How much money has your college contributed to the University Counselling Service 2019-2021?
Bringing you part two of our investigation into mental-health expenditure by colleges
CN: Discussion of the general impact Covid-19 on mental health
The University Counselling Service (UCS) is frequently mentioned as a source of support by the University and colleges. In this past year, however, it has been overwhelmed, with many students facing delays in seeing a counsellor. Therefore, following on from our previous article revealing how much colleges spend on in-college mental health services, we asked them how much they each contribute to the UCS.
Each college pays a set amount to the UCS per each registered student in residence each year. However, there are some exceptions to this rule and by looking at the numbers, we can get a clearer picture of mental health expenditure in Cambridge.
How have contributions changed 2019-2021?
According to their 2019-2020 annual report, the UCS is funded by the “benefaction of John Crane,” alongside £29.52, paid by colleges for each registered student in residence (students that have previously used the fund and then intermitted can also access it through the support of the Madeleine Davis Fund). As you can see below the contribution by colleges to the UCS slightly increased between 2019/20.
The amount per college is “proposed by the University counselling service executive committee” and “approved by the Bursar’s committee.” With increasing numbers of students accessing the UCS after the government restrictions and Lent term from home, it is unsurprising that the college contributions to the UCS have also increased.
This is also reflected in the increases in expenditure on in-college mental health services, and the STEP survey findings that Cambridge students January- March, and April- June this year “seem to experience more mental distress than a population of young people before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Here’s a list of the total expenditure. Bear in mind that it is paid per capita, meaning that these values will be proportionate to the number of students in their college.
What does this tell us?
First-off we can see that whilst most colleges spend a similar amount, there are a couple that pay quite a lot more. Queens’ and Trinity have a higher expenditure, but as they are larger colleges, this is proportional to their amount of students that they have. On the other hand, colleges like Downing and Lucy Cavendish have respectively paid an extra £30 and £40-45 per student over the last two years.
This is perhaps explained by these colleges being part of the “college-based counselling or CBC,” in which colleges employ in-college counsellors who are available to students on certain days of the week through the UCS. Lucy Cavendish told us that whilst £12,251 was contributed to the service in 2019-2020, they also paid an extra £21,000 for “two in-house counsellors” as part of the CBC programme.
According to the 2019-2020 annual report, Downing, Lucy Cavendish and Wolfson receive “two days of provision” over “fourteen days” whilst Clare Hall, Darwin, Girton, Magdalene, Peterhouse, Robinson, Sidney Sussex and St Edmund’s all had one day of provision. In 2020-2021 all of these colleges continued receiving this support, except Sidney Sussex who ended their services, and Newnham who joined the scheme.
A student who has used the CBC service at Girton, described that there are two counsellors (employed by the UCS) that come to the College on a Thursday and Friday each week. They commented that it was an “easy process” for accessing support as there is no pressure to “commit to a number of sessions,” and you have the option to request the counsellor’s gender.
All of the other colleges appear to be paying around £30 per student over the two years, with slight increases in 2020-21. These minor variations might be accounted for by the “user-related” charges to colleges whose students have been “higher users of the service over a five-year period.”
Alongside our article breaking down how much each college contributed to in-college mental health services, these figures provide evidence that expenditure on mental health services has increased under the Covid-19 pandemic.
They also again reflect how colleges vary in their approach to expenditure on mental health. Whilst some colleges, like Queens’, St John’s and St Catharine’s have their own welfare teams, others, like Lucy Cavendish and Downing, employ counsellors as part of the UCS in-college counselling programme (CBC). In addition, many colleges, for example Selwyn, emphasise that students might access support through specific or general college funds with the permission of their tutor.
It would make life a whole lot easier if these systems were the same across all colleges. However, for now, the most important thing is knowing how you can access support.
Financial mental health support can also be accessed through the Crane’s Fund. There are other avenues of support systems in colleges like college nurses, JCR/MCR welfare reps, the chaplain, tutors and of, course, your friends
The University Press Office was contacted for comment.
Student Minds Cambridge has a more detailed list of support systems here.