Tag Archives: universities

Universities are a key resource for the NHS. Why are they so underused?

Good public health is central to the success of our cities, nations and regions. It’s an area in which higher education has a key role to play, since working to address local and global health challenges and develop cutting-edge drug therapies is deeply rooted within academic institutions. Yet universities are still an underused resource in tackling local public health problems.

The main obstacle is the absence of organisations that connect universities and the NHS. In the UK, there are just six Academic Health Science Centres, which bring together research, education and clinical practice to translate research swiftly into patient care and ensure that patient interactions contribute to the generation of new knowledge. These AHSCs are not spread evenly around the country: three are in London, and one in Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester.

Part of the problem is that although collaboration between academics is the norm within universities, there is sometimes tension between universities and research institutes. Competition – rather than collaboration – is too often the default setting. A recent report from the King’s Commission on London [pdf], which looked at practical solutions to improve the lives of Londoners, called for better coordination and collaboration across the city’s research infrastructure to reap the benefits of its concentration of expertise and resource.

There are some examples of good practice: in London, the Francis Crick Institute brings together universities and biomedical research centres, while MedCity promotes the life sciences cluster in the south-east. And some institutions are starting to think big when it comes to research partnerships. Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities is a major new Wellcome-funded initiative running in 10 cities across four continents. It hopes to achieve a step change in urban health, especially among vulnerable populations.


A commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of local communities is fundamental to every university’s purpose

Equally, within their communities, universities are on the frontline of local health issues. The University of Liverpool is a lead partner in the Liverpool Obesity Research Network alongside local NHS trusts. Academics from UWE Bristol, the University of Bath and University of Bristol are working with clinicians, commissioners and older people to improve activity and health in later life. Across London, universities’ air-quality research is interrogating the impact of poor air on health, and making real-time data on air quality accessible to Londoners.

Universities also have the potential to improve health through providing expertise that can connect the layers of trusts, providers and commissioners that make up the complex architecture of Greater London’s health service. Linking data across these different layers would streamline interactions and improve patients’ experience. Developing these systems is not beyond the combined brain power of London’s universities. Indeed, this month will see the first phase of investment to establish Health Data Research UK, a £30m fund bringing together six sites, comprising 22 UK universities and research institutes, to make game-changing public health improvements by harnessing data science at scale. Further progress will take sustained leadership from the mayor of London.

While not all universities have medical faculties, a commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of local communities is fundamental to every university’s purpose. In the run-up to our 200th anniversary, King’s College London has set out its ambition to be a modern civic university at the heart of London. This recognises the symbiotic value of working in partnership not only with other universities, but with London and Londoners too.

Successful strategies for change require a blend of collaboration and leadership. Universities need to listen to the challenges in their area, and combine academic insights with lived experience to develop lasting solutions. If our cities are living laboratories, then the people within them are not just the subjects of research, they can help create knowledge too.

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Suicide is at record level among students at UK universities, study finds

A growing number of undergraduates are reporting mental health problems, according to a report that shows a record number of students have killed themselves in recent years.

The scale of the mental health crisis at UK universities is revealed in a study by the IPPR thinktank. It shows that the number of students who disclosed a mental health problem in their first year rose fivefold to reach 15,395 in a decade.

Analysts also found that a record 134 students killed themselves in 2015. In the same year a record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university.

Experts put the rise down to growing pressure on students who leave university with huge debt, as well as increased awareness – meaning more people are reporting problems.

Mark Salter, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was “deeply alarming” that student suicide numbers had nearly doubled in the past decade.

“We know that the government needs to do much more to stop people reaching the level of desperation where they take their own lives. Suicide is preventable … without proper resourcing and funding, we will not reduce suicide in England,” he said.

Craig Thorley, an IPPR senior research fellow, said young people’s studies risked being disrupted.

“Universities must be ready to support these students, including, where appropriate, through referral into specialist care. But the extent of support is currently too varied, and many university services are overwhelmed by the level of demand,” he said.

The report called for universities to ensure that their counselling services had close links with local GPs and mental health services.

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said the findings were “shocking” and should act as a “massive wake-up call to universities to take this area much more seriously”.

He said: “Some vice-chancellors still think [mental health care] is not the business of universities and it’s just about development of the mind, but developing minds means nothing unless you also help people learn how to become settled down and ready to learn.”

