Mental health Challenge Competition: Achieving a step change in mental health outcomes for all students

Our Challenge Competition funded higher education providers to generate and test new approaches to improve mental health outcomes for students. 

We launched the competition in 2018 and awarded £6 million, with co-funding of £8.5 million, amounting to a total of £14.5 million investment.

We funded 10 collaborative projects, bringing together more than 60 different universities, colleges and other organisations – including the NHS and charities. The projects completed in 2022.

A key part of the programme was evaluating the impacts of the projects and sharing outputs so that higher education providers can apply the lessons to their own support for student mental health and wellbeing.

We have now published the final evaluation report from our independent evaluators, alongside case studies and resources developed by the projects.

Details of funded projects

Lead provider Project details

University of Birmingham


Enhancing student mental health through innovation and partnership

The project created a hub of qualified therapists and volunteers, providing therapeutic interventions for students in open-plan safe spaces without the need for appointments or waiting lists. 

Project partners:

  • The Children’s Society
  • Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • Forward Thinking Birmingham.

University of Derby


Education for mental health: enhancing student mental health through curriculum and pedagogy

The project created a national online toolkit for academics that provides guidance on designing curriculum and assessments that facilitate better student mental health. 

Project partners:

  • King's College London
  • SMaRteN (Student Mental Health Research Network)
  • Aston University
  • Student Minds
  • Advance HE.

University of Keele

Start to success – a whole community approach to supporting student transitions into, through and beyond university

The project championed a ‘whole community’ approach to mental health, working with partners to remove barriers, improve support and enable student success. 

Project partners:

  • Keele Students' Union and Postgraduate Association
  • Staffordshire University (and Students' Union)
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Midlands Partnership Foundation NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals of North Midlands Foundation Trust
  • Stoke on Trent College
  • Stoke 6th Form College
  • Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group
  • Staffordshire Police
  • Together Active (previously SASSOT).

University of Lincoln


Transitioning students effectively: a student-led approach to mental health support

The project created a peer-to-peer approach, developing processes, procedures and digital tools to enable students to support each other and themselves.

Project partners:

  • Bishop Grosseteste University
  • Lincolnshire Police
  • NHS (South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group)
  • Lincolnshire County Council (Adult Care and Community Wellbeing, Children’s and Mental Health Services)
  • UoL Students' Union
  • Bishop Grosseteste University Students’ Unions
  • Lincoln College
  • Unihealth
  • Expert Self Care.

University of Liverpool

Working in partnership to improve student mental health

The project developed sustainable clinical intervention and improved joined up working through clear referral pathways and interventions.

Project partners:

  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • MCT NHS Foundation Trust
  • Student Health Centre Brownlow Hill
  • Academic Health Science Network.

Newcastle University

BRinging Innovation to Graduate Mental Health TogethER (BRIGHTER)

The project provided evidence-based psychological therapy to students in an ‘in house’ clinic run, and early intervention through curriculum-based ‘mind management’ skills training.

Project partners:

  • Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
  • Child Outcomes Research Consortium
  • University of Northumbria at Newcastle
  • Newcastle University Students' Union.

University of Northumbria at Newcastle

Mental health and analytics: a continuum approach to understanding and improving student mental health

This project focused on innovative integration of technology, advanced educational data analytics, student relationship management, and effective models of support.

Project partners: 

  • Universities UK
  • Buckinghamshire New University
  • University of East London
  • Civitas Learning International
  • Jisc
  • The Student Room Group
  • Microsoft Education
  • Papyrus
  • University of Bristol.

University of Nottingham

International student mental health – good practice guidance and intervention case studies

This project aimed to discover what works in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of international students, creating case studies and a practical toolkit.

Project partners:

  • University of Nottingham Students' Union
  • Student Minds
  • SOAS
  • SOAS Students' Union
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Leeds Students' Union
  • Campuslife.

University of Sussex

SITUATE: Students In Transition at University: Aiming To Enhance mental and social health and wellbeing

This project developed a mental health peer education training programme delivered by older students to younger students at stages of transition.

