New report published on mental health support for postgraduate research students

An independent report has been published today evaluating the impact of projects funded by the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England to support the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research (PGR) students.

Three students studying

In 2018, the OfS and Research England awarded £1.5 million of funding for the development of 17 projects across the country to support postgraduate researchers’ mental health.

Vitae, an organisation which supports PGR students’ professional development, has published its final report in collaboration with Universities UK on the impact of the funding. The projects, which took place over a two-year period, included a range of approaches such as the development of peer support networks, workshops on academic writing and online coaching programmes.

As set out today in a blog post from OfS senior officer Suzy Allinson, and Claire Fraser, senior policy adviser for Research England, the report suggests that PGR students involved in the projects had an increased awareness of how to find support and improve their mental health.

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said:

‘It is essential that postgraduate research students have the mental health support they need to thrive and succeed in their studies, especially considering the additional pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic. This evaluation report helps us to work towards a better understanding of the particular challenges research students face, and highlights the need for universities and colleges to put in place inclusive and innovative ways of working which integrate effective mental health and wellbeing practices with their strategies for postgraduate research.’

Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England, said:

‘Postgraduate research students are an integral part of the research community, these funded projects have added to our understanding on the specific factors that impact their mental health and wellbeing and the practices that providers and the wider sector can adopt to support them.’

The OfS has also published a new set of resources produced by the projects to help higher education providers in supporting the mental health of their PGR students. The online resources – which include training materials, workshop templates and podcasts – are being made freely available to universities and colleges to support them in the development of their own mental health and wellbeing initiatives and encourage the sharing of innovative practice.

Read Vitae's final report


  1. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) commissioned a report by Vitae in 2018 to gain a better understanding of the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students and associated support services. Many of the report’s recommendations were addressed by the joint OfS and Research England £1.5 million programme through the Catalyst fund, which ran from March 2018 to January 2020. Read more on the Catalyst fund.
Published 08 October 2020

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