Mental health funding competition

Higher education providers can bid for funding to explore innovative and intersectional approaches to target mental health support for students.

The Department of Health and Social Care has provided £1 million of investment to the Office for Students for this funding competition.

The aims of this competition are to:

  • explore innovative approaches to tackling some of the barriers and challenges faced by groups of students who may be more at risk of poor mental health
  • develop and test approaches that enable a more joined up service between the higher education and health sectors
  • test and share effective practice across a wide range of different providers and contexts
  • complement existing work delivered through our 2018 mental health Challenge Competition and provide additional focus on particular groups of students.

The deadline for this competition is 1700 on 7 December 2020.

How to apply for funding

All providers registered with the OfS in the Approved (fee cap) registration category are eligible to apply for this funding. Other providers can be involved in proposals as part of a collaboration.

Providers should only bid if they consider that they have a credible and viable proposition that very clearly meets the aims and objectives of this competition. Speculative bids should be avoided, given the constraints on funding and the limited number of proposals that can be supported.

Potential bidders are welcome to contact the OfS to discuss their bid. Please email us in the first instance to arrange a call if you would like to discuss your bid further.

Our bidding guidance gives full information of how to apply for funding and eligibility criteria.

Read our bidding guidance


We’re hosting a webinar on 19 October 2020 to support bidders. 

Find out more and register

Contact us

If you have any questions regarding this competition or would like to contact us to arrange a phone call, please email [email protected].

Additional information

Bids should deliver innovative and targeted activities that address the following priority groups:

  • particular groups of students with characteristics identified as increasing the risk of poor mental health (for example ethnicity, socioeconomic background)
  • groups of students who might experience barriers to accessing support due to their course, mode of study, or other characteristics (for example those on placements, commuters, mature students, part-time students, postgraduate taught students, international students, first in family, carers, care leavers, LGBT+).

Providers should consider:

  • demonstration of a whole provider approach with senior leadership commitment
  • delivery of value for money
  • creation or progression of strategic, collaborative partnerships that include appropriate levels of co-investment
  • co-creation with students at the heart of your interventions
  • development of an innovative approach, which could include digital approaches
  • a rigorous approach to project design and embedded evaluation
  • integration of service offering between the higher education and the health sector.

We will not fund the essential support services which providers should already be making available for their students. We are seeking proposals that will achieve a significant change above and beyond existing commitments.

Frequently asked questions

1. Is there a maximum amount of funding or number of projects that will be funded?

There is £1 million available for this competition. We are seeking high quality proposals providing additional activity to address the priority areas.

With this amount of funding, and funding available between £70,000 and £200,000 per project, we are able to fund between five and 14 projects.

The final number of funded projects will depend on the quality of bids received, available funding, and the judgements and recommendations made through the assessment process.

2. Is there a minimum and maximum level of funding a provider can apply for?

Individual awards will be made at a minimum of £70,000 and up to a maximum of £200,000. We anticipate funding a number of projects to explore the widest range of interventions and activities across the broadest portfolio possible.

3. Is full economic costing required?

No, full economic costing is not required but you may use this methodology if you wish to do so. All project costs (and the basis on which they are calculated) must be clear and understandable as these will be considered as part of the assessment process. All costs must be reasonable, particularly for the funding sought from the OfS.

4. Is co-investment a requirement?

Co-investment is a requirement for this competition and should be appropriate to the scale of the project. However to encourage a broad range of providers to consider bidding for funding through this competition, co-investment can take the form of in-kind contribution both from the lead provider and from partners named in the bid. This should be fully detailed and costed in the project budget as part of the bid submission so that we can understand the cash value of any in-kind contributions.

5. Can other organisations apply for this funding?

Other organisations can be partners in proposals, but the project lead must be a higher education provider that is eligible for OfS funding.

Bids will need to demonstrate clearly what all partners will contribute to the project, the nature and scope of their involvement, the investment they are contributing and how the collaborations will work successfully, if funded.

6. Do projects have to be collaborative?

Yes. We expect all projects to have at least one partner, but this does not have to be another higher education provider. For example, partners could include health agencies and third sector organisations.

The proposal must be coherent with all partners having a strategic interest in the activities and there must be full commitment to the project, and co-investment as appropriate.

We are looking to reach a diverse pool of providers that are now registered with the OfS and are keen to see a diversity of providers represented in the portfolio of funded projects.

Providers should consider contacting other providers where there would be benefit in working collaboratively on projects that have similar aims and objectives.   

7. Could a provider from a devolved nation be included as a strategic partner?

Yes. However, funding can only be provided to higher education providers based in England and meeting the eligibility requirements. Therefore, any provider from a devolved nation involved in the bid could not receive any of this funding and would have to fund any commissioned activity separately.

8. Can providers be involved in more than one bid?

Providers may only submit and lead one bid and may be involved in one further bid as a partner.

9. My bid has exceeded the page limit. What are the consequences?

The completed template should not exceed 12 sides of A4. This includes all tablesand does not include the instructions page or data protection sheet. Font size should be no smaller than 11-point Arial. Our assessors and the panel will reserve the right to stop reading proposals if they exceed the page limit.

10. Does every proposal have to cover all key priority groups of students?

No. Where appropriate and realistic proposals can cover more than one priority, but this is not an expectation. We encourage bids to be focused in their approach and do not expect them to cover all groups of students within a particular priority area. Rather, we want to see evidence-based, innovative bids focused on targeted support for a particular group of students.

11. How will providers be informed of bid outcomes?

We will inform bidders whether they have been successful during March/April 2021. We will then agree award letters with all successful bidders.

12. When do projects need to start by?

Projects should begin in May 2021.

13. When do projects have to complete by?

OfS funding must be spent by March 2023 but projects will have until June 2023 to submit their final evaluation reports.

14. What monitoring requirements will be involved?

Interim project monitoring reports will focus on progress against key criteria, objectives, impact and milestones, financial accountability and risk management. The end of project report will also seek information on the learning and key outcomes derived from the project, even if these will run beyond the funding period.

As indicated in the competition documentation, all funded projects must be involved in evaluation and dissemination activities undertaken by the OfS and/or the Department of Health and Social Care. Further information on monitoring and evaluation requirements will be set out in grant award letters.

Published 05 March 2020
Last updated 01 October 2020
01 October 2020
Updates due to competition relaunch
23 March 2020
Funding competition paused

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