Edinburgh Uni has spent over £1300 on ‘Therapet’ schemes to reduce student stress

This includes £610 on Alpaca-based events

The University of Edinburgh has spent £1381 on “Therapets” (a scheme to reduce student stress through petting animals), The Edinburgh Tab can exclusively reveal.

Our Freedom of Information request has also revealed that the uni spent £610 on three “Alpaca-based events” – a total of over £200 per event.

The School in Health and Social Sciences also spent £400 on one single “Therapets” event in Academic Year 2018/19.

Meanwhile, in feedback for the Student Counselling Service’s “PAWS Against Stress” series, ten students reported feeling “more stress” after the event.

The data received relates to “Therapet” events in Academic Year 2018/19 and the first semester of Academic Year 2019/20. No  uni-run “Therapet” events have occurred since due to the pandemic.

The event description for one “Therapets” event on the uni website claims: “Research shows that spending time with furry friends can reduce stress and improve wellbeing”, before adding: “With this in mind, we have invited some dogs (and their owners) to visit the School to spend time with students.”

However, the scheme has often been mocked by students as an ineffective way of dealing with student stress and mental health problems – especially when considered alongside long counselling waiting lists.

One Edifess post said: “Look I love dogs, but maybe instead of puppy and alpaca days, the uni should put that money to better use. Something like, I don’t know, fixing its abysmal mental health services? While adorable, petting a dog isn’t a long-term solution for depression and anxiety disorders. But not having to wait weeks to see a counsellor might.”

In the same time period as the Freedom of Information Request covers, 34 per cent of students on the Student Counselling Service waiting list had to wait more than three weeks for an appointment.

On top of this, the uni only employed 17 full time counsellors – the equivalent of one full time counsellor for 2000 students.

In response to these claims, a University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “Supporting our students’ mental health and wellbeing is an absolute priority for the University. Events such as these are aimed at enhancing the welfare of our students by providing opportunities for them to meet others and to participate in activities which promote the importance of self-care and wellbeing.”

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