The Labour MP Luciana Berger said the research uncovered worrying levels of mental ill-health: “The wellbeing of students cannot be an afterthought. The government and universities must take on board the recommendations and create the conditions in which our next generation can get help and flourish.”

New analysis found female first-year students were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to disclose a mental health condition in 2015-16, whereas four years previously both were equally likely.

Ruth Caleb, wellbeing consultant at Brunel University, said the rise could be down to the fact that more students now came to university already anxious and worried about the degree they would get, as well as the debt they would be saddled with as their working lives began.

“The rise is due to a combination of more awareness of mental health issues, a lowering of the taboo previously attached to mental health services and a greater sense of anxiety about the future. Young men are still a concern to us as they tend not to present as much to counselling and wellbeing services,” she said.

The report also highlighted soaring demand on services. Through a survey of 58 UK higher education providers, it found 94% had experienced an increase in demand for counselling services over the past five years, while 61% had seen demand jump by more than a quarter.

The proportion of students using, or waiting to use, counselling services was as high as 26% at some universities.

The report recommends that the Department of Health introduce a new NHS Student Health Fund, with local partnerships of health and education providers bidding to deliver innovative models of integrated care to students.

It also called for a new student premium to top up the funding of GP practices with high proportions of patients who are students, as these practices receive less funding per head.

Thorley said: “As a first step, the university sector should make a firm commitment to drive up quality and increase access to support services. Along with strengthened NHS provision and funding, this will help ensure that no student is held back by their mental health.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the government had worked with Universities UK to improve mental health support. “We expect all universities to take the wellbeing of their students seriously and ensure that they are providing them with the right support … Later this year the government will also publish a green paper with proposals to improve mental health services,” they said.

‘I ended up in hospital just before my finals’ – Laura Day, 21

Laura Day, who studied at Cambridge and is now doing a master’s at Durham.


Laura Day, who studied at Cambridge and is now doing a master’s at Durham. Photograph: Sarah Marsh

Anxiety feels like there’s bubble-wrap between you and the rest of the world, and you’re trying to get through that to be a normal person but you can’t. It’s worrying about ridiculous and inconsequential things that fill your head, pushing out everything else.

I did my undergraduate studies at Cambridge University – an inspiring place, but it can also be toxic and, for me, it brought out my anxiety and depression. It heightened the feeling I had that I was not good enough.

My mental health problems came to a head this year when I ended up in hospital in January, just before my finals. I thought I was having a heart attack but it turned out to just be anxiety.

I definitely struggled during my time at university but I found support through the college counsellor. Each Cambridge college also has a nurse, and so I spoke to her. She was very helpful. The porters at my college were also always there for me if I needed someone to talk to as they lived with us 24 hours a day.

I graduated from Cambridge and am starting a master’s at Durham in September.

There is definitely more pressure on students to get something out of their degree. During my third year I looked around at people applying for master’s courses and jobs. I was told to get a job but didn’t know what to do. I’ve now decided to do a master’s but you pay so much for university and young people now feel the weight of that.

‘Depression meant I struggled to leave my room’ – Lucas North, 20

Lucas North, a student at York University.


Lucas North, a student at York University. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

I have depression and autism, both formally diagnosed after coming to university. I experienced these illnesses before then but only sought treatment when I was at York University because it got bad and I was worried about my academic performance.

I found it hard in my first year to adapt to working and my attendance in seminars was really bad. I kept missing stuff because depression meant I struggled to leave my room. In the second term of my first year I was having a really bad month and had missed half of my seminars and was like, ‘I need to address this because it’s really affecting me academically.’ That’s when I spoke to my GP.

Depression for me feels like having a lot of motivation and wanting to do everything but having no energy. It left me quite isolated. I am not sure help at university is good enough as I know loads of people who have not been able to get counselling appointments.

It’s good that services are there, but there’s not enough funding. I would say about half of all students experience problems to some degree, maybe not serious mental health problems but low wellbeing or mood.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

Suicide is at record level among students at UK universities, study finds

A growing number of undergraduates are reporting mental health problems, according to a report that shows a record number of students have killed themselves in recent years.

The scale of the mental health crisis at UK universities is revealed in a study by the IPPR thinktank. It shows that the number of students who disclosed a mental health problem in their first year rose fivefold to reach 15,395 in a decade.

