Mental health provision for Cambridge students is not as good as that at Oxfordfoshie

At the start of this term, Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats (CSLD), which I chair, launched a campaign to get five more counsellors hired by the University. The aim is to reduce waiting times at the University Counselling Service (UCS), which is incredibly understaffed. According to their website, waiting times are currently two to three weeks. In reality, students have faced waits of up to eight. Last year, I waited six weeks. Once I got my sessions, they were wonderful. The UCS is an incredible resource, with well-trained and approachable counsellors. But it is overstretched.

Part of the problem is that the UCS is funded by the colleges, some of which have their own independent counselling service. This results in a disparity in care, and also underfunding, as colleges are unwilling to increase their contribution if they already pay to run their own. Mental health care should not depend on which college you go to. The University should invest its own money into the UCS to ensure all students see a counsellor when they need to.

We at CSLD have been comparing Cambridge’s approach to mental health with that at Oxford, a comparatively wealthy university. Both universities produced a report on their counselling service a few years ago, and while Oxford’s is 30 pages, featuring statistics, funding information and an in-depth analysis of its service, Cambridge managed only five pages, lacking in quantitative data – perhaps to prevent a damning comparison with the ‘Other Place’.

The UCS claims that students are seen within two to three weeks. According to Oxford’s report, their students face an average wait of 7.4 days for an initial assessment. Fewer than 10 per cent of Oxford students had to wait 16 days or more, which Cambridge advertises as the norm. Even more damning is that 40 per cent are seen in five days or under. These statistics are despite Oxford seeing 1949 students in 2013/14, compared to Cambridge’s 1592.

At Oxford, the University and colleges both contribute. Cambridge should be doing the same. If nothing is done soon, we are going to face a huge mental health crisis in Cambridge