The Hub provides easy access to information, evidence and evaluation guidance that can help universities and colleges improve the effectiveness of their mental health support for students.
As part of the OfS’s wider equality of opportunity mission, the OfS encourages universities and colleges to address mental health among students as a risk to equality of opportunity.
In May 2022, the OfS commissioned TASO to deliver a programme that could highlight and bring together existing evidence of effective interventions to support student mental health in higher education.
TASO’s Student Mental Health Panel provided feedback on the development of the Hub, which is managed by a consortium of five organisations: AMOSSHE, SMaRteN (led by King’s College London), Student Minds, What Works Wellbeing, with TASO as the lead partner. The creation of the Hub has been entirely funded by the OfS.
This consortium offers a range of expertise that helps ensure the Hub’s value to the sector:
- AMOSSHE is the UK Student Services organisation, informing and supporting Student Services leaders and promoting the student experience,
- SMaRteN is a national research network focusing on student mental health in higher education,
- Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity, and
What Works Wellbeing aims to understand what governments, businesses and communities can do to improve wellbeing.
The digital Hub is aimed at higher education practitioners who work to design and implement interventions to support student mental health and aims to help them improve their practice and respond effectively to student needs. Features of the Hub include:
- Examples of practice
- Evaluation guidance
- Project reports
- Work of the student panel
The Hub provides universities and colleges with an evidence toolkit designed to improve understanding of student needs and encourage more robust evaluation. TASO has identified strengths in existing evidence and highlighted gaps in research. The evaluation guidance provided by the Hub is designed to support further research.
John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation of the OfS, said:
‘This OfS-funded Hub, launched today by TASO, is ground-breaking for the sector’s approach to supporting student mental health. Universities and colleges now have access to a range of evidence and evaluation guidance to better tailor their support to their own contexts and student cohorts.
‘We encourage universities and colleges to use the Hub to identify evidence-based interventions that are appropriate for their students, and continue to develop robust evaluation practices to understand what approaches are effective to supporting students’ mental health. This is an exciting new tool for the sector that, underpinned by further evidence and evaluation, can help to ensure that universities and colleges can support students to succeed.’
Dr Omar Khan, chief executive, TASO, said:
‘The recent rise in the number of students reporting mental health difficulties is staggering. We know that some student groups are more likely to report a mental health condition, such as students previously on free school meals. A lack of adequate support for student mental health can exacerbate and entrench existing inequalities.
Students deserve to receive tried and tested support that we know will make a difference to their mental health and wellbeing. The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub launched today provides the resources needed to start this work and I hope it will spur on more evidence-informed practice.’
Alongside the launch of the Hub, the OfS has also published a new Insight brief: ‘Meeting the mental health needs of students’. This follows on from previous OfS data analysis on reported mental conditions and outcomes for different student groups. This new brief re-examines the issue of mental health among students and spotlights the differences in outcomes between students who report having mental health conditions and those who don’t. The brief also explores how analysis of mental health conditions combined with other characteristics such as sex, socio-economic background, and ethnicity can impact differences in student outcomes, such as the number of students continuing and completing their courses, and who progress onto professional careers.
John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said:
‘Understanding the needs of students who are struggling with mental health conditions is more important now than ever. Our Insight brief highlights how mental health affects specific groups of students differently. It is vital that universities and colleges evaluate and respond to the needs of these different groups.
‘We encourage universities and colleges to actively consider the risks presented in our Equality of Opportunity Risk Register, and seek insight and input from students, particularly those with experience of poor mental health, in the development of their approaches.
‘The OfS has provided funding for a range of innovative programmes to help find ways to work together to find effective solutions for student mental health. We are pleased to be part of the government’s new Higher Education Mental Health Implementation Taskforce, which is drawing on a wide range of expertise and experience to progress projects and guidance aimed to improve mental health support for students in higher education.’
In addition to our Insight brief, today we have also published two case studies from the University of Bristol and the Academy of Contemporary Music, that took part in our Mental Health Funding Competition ‘Using innovation and intersectional approaches to target mental health support for students’. These case studies spotlight the importance of understanding and exploring the needs, barriers and challenges faced by different groups of students and how to provide appropriate support.
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