Project partners: The Mental Health Foundation.

The University of the West of England, Bristol

Student mental health partnerships

The project developed five local 'hubs' in different cities in England, forming partnerships between universities, the NHS and students' unions in each city to improve mental health care for students, connected through a National Learning Collaborative.

Project partners:

  • University of Bristol
  • University of Sheffield
  • University College London
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Liverpool
  • Universities UK
  • Student Minds
  • NHS England.


Resources have been grouped using the programme priorities of support for students, early intervention and transitions.

Support for students

Examples include developing an integrated approach between provider-level support services and those of local primary care and mental health services, or addressing barriers to accessing support across services and sectors.

  • Trust me I'm a student podcast
    Led by the University of Manchester, as part of the Student Mental Health Partnerships project led by UWE Bristol, student partners discuss best practice in regards to student coproduction. Sharing experiences of what it is, why it works and the empowerments students have found as a result.
  • SPEQs toolkit
    Led by the University of Sheffield and University College London, as part of the Student Mental Health Partnerships project led by UWE Bristol, The Student Services Partnerships Evaluation and Quality Standards (SPEQS) toolkit is a practical toolkit for service managers and practitioners striving to develop partnerships to respond to diverse student mental health needs.
  • Co-production guide
    In collaboration with student minds, UWE Bristol have developed a toolkit to offer practical support to those leading on student co-production development.
  • IMPACTS peer research projects
    Led by University College London, as part of the Student Mental Health Partnerships project led by UWE Bristol, IMPACTS (IMProving ACcess to Treatment and Support) is a student led research study that seeks to understand students' experiences at university.
  • PsychUP for wellbeing
    In collaboration with University College London the PsychUP for wellbeing page aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing for staff and students.

Early intervention

This includes providing new forms of mental health literacy training to staff and students, or developing student analytics to inform improved and enhanced interventions.

  • Education Mental Health Toolkit
    The toolkit includes resources that are research and evidence informed and makes embedding student mental health into the curriculum accessible to individuals, staff and institutions.
  • Globally MindED Toolkit
    The toolkit aims to bring together how higher education in the UK is acting to support international students. Celebrating their successes and sharing where things have worked well with others.


This is for all types of students, from school or college into higher education, including innovative approaches to pre-entry support and outreach activity, and into postgraduate study or employment with a focus on susceptible or vulnerable groups.

  • Fresher Take podcast
    A podcast created by students, for students where hosts discuss different topics each episode, from budgeting to deadline and time management to homesickness.
  • Online guides
    Guides written for students and staff at all levels of higher education. Covering topics such as managing digital wellbeing and organising summer schools.
  • Student Life videos
    YouTube channel featuring videos from students, discussing their own experiences and offering advice for their peers.
  • Transitioning into higher education
    A webpage about transitioning into higher education along with videos about what prospective students can anticipate as they enter university.
  • Parent, guardian and teacher resources
    Guides that provide information, tips and tricks to utilise with pupils or children. These guides talk about mental and emotional wellbeing and provide links to support services that may be helpful.
  • Emotional fitness workshop
    Resources for staff to support them in running an emotional fitness and self-care workshop.
  • Next steps workshop
    Resources for staff to support them in running a looking ahead after further education workshop.
  • Getting ahead workshop
    Resources for staff to support them in running a skills workshop, focusing on time management, prioritising and procrastination.


Read the final evaluation reports
Last updated 10 July 2023
10 July 2023
New resource added from University of Sussex
15 May 2023
New case study from University of Birmingham published: Enhancing student mental health through innovation and partnership
10 May 2023
Added a new resource from Newcastle University: Clinical governance for mental health services
13 October 2022
Final evaluation reports published
13 July 2022
Northumbria University suicide prevention and data analytics case study added
12 July 2022
Page restructure, and new resources and case studies published
17 August 2021
Information and contact details updated for funded projects
02 September 2020
Link added to the evaluation of the OfS Mental Health Challenge Competition
05 August 2020
Link added to the report on the impact of coronavirus on OfS Mental Health Challenge Competition

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