since last September, and the Student Minds team and the trustee board would like to extend a warm welcome as she starts her term as chair. We are excited to have Sue lead the board and provide accountability, oversight and robust governance to help us achieve our goals to improve university mental health.
We would also like to take the opportunity to thank Dr Nicola Byrom for her amazing work leading the board. We have had the privilege of working with Nicola for many years as Student Minds’ founder and chair of the board. During this time we’ve grown, re-located, developed and achieved so much, which you can read all about in our latest impact report. We are all delighted that Nicola will remain on the board.
Student Minds’ trustee board plays a vital role in enabling us to achieve the charity's objectives. Our board is made up of a mixture of experts from across the charity, higher education, business, law, fundraising and health care sectors with a diverse range of experience. We are also very excited to welcome two new student trustees to the board, Amelia Ireland and Aneeska Sohal. It is essential for Student Minds to have student voice at the core of everything we do. Amelia and Aneeska will share her experiences and expertise as a student to help drive the board and the charity forward.
About her new appointment as Chair, Professor Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor at Bath Spa University said:
“I'm delighted to be stepping into the position of Chair of the Trustee Board for Student Minds. This is such an important charity that offers vital support to students and their universities. The journey through university is a life changing one and it is essential that students have the support they need to achieve their potential. I am thrilled to be able to help Student Minds to grow and thrive. It is a remarkable testimony to the thoughtfulness and determination of Nicola Byrom and Rosie Tressler. I look forward to working with the board to help Rosie as she steers the charity through the pandemic and beyond.”
About Sue’s appointment, Dr Nicola Byrom, Founder and Senior Lecturer in Psychology shared:
“I started working on the idea of Student Minds 11 years ago. It has been a privilege to see the charity grow and develop. This success is thanks to the many phenomenal people who have devoted time and energy towards the ambition of supporting better student mental health. Sue is one of these people. Working with her over the past few years has been an inspiration. She has the skills and experience to ensure the charity builds strong foundations to continue supporting students for decades to come.”
We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Ann Henshaw and Elisabeth Gulliver for their wide ranging contributions to Student Minds as they leave the board. Elisabeth started working for the charity in 2011 as the first ever employee, before joining the board in 2015 and supporting a range of work including a focus on volunteer wellbeing and peer support. During her 4 years with us Ann has worked hard to support us to shape our charities values, recruit new trustees and enable an organisational pay review. We wish Ann and Elisabeth all the best.
To find out more about the members of our trustee board visit: www.studentminds.org.uk/trustees
You can also find out more about our growing staff team and our Clinical Advisory Group and Student Advisory Committee.
Today marks one year since the publication of the University Mental Health Charter. Created by thousands of staff and students, in partnership with leading higher education organisations, the Charter provides a set of evidence-informed principles to support universities across the UK in making mental health and wellbeing a university-wide priority.
It is safe to say 2020 hasn’t been the year anyone expected. Despite the ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are greatly encouraged by the commitment our university communities have demonstrated to advancing their work around mental health and wellbeing over the past year. We have seen universities investing in enhanced support for their staff and students and there are some incredible examples of the Charter beginning to inform interventions and university-wide mental health strategies.
We wanted to celebrate this work by providing a space for university and SU staff and students to share their achievements from the past year and their reflections on the future of university mental health.
Share how you have used the University Mental Health Charter this year on our virtual wall.
At Student Minds, we used the Charter to inform our guidance, Planning for a Sustainable Future, which sets out how universities can continue to take a whole-university approach to mental health during the pandemic.
We have also been developing the University Mental Health Charter Award, which aims to ensure the Charter leads to real cultural change by recognising universities that promote mental health and demonstrate excellent practice. Although we had to adapt our timescales and approach to developing the Award in response to the pandemic, we successfully completed three pilots in November. We are incredibly grateful to staff and students at our pilots sites; University of Derby, Glasgow Caledonian University and Hartpury University. They have helped to shape an Award that we are confident will support ongoing improvement across the higher education sector at a time when university mental health has never been more important.
We are also grateful to the UPP Foundation and the Office for Students who have continued to fund this work.
We plan to open the Award for applications in 2021 and will work with the sector to do so at a time and in a way which is supportive to university communities, recognising the ongoing uncertainty posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are excited to share further updates on our plans in the new year, sign up to the Charter newsletter to stay updated.
Thank you again to colleagues across the sector for your dedication to supporting students in an unprecedented year and we hope you have a restful winter break.
Student Space is here for students throughout the holidays. Explore our Christmas break resources and students in England and Wales can access direct support 24/7 via our support services.