Not by degrees: improving student mental health in the UK’s universities (IPPR report)

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Since the early 1990s, there has been a rise in the prevalence of common mental health conditions amongst young people, particularly young women. This has coincided with a significant expansion in student numbers. A student is five times more likely to disclose a mental condition to their HEI than ten years ago. However, only 29% of universities have a mental health and wellbeing strategy and only 43% say that wellbeing is considered during course content and design.

Reasons that might explain this increase in disclosed mental health conditions include the lessening of societal stigma, the long-term underfunding of mental health care, and cuts to community-based services. For students, the academic experience has changed, with less contact time and an increased expectation that learning is ‘self-directed’. Other possible factors include increased financial pressures and the rise in the use of digital technologies.

Mental health and wellbeing issues are generally the remit of Student Services teams within universities but collaboration with other support services, students’ unions and academic departments is crucial. There should also be greater strategic leadership within universities, increased funding for support services, and better links with the NHS.

The full report is available here.

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