Student mental health: our role

Many universities and colleges, health care agencies, charities and other organisations work hard to support students and make sure they know where to turn when they need help.

The specific needs of students vary between different universities and colleges, and individual institutions are responsible for developing their own mental health policies and procedures. We do not directly regulate student welfare or support systems at individual universities and colleges.

But the OfS has an important role in aiming to ensure that every student, whatever their background, is supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education.

Our work in mental health covers three broad areas:

  1. Providing funding for higher education providers to develop practical and innovative approaches and solutions.
  2. Challenging providers to address gaps in outcomes between different groups of students through our access and participation regulation.
  3. Working with a range of partners to develop and disseminate sector-wide effective practice.

We encourage all higher education providers to:

  • take a whole-institution approach – there needs to be clear commitment from senior leaders and joined up thinking between academic staff and student services
  • ensure that they have robust, evidence-based policies in place to support students
  • evaluate their own work and learn from others to make sure they're working in the most effective ways
  • encourage students to declare mental health conditions, at any stage of their student journey 
  • identify gaps in outcomes between students with declared mental health conditions and their peers and, where relevant, develop ambitious and credible access and participation plans or access and participation statements to address these
  • seek to understand their student population, including exploring barriers and challenges faced by groups of students who may be more at risk of poor mental health
  • collaborate with other organisations
  • put co-creation with students at the heart of their intervention planning
  • develop and implement suicide prevention plans appropriate to the needs of their students
  • engage with local suicide prevention partnerships and work in collaboration with associated networks.

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