Analysts also found that a record 134 students killed themselves in 2015. In the same year a record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university.

Experts put the rise down to growing pressure on students who leave university with huge debt, as well as increased awareness – meaning more people are reporting problems.

Mark Salter, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was “deeply alarming” that student suicide numbers had nearly doubled in the past decade.

“We know that the government needs to do much more to stop people reaching the level of desperation where they take their own lives. Suicide is preventable … without proper resourcing and funding, we will not reduce suicide in England,” he said.

Craig Thorley, an IPPR senior research fellow, said young people’s studies risked being disrupted.

“Universities must be ready to support these students, including, where appropriate, through referral into specialist care. But the extent of support is currently too varied, and many university services are overwhelmed by the level of demand,” he said.

The report called for universities to ensure that their counselling services had close links with local GPs and mental health services.

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said the findings were “shocking” and should act as a “massive wake-up call to universities to take this area much more seriously”.

He said: “Some vice-chancellors still think [mental health care] is not the business of universities and it’s just about development of the mind, but developing minds means nothing unless you also help people learn how to become settled down and ready to learn.”

The Labour MP Luciana Berger said the research uncovered worrying levels of mental ill-health: “The wellbeing of students cannot be an afterthought. The government and universities must take on board the recommendations and create the conditions in which our next generation can get help and flourish.”

New analysis found female first-year students were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to disclose a mental health condition in 2015-16, whereas four years previously both were equally likely.

Ruth Caleb, wellbeing consultant at Brunel University, said the rise could be down to the fact that more students now came to university already anxious and worried about the degree they would get, as well as the debt they would be saddled with as their working lives began.

“The rise is due to a combination of more awareness of mental health issues, a lowering of the taboo previously attached to mental health services and a greater sense of anxiety about the future. Young men are still a concern to us as they tend not to present as much to counselling and wellbeing services,” she said.

The report also highlighted soaring demand on services. Through a survey of 58 UK higher education providers, it found 94% had experienced an increase in demand for counselling services over the past five years, while 61% had seen demand jump by more than a quarter.

The proportion of students using, or waiting to use, counselling services was as high as 26% at some universities.

The report recommends that the Department of Health introduce a new NHS Student Health Fund, with local partnerships of health and education providers bidding to deliver innovative models of integrated care to students.

It also called for a new student premium to top up the funding of GP practices with high proportions of patients who are students, as these practices receive less funding per head.

Thorley said: “As a first step, the university sector should make a firm commitment to drive up quality and increase access to support services. Along with strengthened NHS provision and funding, this will help ensure that no student is held back by their mental health.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the government had worked with Universities UK to improve mental health support. “We expect all universities to take the wellbeing of their students seriously and ensure that they are providing them with the right support … Later this year the government will also publish a green paper with proposals to improve mental health services,” they said.

‘I ended up in hospital just before my finals’ – Laura Day, 21

Laura Day, who studied at Cambridge and is now doing a master’s at Durham.


Laura Day, who studied at Cambridge and is now doing a master’s at Durham. Photograph: Sarah Marsh

Anxiety feels like there’s bubble-wrap between you and the rest of the world, and you’re trying to get through that to be a normal person but you can’t. It’s worrying about ridiculous and inconsequential things that fill your head, pushing out everything else.

I did my undergraduate studies at Cambridge University – an inspiring place, but it can also be toxic and, for me, it brought out my anxiety and depression. It heightened the feeling I had that I was not good enough.

My mental health problems came to a head this year when I ended up in hospital in January, just before my finals. I thought I was having a heart attack but it turned out to just be anxiety.

I definitely struggled during my time at university but I found support through the college counsellor. Each Cambridge college also has a nurse, and so I spoke to her. She was very helpful. The porters at my college were also always there for me if I needed someone to talk to as they lived with us 24 hours a day.

I graduated from Cambridge and am starting a master’s at Durham in September.

There is definitely more pressure on students to get something out of their degree. During my third year I looked around at people applying for master’s courses and jobs. I was told to get a job but didn’t know what to do. I’ve now decided to do a master’s but you pay so much for university and young people now feel the weight of that.

‘Depression meant I struggled to leave my room’ – Lucas North, 20

Lucas North, a student at York University.


