Higher Education: Mental Health Services

Department for Education written question – answered at on 25 October 2023.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many Higher Education leaders responded to the letter from the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education to all Higher Education leaders of 5 June 2023.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the letter from the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education to all Higher Education leaders of 5 June 2023, how many Universities have signed up to the University Mental Health Charter Programme since the date of that letter.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the letter from the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education to all Higher Education leaders of 5 June 2023, what proportion of the university leaders that he wrote to (a) attended and (b) sent a delegate to the online Charter Question and Answer session on 19 June 2023.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Minister of State (Education)

It is a priority for this government that students are provided with the mental health support they need. We are taking an approach based on three pillars:

  • Funding vital services and innovative projects via the Office for Students, with £15 million allocated for the 2022/23 academic year to support students starting university for the first time and enable effective partnerships between higher education (HE) providers and local NHS services. £3.6 million was invested to launch Student Space in 2020 which has since provided nearly 3000,000 students with free online mental health resources and confidential support.
  • Spreading and implementing best practice consistently across providers.
  • Clear responsibilities for providers and protection for students, with solutions developed by the Student Support Champion, Professor Edward Peck.

On 5 June 2023, the department wrote to all HE providers asking for their strongest possible commitment to the mental health of our students, including by showing ownership of mental health at an executive level. We set a target for universities to sign up to Student Minds’ University Mental Health Charter by September 2024 so that they take a whole-university approach to mental health and wellbeing and follow the principles set out in the Charter.

Student Minds ran two Q&A sessions for universities considering joining the University Mental Health Charter Programme. The session on 16 of June had 68 attendees. The session on 18 of June had 53 attendees.

61 universities had joined the Programme by the 2022/23 academic year. Following my letter and the Q&A sessions, a significant number of universities applied during the summer 2023 application window. The department can confirm the Programme now has 96 members for the 2023/24 academic year, which represents excellent progress towards the target in a short amount of time. The full list of members can be found here: https://hub.studentminds.org.uk/charter-programme-members-23-24/.

The department also had a good response on the back of my letter, with nine HE providers writing back. I continue to raise the value of Charter Programme membership with universities and sector representatives and will be hosting a roundtable on the mental health of students with university leaders later this year.

Going further, the Higher Education Mental Health Taskforce is looking at the adoption of best practice on higher mental health more broadly. With leadership from Professor Edward Peck, it includes representatives from students, parents, mental health experts and the HE sector. It will deliver a final report by May 2024.

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