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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Education in the Media: Thursday 28 June 2018

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Universities

Today’s Education in the media blog looks at the Universities Minister Sam Gyimah’s announcement of a University Mental Health Charter.

University Mental Health Charter

Today, Thursday 28 June, Minister Sam Gyimah will host a student mental health summit at the University of the West of England (UWE) where he will outline new initiatives to support students.

Ahead of the summit, Minister Gyimah announced a new charter that will be developed in partnership with leading charities and Higher Education bodies calling on universities to dramatically improve their mental health offering for students. Universities will be rewarded if they demonstrate making student and staff mental health a university-wide priority and deliver improved student mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

The charter is supported by a £100,000 grant to Student Minds from the UPP Foundation. The new package of measures announced by Minister Sam Gyimah on student mental health also includes:

  1. The announcement of a University Mental Health Charter will see the development of new standards to promote student and staff mental health and wellbeing.
  2. The set-up of a Department for Education-led working group into the transition students face when going to university, to ensure they have the right support, particularly in the critical first year transition.
  3. Exploring whether an opt-in requirement for universities could be considered, so they could have permission to share information on student mental health with parents or a trusted person.

The news has been covered widely and positively by the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, The Times, BBC Online, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. Minister Gyimah was interviewed on Good Morning Britain, Sky News, LBC, Radio 1 Newsbeat and the Today Programme.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said:

We want mental health support for students to be a top priority for the leadership of all our universities. Progress can only be achieved with their support – I expect them to get behind this important agenda as we otherwise risk failing an entire generation of students.

Universities should see themselves as ‘in loco parentis’ – not infantilising students, but making sure support is available where required. It is not good enough to suggest that university is about the training of the mind and nothing else, as it is too easy for students to fall between the cracks and to feel overwhelmed and unknown in their new surroundings.

This is not a problem that can be solved overnight, but we need to do a better job of supporting students than is happening at the moment.

Read the reactions from leading charities and Higher Education bodies:

Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds, said:

As the Minister has recognised today, there is much work to be done to ensure that institutions make mental health a strategic priority, supporting the 1 in 4 students and staff experiencing mental ill health and the 4 in 4 with mental health, at universities across the UK.

Student Minds are delighted to have the support of the UPP Foundation and our partners to co-create the University Mental Health Charter with students, and university and health communities. This programme will stretch and reward universities that commit to the improvement required, providing tools and support to help them get there.

Together we will transform the futures of the 2.3 million students that are in Higher Education, whilst equipping the doctors, teachers and business leaders of the future to continue the positive change in wider society.

Richard Brabner, Director of the UPP Foundation, said:

With support for student wellbeing and mental health initiatives a key part of our campaign to improve access and retention in Higher Education, we are investing £100,000 to enable Student Minds to lead the creation of the Charter – which we expect to transform the student experience, lead to cultural change across universities and ensure the issue remains high on the national political agenda.

Izzy Lenga, Vice President Welfare at NUS:

I am so pleased to support to the launch of this Charter, and specifically the commitment to reach out to underrepresented groups within the student population, to reinforce the importance of having culturally competent support services. Student mental health must be a priority for all institutions and this Charter presents a welcome opportunity for students to co-produce the definition of excellence in the field.

Professor Steve West, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor and chair of the Universities UK Mental Health in Higher Education advisory group, said:

Increasingly mental health is being seen as a priority in our universities. That is why many are now implementing the Stepchange framework. It is designed to encourage university leaders to take a whole university approach to this issue by making mental health a strategic priority and a core part of all university activities.

New initiatives which are aligned with, and build upon, the work of Stepchange have an important role to play. The new Student Minds charter will help recognise best practice at universities that are leading the way.

Universities cannot address these complex challenges alone. Partnership working with students, staff, government, schools, colleges and employers, the NHS, local authorities and third sector organisations is vital if we are to help students and staff to thrive.

We still have a long way to go and we look forward to working with the Department for Education and others to deliver the change that’s needed and that all students deserve to see.

Read more about the announcement here.

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