Colleges to partner with NHS and Office for Students to improve mental health in HE students

18 Aug 2021

The City of Liverpool College along with nine other colleges in the North West will utilise funding from the Office for Students to support HE students’ mental health. The collaboration between the Merseyside Colleges, Lancashire Colleges, four NHS trusts and AoC will develop and implement a highly innovative Social Prescribing (SP) approach to improve mental health outcomes for HE students.  

It will help provide a stronger focus on mental wellbeing not illness, with an emphasis on the importance of personal choice and control in achieving and maintaining mental and physical wellbeing. With over 137,000 HE students studying in a FE college, of which over 50% are aged 25+, Higher Education Social Prescribing (HESP) will establish a network of HE SP link workers, in partnership with local health agencies developing preventative strategies for students that may be at a higher risk of poor mental health or face barriers to accessing support - for example international students, part-time students, or those with caring responsibilities.   

HESP will have a clear focus on addressing issues around the lack of integration and connectivity between health agencies, community support services and higher education. HESP will transform access to a range of wellbeing (non-clinical) services for HE students within their college and beyond in order to support a range of health and wellbeing needs.  

This project supports part of NHS England’s commitment to deliver a more integrated approach across health, social care, education and the voluntary sector. 

Kirsti Lord, Deputy Chief Executive of Association of Colleges said:

“We know mental health is a big issue for colleges across the country and they strive to support every student who needs help. Students on higher education courses can have different circumstances and face varying barriers when accessing learning and crucially if they need mental health support while in education. This tailored project will be vital when reaching students with complex needs or who might have never accessed mental health and wellbeing support before and transform access to services and support.” 

Chris Millward, Director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said:  

“Having a mental health condition should not be a barrier to success in higher education, but for many students this is still the case. Data shows that students reporting a mental health condition are more likely to drop out, less likely to graduate with a first or 2:1, and progress into skilled work or further study – compared to students without a declared condition. We also know that students come to university or college from a range of backgrounds and that their individual journey, and the kind of support they require, is likely to be influenced by their specific circumstances.  

That’s why this funding of targeted interventions for student mental health is so important. By paying attention to the diverse needs of students; universities and colleges can fine-tune the support they offer and ensure that all students, regardless of where they are from, have the best chance possible to succeed. 

Working with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, we are pleased to be able to fund projects across a range universities and colleges targeting a number of priority groups. We look forward to working with these projects to develop and evaluate innovative and collaborative approaches to targeted support for student mental health, and to support the take-up of this learning for the benefit of students in all parts of the sector.”