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Work effectively with partners to support students’ mental health, regulator tells universities

Work effectively with partners to support students’ mental health, regulator tells universities

Universities must ensure they are working effectively with partners to support students’ mental health and wellbeing, Office for Students (OfS) Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge will tell MPs today.

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Students, she will say that this is a priority for the OfS – the higher education regulator for England – because it is a priority for students.

Nicola Dandridge will highlight how the OfS is working to improve support for students by:

  • challenging registered providers to improve their support for their students’ mental health, for example through access and participation plans
  • funding activities that directly support students, including a guide to help universities prevent student suicides, and the £6 million Challenge Competition for innovative projects to combat the rise in student mental health issues
  • delivering a £1.5 million collaboration with Research England that will support postgraduate research students
  • working in partnership with providers, charities and other organisations to encourage good practice through the University Mental Health Charter and the Universities UK Mental Health in HE Advisory Group
  • improving the data and evidence around what the problems are, what causes them and what works best to address them, such as new analysis published today that shows how different characteristics impact on graduates’ anxiety, life satisfaction and happiness.

In her remarks to MPs, Nicola Dandridge will say:

‘All students deserve to get the support they need to cope with times of mental ill health and distress. But there are times when that support does not get to where it is needed, when it is needed.

‘Every time I meet with groups of students and student unions, the challenge of mental health is raised, and the members of the OfS Student Panel have also raised it as a priority.

‘I know many universities and colleges are already working hard to improve their support services for mental health and wellbeing, but all have a responsibility to provide the right support for mental health and wellbeing.

‘Mental health and wellbeing are complex issues, but universities are full of people who excel at working with complexity.

‘So I believe that – with the challenge and support provided by the OfS – higher education providers can and will address these issues, so as to enable their students to flourish and unlock their potential.’

A blog by Nicola Dandridge, published today, gives further details of how and why the OfS is working to improve support for students’ mental health and wellbeing.

For further information contact Sophie Mason on 0117 905 7676 or [email protected]


  1. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
  2. Access and participation plans set out how higher education providers will improve equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups to access, succeed in and progress from higher education. They are a condition of registration in some categories. 
  3. See more details on the £6 million Challenge Competition
  4. Suicide-Safer Universities, guidance to help university leaders prevent student suicides, was published by Universities UK and the suicide prevention charity Papyrus.
  5. See more details on the £1.5 million project with Research England.
  6. See details of the University Mental Health Charter, being developed with Student Minds, NUS, Universities UK and the UPP Foundation.
  7. See information about the Universities UK Mental Health in HE Advisory Group, of which OfS is a member.
  8. See our analysis of graduate wellbeing outcomes.

Key findings include:

  • Graduates aged 21 and over at the start of their course were more likely to give a very high score for the sense that what you do is worthwhile than those who were under 21.
  • Graduates who did not report having a disability were more likely to report very high levels of happiness and life satisfaction than those who did report having a disability.
  • For graduates who were in employment 40 months after graduation, those who remained in their home region for study and employment were the most likely to give very high scores for happiness (34 per cent).
  • Graduates whose course did not include a sandwich year were twice as likely to report low life satisfaction than those who did take a sandwich year.
  • Graduates from courses in education and subjects allied to medicine were most likely to have very high scores for life satisfaction and happiness, whilst those from courses in computer sciences had the highest proportion with low happiness scores (12 per cent).

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