Student Minds’ University Mental Health Charter is a step in the right direction and something for the higher education to sector to aspire to, says the chair of our University and Colleges division Mark Fudge.

But higher education leaders need to ensure they invest in counselling services to ensure they have enough resources so student have access to a range of mental health and wellbeing support options while at university, he adds.

University-wide priority

The Student Minds charter aims to provide a set of key principles to support universities across the UK in making mental health a university-wide priority.

It will form the basis of the Charter Award Scheme, which will be developed next year, to recognise and reward universities that promote good mental health and demonstrate good practice.

Mark Fudge, chair of our University and Colleges Division, said: “This is a step in the right direction. It’s a helpful document. It gives the sector something to aspire to.

“I would have liked to have seen more in it about counselling.

At the forefront

“There are thousands of students who are accessing counselling services every year. These services are at the forefront of supporting the most disenfranchised and vulnerable university populations.  They don’t just offer counselling but all sorts of group work, training and other support. They are often under-resourced, but they are having a positive impact on students’ lives and universities need to see that and invest more in them.

“Universities need to invest in all forms of mental health support so that students have access to a range of options when they need them.”

The Charter refers to counselling in a section titled ‘support’.

Effective responses

It says: “What evidence there is clearly shows that traditional services, such as counselling and therapy, can be effective responses to poor student mental health”

It also refers to gaps in evidence of the effectiveness of some support services, variations in outcomes for different services and therapists, and the importance that services are taking steps to “ensure quality, safety and effectiveness.”

We’ve been involved in analysing some of the research data used to put the document together and are also part of a separate research project exploring these issues.

The SCORE consortium – which stands for Student Counselling Outcomes, Research and Evaluation - is made up of researchers from universities and BACP as well as members of our University and Colleges Division, who are practising counsellors and/or heads of university counselling services.

The consortium, supported by both us and UKCP, is exploring the effectiveness of university counselling and enhance services for future students who want to access this support.

It has already published one paper on the differentiation between student wellbeing and student mental health.

And this publication was referenced four times within the University Mental Health Charter. Another paper published by our research Emma Broglia was also referenced.

Read Student Minds' University Mental Health Charter.