To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate students in universities.
4 November 2020
Protecting the mental health of students continues to be a priority for this government. These are difficult times and it is important students can still access the mental health support that they need. We recognise that many students are facing additional mental health challenges due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
We expect providers to continue to support their students, which has included moving services online or making services accessible from a distance. We encourage students to stay in touch with their provider’s student support and welfare teams, as these services are likely to continue to be an important source of support. Many providers have bolstered their existing mental health services and adapted delivery to means other than face-to-face. Staff at universities and colleges responded quickly to the need to transform mental health and wellbeing services, showing resourcefulness, and there are many examples of good practice.
I wrote to Vice Chancellors in October, outlining that student welfare should remain a priority. I have also convened a working group of representatives from the higher education and health sectors to specifically address the current and pressing issues that students are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Student Space platform is funded by the Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator in England. It bridges gaps in support for students arising from this unprecedented situation and is designed to work alongside existing services. It can be accessed at this link: https://studentspace.org.uk/. Students struggling with their mental health at this time can also access support via the NHS, to which a link can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/. Support is also available from Public Health England: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing. The mental health charity Mind also have support available at this link: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/student-life/about-student-mental-health/.
We have worked with the OfS to clarify that universities and other higher education providers can draw upon existing funding from the student premium to increase their hardship funds for students. Students can access this support if they are experiencing particular financial difficulties.