No counselling, no contact hours, and no safety net: Edinburgh Uni is failing its students

“If I’m not getting the teaching, the counselling, or the resources, then what am I still paying for?”

Students across the country are in a mental health crisis. We’re barely adults, stranded from families and friends and on our own during an ongoing global crisis. We have to rely on our university as a support network, and  Edinburgh University is no different. The problem is, instead of getting us the support we need, Edinburgh is failing us.

The university has left us without the teaching we pay for, the resources we’re promised, the mental health services we deserve, and on top of all that, they’ve denied us an academic safety net. This might be okay if the university hadn’t encouraged us back to campus in September with little to no Covid precautions, catapulting the university to a disease hotspot. This might be okay if the university hadn’t sent us home in December for just a few weeks but come January strand us and ban us from the flats and halls we pay for. This might be okay if the university were to offer us some kind of academic safety net to acknowledge the difficulty we’ve been through.

It’s not okay, and things need to change.

No safety net

The university has denied students’ request for a “no-detriment” academic safety net. Students will not get a universal policy that acknowledges the disruption we’ve faced over the past year despite a student petition that garnered ten thousand signatures in favour of it.

I’m an international student. I pay upwards of £17,000 pounds a year in tuition alone. The least the uni can do is give me some kind of guarantee that I will still my degree at the end of all this. Because if I’m not getting the teaching, the counselling, or the resources, then what am I still paying for?

In an email to students, Vice-Principal Colm Harmon said last year’s “no-detriment” policy was an “emergency measure.” I’m not allowed to leave my flat except for walks and grocery shopping. I’m pretty sure we’re still living in a state of emergency.

He also said he wants to keep things as “normal” as possible. Things are not normal. Maybe for university senior staff who still have their paychecks it is. But for those us who are bleeding money to tuition and rent, kept away from our family or our university home, and undergoing the worst mental health of our lives, we cannot pretend that things are normal.

Finally, Harmon said the university wants retain the “high value” of an Edinburgh degree. Where was the “high value” Edinburgh degree when you were cutting my contact hours in half? It’s also not exactly comforting to a  student having serious mental health problems. Sure, I’m having an absolute crisis and at my lowest low, but thank God my degree is retaining its value!

This would all feel a bit different if the university had some kind of support other than an academic safety net. The fact is, when it comes to everything from teaching to counselling, the university has consistently fallen short.

No contact hours or resources

Edinburgh University simply isn’t giving us the teaching we pay for. An entire programme had its contact hours cut in half in the transition to online teaching, from four hours a week to two. Those students only have 32 contact hours for the whole year. We’re expected to perform at a high level, but the university isn’t expected to teach at one. Makes sense.

Additionally, access to the library and its resources has turned into a complete farce. SeatEd, Edinburgh’s study space booking system, is glitchy and unreliable at best. No wonder students aren’t behaving safely and courteously. Desks are double booked and bookings are erased without warning.

Also, with restrictions tightening up in Scotland, students currently cannot borrow books from the library. Edinburgh University claims they’re introducing a Scan and Deliver service this week. Students have been unable to access books for two weeks and counting. Surely, the university could’ve forseen this and had something in the works to begin with.

No counselling

Amidst all the problems students are facing, mental health resources at the university are shocking and shameful. For one, Edinburgh tells us to get in touch with our personal tutors if we’re experiencing personal issues. Most personal tutors are good people who do their best to help you. But the fact of the matter is, the majority of academic tutors lack the necessary mental health training to help someone in legitimate crisis.

Students are also encouraged to use The Advice Place to access a trained mental health professional. The current wait time for an appointment with a counsellor is 12 weeks, and students only get four to six sessions with one before they must go elsewhere for help. This is not a mental health service.

The most the university does in terms of mental health support is include a few links in an email that rely on students to reach out themselves if they need help. A lot of people slip through the cracks when dealing with wait times, forms, and self-advocacy. The university has to implement more preventative mental health measures. What we have now is totally unacceptable.

Amidst all the challenges students face, the university has the option to make our lives easier.

It’s time the university stepped up for us and actually supported its students. We’re paying them to.

University mental health resources can be found here:

The Advice Place 

Student Counselling 

The Listening Service 


A spokesperson for the university told The Tab Edinburgh in a statement: 

“This has been, and continues to be, an extraordinarily challenging year for both staff and students. However, University staff are working hard to provide as much help and support as possible to our students at what is a time of national crisis.

 “We recognise that students face a significant number of assessment challenges. We want to stress that the University has not denied student requests for a ‘safety net’ approach to assessment. Our plans for fair assessment policies and mitigation measures are still being developed and there will be more news shortly.

 “Browsing for books in the Library is no longer allowed under the national lockdown rules. However a new Library service – called Scan & Deliver – has been launched, which enables staff and students to request scans of printed materials, held by the Library, to be sent to them. We recognise the pressure on students in this area and will continue to look at other ways to innovate and support student access to learning resources.

 “Supporting our students’ mental health and wellbeing is an absolute priority – especially as we adapt to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.  

“There are a range of services available for all students, including the Student Counselling Service, 24/7 support from our Listening Service, and from the Students’ Association’s Advice Place. 

“It is important to stress that students with urgent mental health needs are always prioritised and are seen very quickly indeed. However, three quarters of all students have an assessment within two weeks. We are meantime recruiting more counsellors which will reduce waiting times yet further.  

“While most of the support is now online, in-person counselling can be arranged, where needed, for those students in Edinburgh. An on-the-ground team is also available to support those students staying in University accommodation.” 

“Information on the Scan & Deliver service can be found via the following link.”

Related articles recommended by this writer:

BREAKING: Edinburgh students will not get an academic safety net this year

Why is Edinburgh Uni allowed to slack in teaching but we’re not allowed to as students?

The Class of 2021 are owed a no detriment policy, read for yourself