The Office for Students has named 18 institutions to receive a share of a £6 million student mental health fund.
Grants ranging from £70,000 to £200,000 will go to 18 “innovative projects” at universities and colleges in England that the OfS hopes provide new solutions for the HE sector.
The multi-million-pound package comprises £2m from the Department for Education, £1m from the Department of Health and Social Care and £3m from OfS-registered HE providers and partner organisations.
The two-year fund follows similar OfS initiatives, in 2018 and 2019, to support partnership working between higher education providers (HEPs) and organisations, such as the NHS, charities and student unions.
These latest funds support work targeting at-risk students – such as part-time students, those with caring responsibilities and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
We are contributing £2m to these innovative projects from universities and colleges across England which will target the specific needs of those students who are at greater risk of poor mental health
– Michelle Donelan, universities minister
De Montfort University, for example, will use its funds to target students in social economic and ethnic minority groups likely to experience mental health issues with the creation of a new specialist mental health intervention officer and new links with the Leicestershire Mental Health Partnership Trust.
London South Bank University will develop a complementary and remunerated mentoring programme for black students with its student union, Lambeth College and a local NHS service, aiming to increase self-referrals for support.
At the University of Bradford, a project hopes to destigmatise mental health services with better peer wellbeing support for students from South Asian backgrounds.
A University of Central Lancashire project will focus on addressing the mental health needs of LGBT+ students. An initiative in partnership with the National Autistic Society at the University of Bristol hopes to deliver the first Autistic Mental Health training programme for university staff in the UK.
The Care Leaver Association and the University of Roehampton won funding to develop the personal and social skills, lifestyle management, academic skills and employability skills of care leaver students. The University of Liverpool’s collaborative immersive remote clinical undergraduate support (CIRCUS) project uses immersive virtual reality to improve remote peer and tutor support by placing students in a “calming 3D environment”.
Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said students with a mental health condition are statistically less likely to graduate or enter graduate jobs after studies. HE students from diverse backgrounds and universities should “fine-tune the support they offer and ensure that all students, regardless of where they are from, have the best chance possible to succeed”, he said.
“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to mental health support,” said universities minister Michelle Donelan. “That’s why we are contributing £2m to these innovative projects from universities and colleges across England which will target the specific needs of those students who are at greater risk of poor mental health. This is part of an additional £15m we asked the Office for Students to allocate for student mental health, as well as an investment in Student Space, a dedicated student mental health and wellbeing platform, which provides vital support to students outside of university.”