Lucas North, a student at York University. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

I have depression and autism, both formally diagnosed after coming to university. I experienced these illnesses before then but only sought treatment when I was at York University because it got bad and I was worried about my academic performance.

I found it hard in my first year to adapt to working and my attendance in seminars was really bad. I kept missing stuff because depression meant I struggled to leave my room. In the second term of my first year I was having a really bad month and had missed half of my seminars and was like, ‘I need to address this because it’s really affecting me academically.’ That’s when I spoke to my GP.

Depression for me feels like having a lot of motivation and wanting to do everything but having no energy. It left me quite isolated. I am not sure help at university is good enough as I know loads of people who have not been able to get counselling appointments.

It’s good that services are there, but there’s not enough funding. I would say about half of all students experience problems to some degree, maybe not serious mental health problems but low wellbeing or mood.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

Suicide is at record level among students at UK universities, study finds

A growing number of undergraduates are reporting mental health problems, according to a report that shows a record number of students have killed themselves in recent years.

The scale of the mental health crisis at UK universities is revealed in a study by the IPPR thinktank. It shows that the number of students who disclosed a mental health problem in their first year rose fivefold to reach 15,395 in a decade.

Analysts also found that a record 134 students killed themselves in 2015. In the same year a record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university.

Experts put the rise down to growing pressure on students who leave university with huge debt, as well as increased awareness – meaning more people are reporting problems.

Mark Salter, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was “deeply alarming” that student suicide numbers had nearly doubled in the past decade.

“We know that the government needs to do much more to stop people reaching the level of desperation where they take their own lives. Suicide is preventable … without proper resourcing and funding, we will not reduce suicide in England,” he said.

Craig Thorley, an IPPR senior research fellow, said young people’s studies risked being disrupted.

“Universities must be ready to support these students, including, where appropriate, through referral into specialist care. But the extent of support is currently too varied, and many university services are overwhelmed by the level of demand,” he said.

The report called for universities to ensure that their counselling services had close links with local GPs and mental health services.

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said the findings were “shocking” and should act as a “massive wake-up call to universities to take this area much more seriously”.

He said: “Some vice-chancellors still think [mental health care] is not the business of universities and it’s just about development of the mind, but developing minds means nothing unless you also help people learn how to become settled down and ready to learn.”

The Labour MP Luciana Berger said the research uncovered worrying levels of mental ill-health: “The wellbeing of students cannot be an afterthought. The government and universities must take on board the recommendations and create the conditions in which our next generation can get help and flourish.”

New analysis found female first-year students were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to disclose a mental health condition in 2015-16, whereas four years previously both were equally likely.

Ruth Caleb, wellbeing consultant at Brunel University, said the rise could be down to the fact that more students now came to university already anxious and worried about the degree they would get, as well as the debt they would be saddled with as their working lives began.

“The rise is due to a combination of more awareness of mental health issues, a lowering of the taboo previously attached to mental health services and a greater sense of anxiety about the future. Young men are still a concern to us as they tend not to present as much to counselling and wellbeing services,” she said.

The report also highlighted soaring demand on services. Through a survey of 58 UK higher education providers, it found 94% had experienced an increase in demand for counselling services over the past five years, while 61% had seen demand jump by more than a quarter.

The proportion of students using, or waiting to use, counselling services was as high as 26% at some universities.

The report recommends that the Department of Health introduce a new NHS Student Health Fund, with local partnerships of health and education providers bidding to deliver innovative models of integrated care to students.

It also called for a new student premium to top up the funding of GP practices with high proportions of patients who are students, as these practices receive less funding per head.

Thorley said: “As a first step, the university sector should make a firm commitment to drive up quality and increase access to support services. Along with strengthened NHS provision and funding, this will help ensure that no student is held back by their mental health.

‘I ended up in hospital just before my finals’ – Laura Day, 21

Laura Day, who studied at Cambridge and is now doing a master’s at Durham.


Laura Day, who studied at Cambridge and is now doing a master’s at Durham. Photograph: Sarah Marsh

Anxiety feels like there’s bubble-wrap between you and the rest of the world, and you’re trying to get through that to be a normal person but you can’t. It’s worrying about ridiculous and inconsequential things that fill your head, pushing out everything else.

