Stephen Lehec, headmaster of Kingston Grammar School, has argued that universities are insincere in their approach to student wellbeing, and suggested that schools should keep up with alumni for their mental health.
According to Mr Lehec, universities only pay “lip service” to students’ mental health when investing millions of pounds on various initiatives, and provisions such as therapy dogs are “gimmicks”.
As a solution, he proposed that school staff should keep in contact with alumni after they graduate high school to attend university, with advice and counselling still available when they start their degrees.
He explained that students going to university for the first time struggle to transition from an environment where “everyone knows everything about them, and information is shared openly”, to institutions where people know “virtually nothing” about them.
He also stated that it is not “a huge effort just to send out an email” to find out how they are, and added: “We stay in contact with all of our ex-students, particularly in their first term at university, to see how they are doing and follow up with support. If they need help, we help them get it.”
In a recent letter addressed to all vice-chancellors, Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said that students’ mental health is “non-negotiable” and that “leadership from the top is essential” to improve it.
He added: “With the new academic year upon us, I’m sure you would agree that good mental health and wellbeing underpins successful participation and attainment.”
Commenting on the issue of mental health, Universities UK stated: “Universities take seriously their duty of care to students and staff. We are proud of the work done by student support and welfare services around the country.
“But we know that universities cannot address these complex challenges alone. In particular, we are working to improve the links with local health services.”