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One in six students want to change university due to failing mental health support, research shows

One in six higher education students would switch university provider, new study reveals (@ucenmcr)  

A sixth of students – equivalent to approximately 300,000 students* – are currently considering switching universities, despite only being half-way through the first semester of the year, a new study from higher education provider UCEN Manchester has revealed.

The study of 1,000 university students also found that more than one in six (15%) were unhappy with the online learning provision they were receiving while a further 10% stated that they were dissatisfied with the availability of clubs and societies at their current university.

However, despite wanting to switch, 15% said they didn’t know it was possible to change university while more than a third (36%) said they didn’t know the process for switching.

Commenting on the findings Michael Walsh, Dean of UCEN Manchester, said:

“We find it extremely worrying that so many students are not only unhappy at their current provider but that they also don’t know that they can switch University and the process for doing so.

“We firmly believe that the higher education sector needs to treat these findings as a wake-up call and make sure that universities and higher education providers are collectively putting in place support for students that both makes them aware of the options available to them and supports them through the process.

“As a first step UCEN Manchester is today launching a new ‘Switch’ pack of resources aimed at providing students with all the information they need to change providers if they are currently not enjoying the experience they are receiving from their current university.

“While no university wants to lose students it is vital that more is done to increase awareness of the options that are available to those students who want to continue their degree studies in an environment more suited to them.”

How to switch

To help better inform students of how to switch providers UCEN Manchester has launched a new resource where people can find a simple guide to the process and how to go about changing providers.

Top tips include:

•           Speak to your current university support teams to seek advice and explore your options

•           Check your accommodation/halls of residence contracts and make sure you’re able to comply with their Terms and Conditions

•           Check your new provider will be a right fit by asking how they can support your needs before applying

•           Once you have decided where you want to move to, email the admissions tutor for the specific course. Don’t just email the general enquiries address.

•           In your email, write exactly what course you’re doing now and what course you want to change to and why you want to switch University

•           Update your course details on Student Finance England once you have been accepted on your new course.

Deteriorating mental health

The report also asked students about the mental health support they are receiving from their universities following the pandemic, with only 55% of students saying they are happy with the mental health support provision they are receiving from their university

Walsh added: “The findings highlight the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the overall experience that students are receiving and suggest that Universities are not responding to meet the changing needs of the student population.

“It is concerning that these findings suggest that many students, who are unhappy, may feel trapped and unable to make a change to a provider that may be better able to meet their needs. This, coupled with the general feeling that there is a lack of mental health support, has the potential to create a perfect storm for deteriorating mental health amongst students.”

Spotting the signs of poor mental health can be difficult, but this is particularly true for parents when young adults are living away from home while attending university.

Wendy Pennington, Director of Student Experience and Engagement at UCEN Manchester, says that there are some tell-tale signs that parents/guardians can look for if they are worried their young person may not be happy or settled at University.

Wendy explained: “While mental health issues can be difficult to spot at the best of times this is even more acute when people are living apart.

“Starting university is a time of change, moving to a new area, making new friends and living more independently, emotional and behavioural changes are natural as young people adjust to their new environment. However, when these changes start to noticeably impact their behaviour and emotional state, for example taking risks, becoming unpredictable, withdrawn, overly confident, erratic, anxious or angry, this could be an indicator that their mental health and wellbeing is affected.

“Communication is key. Talk to them, have a regular check in and if you have concerns there is plenty of support out there for both you and your young person. At the end of the day, just remember as their parent or guardian you know them and are the best person to identify any issues, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask for support.”

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