student wellbeing
Constellation
Almost 50% of students with a mental health condition are choosing not to disclose this to their University and less than one third of Higher Education Institutions have designed an explicit Mental health and wellbeing strategy
Natalie Simpson
Natalie Simpson Senior Marketing Executive

In September last year, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published their findings from a student wellbeing project in the Improving Student Mental Health in the UK’s Universities report.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of students who disclose a mental health condition to their institution (IPPR, 2017).


The research, which was funded by Universities UK and the Mental Health and Wellbeing In Higher Education (MHWBHE) Group, acknowledges that recent increases in mental health and wellbeing levels amongst UK Higher Education students are high in comparison to their wider peer group. The IPPR, a progressive policy think tank, suggests that this due to a combination of academic and financial factors, and social pressures.

Just under half of students who report experiencing a mental health condition still choose not to disclose it to their university.

The report highlighted that In 2015/16, 15,395 first year students in the UK disclosed a mental health condition – a figure five times greater than in 2006/07. It also highlighted that almost 50% of students with a mental health condition are choosing not to disclose this to their university, preventing them from accessing the help they need at a time when they could be at their most vulnerable. Poor mental health and wellbeing can affect students’ academic performance and desire to remain in higher education. In the most severe and tragic circumstances, it can contribute to death by suicide – levels of which have also increased among students in recent years.


In 2015, the number of students who experienced mental health problems and dropped-out of university increased by 210 per cent in comparison to data from 2010.

It is generally accepted that poor mental wellbeing can affect academic performance and the numbers of students leaving Higher Education early, and in the most extreme and tragic circumstances, contributes to death by suicide. Findings extracted from the report support this claim - in 2015, the number of students who experienced mental health problems and dropped-out of university increased by 210 per cent in comparison to data from 2010. In the same time period, the number of student suicides also increased by 79 per cent.

So, what can universities do to meet the challenge? And what more can be done?

The final chapters of the report sets out a number of recommendations for the sector to consider.

The IPPR (2017) found that 71 per cent of UK universities do not have an explicit mental health and wellbeing strategy.

The first of which advises the student mental health and wellbeing issue should become a strategic priority for the sector. Variation exists across the board when it comes to the delivery of a strategic response to wellbeing. No two institutions are alike in their approach to mental health challenges and there is little in terms of guidance around sector best practise on how best to support the student community. The IPPR (2017) found that 71 per cent of UK universities do not have an explicit mental health and wellbeing strategy.

Many of our customers cite organisational culture and processes as the main barriers to a successful engagement project. An approved strategy could seek to address challenges around University-wide buy in for the adoption of a digital software solution.


The second point for consideration is to focus on early intervention, risk management and specialist care referrals through use of a University-wide digital platform. The IPPR claim the use of software to monitor attendance promotes self-determined learners and can be invaluable in the identification of disengaged students – in light of this, the study found that only 29 per cent of UK institutions do not monitor the attendance of all students.

It is widely recognised that institutions embark upon Learning Analytics projects for a variety of reasons; often to enhance the student experience, to support student retention or to improve academic attainment - or sometimes, to achieve a blend of objectives. However, for some, the benefits that engagement analytics can bring to the wellbeing agenda have yet to be considered.

Many of our customers have found that their digital engagement platform is well positioned to spot behavioural changes in individual students. It is this information that enables the university to initiate the pastoral care conversation, and offer advice and guidance to support the student during their time at the institution.


Irrespective of the direction a university chooses to take, mental health and wellbeing is attracting considerable interest within the Higher Education sector. Get in touch to learn more.

Using digital software to monitor the attendance of undergraduate students can induce a culture whereby students take responsibility for their own learning, and more easily identify those who have become disengaged and may require additional support.