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Concerns over mental health support for students expressed by watchdog

The head of the Office for Students (OfS) has expressed concerns that over half of university and college students across the UK do not feel that their mental wellbeing has been sufficiently supported this year. 

A National Student Survey conducted by the OfS concluded that 42% of students felt that they received enough help.

This statistic contrasts with England’s Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, who stated that universities had ample funds of up to £256 million for support.

Nicola Dandridge, OfS CEO, said: “Clearly, the circumstances last year were exceptional, but consideration should be given to what more can be done to ensure students are appropriately supported.”

As prospective and current students look to the autumn, it will be important that universities combine credible plans to restore face-to-face teaching with sensible contingency planning in the event that some restrictions need to continue.”

Ms Donelan stated:  “I recognise that the past 18 months have been uniquely difficult for students, and we have set out clear expectations that the quality and quantity of tuition should be maintained.”

“We have also been clear that students should be receiving good quality mental health support.”

The survey also showed that 75% of students classified their general experience on their courses as positive, which is a decline from 83% in 2020. 

After a very unusual and challenging year, it is not surprising to see that the pandemic has shifted students’ views on their overall university experience 

– Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK 

Gathering 332,500 responses from students, the survey takes into account a range of factors including assessment, feedback, and the teaching and organisation of their courses. 

The survey included questions specifically about the pandemic as well, considering the extraordinary circumstances of the year and what that meant for students. 

Less than half of students stated they were content with their means of learning and teaching on their courses. However, a majority of 78% said that they were able to find the resources they needed. 

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, added: “After a very unusual and challenging year, it is not surprising to see that the pandemic has shifted students’ views on their overall university experience.” 

“Universities have done all they can to help students progress and meet their learning outcomes with additional learning and wellbeing support at the same time as implementing Covid-19 safety measures.”

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