National postgraduate student mental health project launched at the University of Derby

16 January 2020

A new national project aimed at helping postgraduate students deal with mental health issues has been launched in Derby today (Thursday 16 January).

The Wellbeing Thesis is the result of a partnership between national charity Student Minds, the University of Derby and King’s College London.

The aim of the project is to meet the need for more preventative means to improve mental health among the UK’s half a million postgraduate students[i].

The Wellbeing Thesis is an online web-resource which has been co-produced with current post-graduate students at Derby and King’s College London.  It utilises the expertise of the partners in creating effective, evidence-based psychoeducational interventions to improve mental wellbeing.

Gareth Hughes, Research Lead for Student Wellbeing at the University of Derby, who was among those to launch the project at the University’s Enterprise Centre, said: “Mental wellbeing is a very significant issue for all students, but until recently we haven’t focussed as much on the needs of the postgraduate student community and so haven’t developed resources to support them.

“The key element of the Wellbeing Thesis is that it is designed to help post-graduate researchers support both their wellbeing and research. It provides clear evidence and guidance that you don’t have to sacrifice your wellbeing to complete your research.

“We’ve co-designed the resource with current postgraduate research students, so that it provides relevant, practical advice that can be applied right across the research student journey.”

The project is funded by the Office for Students, which independently regulates the higher education sector, and Research England, which oversees research and knowledge exchange in England’s universities.

The team behind the project worked with postgraduate students at Derby and King’s College London to better understand their experiences and identify what might improve their wellbeing.

Gareth added: “The evaluation of the resource has been robust, and it has identified that there are still issues we all need to address, such as helping postgraduate students to feel a greater sense of belonging within their academic communities. We also identified that there needs to be more active support for postgraduate students at college level.

“However, the research suggests that where we can all address those structural and cultural barriers in our universities, good mental wellbeing can be maintained during postgraduate study.

“It has been hugely rewarding to work so closely and constructively with our colleagues at King’s College London and Student Minds to produce such an important resource for postgraduate students, wherever they are studying across the country.”

Representatives of universities across England and Wales and the National Union of Students were present at the launch, which was addressed by number of key speakers, including Dr Michelle Morgan, a renowned consultant on improving the student experience in higher education, and Rosie Tressler, Chief Executive of Student Minds.

Rosie said: "We often hear from students working towards a PhD or postgraduate research study that they feel pressure to always be in the library or the lab and too many students can find these qualifications to come at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. The experience of postgraduate researchers can be unlike that of other members of the university community, bringing particular pressures and challenges that are not always captured in the student mental health conversation.

“That’s why we're thrilled to be launching an intervention which recognises the unique circumstances of postgraduate students. The Wellbeing Thesis is an all-inclusive informational website available to every postgraduate in the UK, co-created with postgraduate students and professionals.

“The Wellbeing Thesis is for anyone, whether you are a postgraduate research student yourself, or a member of the wider university community. With the right support and guidance, it is possible to navigate the ups and downs of research and maintain positive wellbeing and thrive throughout your studies."

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[i] ‘Student numbers in UK higher education (2017–18)’, Universities UK

Gareth Hughes delivering a presentation at launch of the Wellbeing Thesis
Dr Michelle Morgan at the launch of the Wellbeing Thesis

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