I did my undergraduate studies at Cambridge University – an inspiring place, but it can also be toxic and, for me, it brought out my anxiety and depression. It heightened the feeling I had that I was not good enough.

My mental health problems came to a head this year when I ended up in hospital in January, just before my finals. I thought I was having a heart attack but it turned out to just be anxiety.

I definitely struggled during my time at university but I found support through the college counsellor. Each Cambridge college also has a nurse, and so I spoke to her. She was very helpful. The porters at my college were also always there for me if I needed someone to talk to as they lived with us 24 hours a day.

I graduated from Cambridge and am starting a master’s at Durham in September.

There is definitely more pressure on students to get something out of their degree. During my third year I looked around at people applying for master’s courses and jobs. I was told to get a job but didn’t know what to do. I’ve now decided to do a master’s but you pay so much for university and young people now feel the weight of that.

‘Depression meant I struggled to leave my room’ – Lucas North, 20

Lucas North, a student at York University.


Lucas North, a student at York University. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

I have depression and autism, both formally diagnosed after coming to university. I experienced these illnesses before then but only sought treatment when I was at York University because it got bad and I was worried about my academic performance.

I found it hard in my first year to adapt to working and my attendance in seminars was really bad. I kept missing stuff because depression meant I struggled to leave my room. In the second term of my first year I was having a really bad month and had missed half of my seminars and was like, ‘I need to address this because it’s really affecting me academically.’ That’s when I spoke to my GP.

Depression for me feels like having a lot of motivation and wanting to do everything but having no energy. It left me quite isolated. I am not sure help at university is good enough as I know loads of people who have not been able to get counselling appointments.

It’s good that services are there, but there’s not enough funding. I would say about half of all students experience problems to some degree, maybe not serious mental health problems but low wellbeing or mood.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

Universities must do more to tackle use of smart drugs, say experts

Universities must do more to tackle the growing number of students turning to “smart drugs” to cope with exam stress, leading academics have said.

UK institutions are being called on to consider measures such as drug testing to stem the rise of cognitive enhancement drugs being used by young people to improve their academic performance.

As hundreds of thousands of students across the UK prepare to sit their summer exams in coming weeks, Thomas Lancaster, an associate dean at Staffordshire University, said we were entering a “dangerous world” where students have access to the “study drugs”. He called on universities to have “frank discussions” with students and to develop policies around their use.

“Universities need to seriously consider how to react to the influx of smart drugs on campus. Educating students about smart drugs and seeing if they view this as cheating is important here. If the trend continues, universities may need to think about drug testing to ensure the integrity of the examination process,” Lancaster said.

Smart drugs, also known as nootropics, are a group of prescription drugs used to improve concentration, memory and mental stamina during periods of study. The most commonly used ones are Modafinil, Ritalin and Adderall. These substances are normally used to treat disorders such as narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Larissa Maier, a research associate at the University of Zurich, called for more education about the risks associated with the substances. Her concerns were echoed by Prof Tim Hales, the head of neuroscience at Dundee University. He said: “In the short term some of these drugs may not be harmful, but we don’t know about their potentially harmful cumulative effects. Different students will respond differently, particularly when taking other medications, alcohol or recreational drugs at the same time.”

The growth of smart drugs over the past five years has been well documented, especially in top institutions such as Oxford University. In May 2016 the Oxford student newspaper, the Cherwell, published a survey that showed 15.6% of students knowingly took Modafinil or another such drug without prescription.

Oxford has introduced workshops to educate young people about smart drugs.

A recent European study co-authored by Robert Dempsey, a lecturer in psychology at Staffordshire University, found that the majority of university students believe it is normal to use such drugs to enhance academic performance.

Maier said current estimates indicate about 10% to 15% of students have tried to enhance their cognitive performance with prescription drugs, alcohol or illegal drugs at least once. With a UK student population of 2.3 million, this works out at about 230,000 people.

Students at Oxford


Students at Oxford. Photograph: Pete Lusabia/Alamy Stock Photo

Oxford University said it had not seen evidence of a widespread problem, but added that students were strongly advised not to take any unprescribed drugs. “Students who are struggling to cope personally or academically will find a range of support at Oxford. They should talk to their tutors, their college welfare officers, Oxford University Student Union, their GP, or the university counselling service.”

