The Tab’s 2016 Mental Health Rankings: How we did it

For all our conclusions on the state of mental health at our universities


The Tab’s 2016 Mental Health Rankings are a product of over six months of on and off work. There are some gaps, oddities, and methodological processes that are worthy of explanation that aren’t in the league table proper. This post will explain the asterisks, definitions, and why some universities are missing.

How we did it:

We got our data from a combination of a student survey and Freedom of Information requests to universities. The student survey was not purpose-built for the rankings, and as these are inaugural rankings there were limitations to what we could do. Trying to do something that has never been done before it sometimes a challenge – there are inevitably issues and gaps.

We focused our information requests on counselling services as they are the primary place where students with mental health issues turn to. Universities occasionally combine such services with wellbeing services, or offer wellbeing services as an alternative to counselling. Disability services also play an important role in helping students with mental health issues live a full university life. However, it is hard to quantify wellbeing and disability services in the same way as counselling services, hence our focus on the last. The intention is for future years to be more holistic.

The rankings are produced from a maximum of 11 possible metrics.  So to take outreach for an example, we divided every universities’ raw percentage by Kent’s (78.261, the highest percentage). I then multiply all by 100. This gives scores out of 100, indexed off of the top score, so the top university gets 100 points, and the rest follow down off of that.

Each university in the rankings has two student satisfaction scores, and a minimum of three finance scores (based off of the FOI data). All universities have two outreach scores, with the exception of Cambridge, due to data issues. Universities that provided us with more data were eligible for more finance metrics, such as pound spent per applicant to the counselling service, up to a possible six metrics. Average waiting times were included where available, but the data was much harder to get a hold of, so is subsequently more patchy.

If a university has seven metrics, it has a score out of 700. Divide that by seven and you get the overall score – I applied it to every university differently – if they have 11 metrics, divide by 11 etc. This ensures that all universities are treated fairly, and are only judged on the data they have provided.

Definitions and Metrics:

All statistics were reformulated to produce a score out of 100, unless otherwise stated.

Student satisfaction score: This combined stat is taken from The Tab’s April 2016 mental health survey, and indicates how happy students with mental health problems are with their particular university, reformulated in two separate ways to produce a score out of 200.

Pound spent per applicant score: This is the amount of money spent on the counselling service per applicant to said service. Applicants to counselling services were counted regardless of reason, due to freedom of information limitations. Some universities did not release the number of applications their counselling service had received, and hence may be missing this statistic.

Five-year average pound spent per applicant score: This is the amount of money spent on the counselling service per applicant to said service, averaged over the last five years. Applicants to counselling services were counted regardless of reason, due to freedom of information limitations. Some universities did not release the number of applications their counselling service had received, and hence may be missing this statistic.

Investment score: This is the percentage increase in the counselling budget since the earliest available year until the most recent year. Universities with less than three years of data were excluded.

Real-term investment score: This is the percentage increase in counselling budget (the investment score), minus the percentage increase in counselling applications over the same period. Some universities did not release the number of applications their counselling service had received, and hence may be missing this statistic.

Pound per student/head score: This is the amount of money spent on the counselling service per student at the university, based off of the last year of available data.

Five-year average pound per head score: This is average of the pound per student spent on the counselling service, based off of the last five years. Universities with less than three years of data were excluded.

Outreach score: This is the percentage of students who have a mental health issue at each university that said that they had told the university in some respect that they have a mental health issue. It is out of 200, due to two different calculations. Students who claimed to have a mental health issue but had not spoken to either a doctor or university were assumed to be undiagnosed and were removed from the sample.

Average waiting time score: This is the average waiting time between initial assessment appointment at the counselling service and the next subsequent appointment. The waiting times include weekends and holidays. Most universities were unable to provide this data, and as such it only applies to a few.

Asterisks:

Certain universities in the rankings have an asterisk by them.

Birmingham: Calendar year application data was adapted to the academic year.

Cambridge: The 2016 survey was short of respondents, so data from an existing 2013 survey was used instead.It meant we were able to provide a satisfaction score, but not an outreach score.

Lancaster: Counselling applications were based off mental health applications only, and did not include welfare applications.

Estimates:

Estimates were a necessary evil in the face of often awkward and incomplete data. Many universities provided around ten months of counselling budgets – estimates were used to extend that to the full year. They are based off of available data and are as accurate as possible. In all cases, a simple rule of thumb was held – is this potentially harsh on the participating university? If so, such data was not included. Most universities in fact saw a benefit to their score from such estimations.

Belfast: 2015/16 counselling budget data is a projected estimate.

Durham: 2015/16 counselling budget data is a projected estimate.

Glasgow: Student applications to the counselling service were drawn from waiting time data – it is possible there were more applications. 2015/16 counselling budget data is a projected estimate.

King’s: 2014/15 counselling applications were projected into 2015/16.

Kent: 2015/16 counselling budget data is a projected estimate.

Lancaster: 2014/15 counselling applications were projected into 2015/16.

Liverpool: 2015/16 counselling budget data is a projected estimate.

Oxford Brookes: 2015/16 counselling budget data is a projected estimate.

Royal Holloway: 2014/15 counselling applications were projected into 2015/16.

UCL: 2014/15 counselling applications were projected into 2015/16.

UEA: 2014/15 counselling applications were projected into 2015/16.

York: 2015/16 counselling applications were projected from available data.

Missing universities:

The requirement to be in the rankings was a sufficient number of survey respondents and at least three years of counselling service budget data. The original selection of universities is reflective of which universities The Tab has a site at, as it influenced the number of respondents the survey had from each university. The survey was not purpose-built to produce a ranking, and as such there are universities missing and universities where there were too few respondents.

The following universities were not included under the following basis:

Aberystwyth: Did not provide counselling budget data.

Aston: Not enough survey respondents.

Bath: Did not provide counselling budget data.

Falmouth: Not enough survey respondents.

Hull: Counselling service has now been included in health and wellbeing service.

John Moores: Not enough survey respondents.

Loughborough: Not enough survey respondents.

LSE: Not enough survey respondents.

Northumbria: Did not provide counselling budget data.

Plymouth: Not enough survey respondents.

Portsmouth: Not enough survey respondents.

QMUL: Not enough survey respondents.

Southampton: Not enough survey respondents.

St Andrews: Not enough survey respondents.

Trent: Counselling service was absorbed into wellbeing service.

UCLan: Not enough survey respondents.

UWE: Not enough survey respondents.

If your university is not on the list, the original limitations of the survey prohibited it from being included.