Named and shamed: Eleven unis didn’t appoint any new mental health staff this year

Some of them have even decreased their staff numbers


You don’t need me to tell you that student mental health is at an all-time low right now. Between the fact that at least 13 students died last term, and the appalling handling of the pandemic by universities with more focus on security spending than helping students in self-isolation, you should know that already.

Despite the pandemic beginning in March and universities having months to evaluate just how badly it would impact the student experience, some of them clearly still aren’t getting it. This could not be more evident than from figures which show that 11 UK universities failed to increase their mental health staffing between the last academic year and now.

Information obtained by The Tab using Freedom of Information requests show that multiple universities have failed to appoint new members of staff or increase the number of hours worked by their mental health staff, despite the obvious and predictable decline in student wellbeing.

In fact, some universities even decreased their staff numbers. Initially, it looked like Exeter were the only offender in this case – decreasing their wellbeing team by three staff members between the academic year 2019/20 and 2020/21. But additional information has revealed the reality is much worse.

Southampton’s mental health support volunteers decreased from 11 last academic year to just one this year. While this is a volunteering role and not paid, it’s clearly having an impact: Their waiting time for student counselling is up to 24 days for “routine cases”.

Leeds Beckett has also reduced their mental health team this year, from 19 to 17 staff members. However, they are currently recruiting for seven more positions right now, which would take the total up to 24.

Liverpool University is also putting the feelers out for more mental health staff and has allocated extra funding to the department after their total mental health support staff members fell from 16 to 14 this year.

On top of that, Brunel University of London also decreased their mental health team by three staff members between the past academic year and now.

Derby University is one of the universities that failed to hire any new mental health staff members this year. Their mental health team size stayed the exact same and the waiting time for a therapy appointment is currently up five weeks for students.

Queen Mary University of London’s number of staff members is the same, as are the numbers for Oxford Brookes.

King’s College London kept staff members the same but maybe they shouldn’t have, considering the waiting time for an initial consultation is four weeks, with students facing the prospect of one to two weeks between appointments after that.

Aberdeen had eight counsellors and two associate counsellors last year, but only has eight counsellors this year with no associate counsellors. They have confirmed these weren’t the result of redundancies or furloughing, but still have less mental health staff than the year before.

Not all universities have been smart enough to avoid furloughing their mental health staff amidst the crisis. The University of Dundee has more counsellors this year than before but furloughed one counsellor for two months. The University of Surrey has actually increased its staff members since the last academic year, but also furloughed two of them for a period since the pandemic began in March.

Portsmouth also furloughed two members of staff in the period between 1st March and 20th September 2020 and did not employ any additional staff members for this academic year.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.

The Tab’s You Matter campaign is putting a focus on student mental health right now. If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s difficulties with getting uni support, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

You matter.

Read more from The Tab’s You Matter campaign:

I tried to book uni counselling for a week but was told ‘come back tomorrow’ every day

Adults’ response to student mental health shows how out of touch they are

How to start a conversation with your friend about their mental health: An expert’s guide