The health risks that the drugs could pose are still unclear, but using them without a prescription is illegal and can lead to unwanted side-effects, such as increased anxiety and heart rate.

Maier said the number of students using the drugs could increase due to increased availability both at universities and online.

Dr Dominique Thompson, the director of the students’ health service at Bristol University, said she sees a handful of students a year who come in suffering the side-effects of the medications, such as insomnia. She put the rise in use down to increased competition and pressure on young people.

Thompson said: “There is a huge pressure to do well and excel and be different to everyone else as well as financial pressure now. That may be another factor as to why students feel they need to use any means to do well.”

The Guardian heard from several students who claimed to have faked ADHD symptoms in order to be prescribed Ritalin or Adderall. One student, from UCL, said: “I obtained the drugs from a friend who wanted Ritalin to use as a smart drug. She memorised the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and convinced a GP to prescribe it.”

Non-prescription sale of Noopept, a fine white powder that its makers claim enhances cognitive ability, was banned in the UK last year under the Psychoactive Substances Act. However, several British websites appear to be actively selling this substance.

Modup, a website selling Modafinil, told the Guardian that during exam time the volume of Modafinil shipped to the UK doubles. It claimed the campuses it mainly sent stock to were Oxford and Cambridge, followed by the London institutions Imperial and the London School of Economics.

One second-year student from Cambridge University, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I know quite a few people who have used study drugs, including several of my housemates and friends. They all tend to take Modafinil rather than either Ritalin or Adderall … given the sheer volume and quality of work expected of people here, I would be unsurprised if my college is representative of the university as a whole.”

Another student from Leeds said they had been taking Modafinil or some variant for essays and exams since the middle of second year. “My own work rate has always been fairly pathetic without it so it’s been vital for me in completing my dissertation and other big projects at uni. I do know people who work very hard anyway, but take it for the non-stop work they have to do for degrees like medicine.”

Universities do not appear to have a plan in place for tackling the problem. Dr Cathy Montgomery, a reader in psychopharmacology at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “Many universities don’t have specific policies regarding use of cognitive enhancers as this is a new area. Most universities do, however, have a drug policy, stating that the use of drugs is prohibited on campus, but this does not necessarily extend to medicines.”

But she said that before policies were put in place, more research should be done: “We need a large-scale epidemiological study looking at use of enhancers across the UK.”

Neal Patel, a spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “Unfortunately, prescription-only medicines are available to just about anyone with some spare cash willing to buy them from unscrupulous online providers. You may or may not get what you pay for.

“Unrealistic expectations of the benefits of these powerful medicines, coupled with peer pressure to use them, is an unhealthy mix for students. Our advice remains for people to steer clear of prescription medicines unless they are being prescribed under the supervision of a health professional.”

Some universities need to triple mental health services funding, says report

Some universities need to triple their funding for mental health services if they are to meet growing demand from students in need of support, according to a new report.

The paper by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) thinktank says the scale of the mental health problem among university students is “bigger than ever before”.

The report published on Thursday, entitled The Invisible Problem? Improving Students’ Mental Health, says the majority of students experience low wellbeing; depression and loneliness affect one in three; more than one in 10 have a diagnosable mental illness; and the number of student suicides has risen.

Yet according to Hepi, the salary of a university vice-chancellor or a single star academic – which can be upwards of £200,000 – can cost more than a university’s entire counselling service in the lowest-funded institutions.

Other universities spend considerably more on student mental health, including the University of Sussex, which had a £456,000 budget for its counselling services for 2015-16.

Evidence shows that counselling services are highly effective, but student-to-counsellor ratios can be three to four times lower than the required number. Therefore, according to Hepi, those universities spending the least need to increase funding threefold.

Nick Hillman, Hepi director, said: “Mental disorders are most common in young adults, just at the age when many people become students. Going to university can be stressful, especially for first-in-family students. Typically, you lose your established support networks, move to a new part of the country and take on large debts. Occasionally, it even ends in tragedy.

“So it is vital that people entering university for the first time know that support is available, that any problems can be shared, and that asking for help is normal.”

As well as increased spending, the report recommends that students should be allowed to register with one doctor at home and one at university to ensure continuity of care; universities should adopt mental health action plans to improve their service; and all staff who have regular contact with students should be given mental health training.