The University of Derby has received a £150,000 share of £1.5 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), awarded to 17 universities to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research (PGR) students.
The University will use the award, boosted by match funding and in-kind investment, to create a national student wellbeing online resource, working alongside panels of existing PGR students, Kings College London and mental health charity Student Minds to develop and evaluate the new site.
The site will take a prevention and early intervention approach to student wellbeing, providing proactive multimedia resources that consider the whole PGR experience and support positive cultural change towards good mental health.
In its first year, the team anticipates that the resource will support 500 PGR students and aims to build on this year on year. Student panels recruited at each university will ensure the site meets their needs and will help to evaluate its impact. Once created, the site will be hosted and maintained by Student Minds, with the University of Derby investing in ongoing national webinars.
The University is already involved in a HEFCE-funded project on harassment, sexual violence and hate crime, which is also taking an educative approach to cultural change. Its work on psychoeducation has been recognised as good practice by HEFCE and is delivered across its academic programmes, with 86 percent of students stating that it helped them in their studies.
Jo Jones, Student Wellbeing Manager at the University of Derby, said: “I am delighted that we have received this funding from HEFCE, which is a testament to the valuable work we’re doing in this field and to be working with our partners at Student Minds and Kings College London. It’s really exciting to have been given this opportunity to have a national impact on the mental wellbeing and learning of PGR students and develop something new for the sector.”
Vice-chancellor professor Kathryn Mitchell said: “Recognising that only a third of students who experience problems with their mental health seek support, we have adopted a proactive, whole-institutional approach to improving the well-being of our students.
“This project extends our sector-leading work in developing a programme for in-classroom and online psychoeducation to be embedded into our academic programmes. This open-access element enables our strategy to support the development of better student well-being across the whole sector.”
Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds, added: "Across the UK, there is a growing focus on the need for strategic whole-university approaches to support student mental health. Undertaking PGR can be isolating at times and we know there is an important gap to fill in helping more students thrive when undertaking a PhD.
“We're pleased to be working with the University of Derby and Kings College London to develop accessible multi-media resources that will not only be of benefit to PGR students at these institutions but will be made freely available to the wider university sector to support positive cultural change across the UK."
Dr Nicola Byrom, Kings College London’s project lead, added: “This collaboration will enable the project to draw on the strong history of clinical research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurosciences. This project is the next step in a line of work at Kings College London aimed at enhancing support for positive wellbeing. I will lead on the evaluation of the new site, helping to ensure that its site develops from a strong evidence base.”
For more information about HEFCE and the latest funding awards, visit www.hefce.ac.uk.