16.9% of 17-19 year-olds in 2018 had a diagnosed mental disorder, with roughly half entering higher educationHaneen Krimly / UNSPLASH

Content Note: This article contains discussion of mental health 

An online petition calling for “mental health support” to be a metric in university league tables has garnered over 39,000 signatures. 

In collaboration with HUMEN, a mental health charity, mental health activist Ben West started the petition in response to the “neglect of the importance of student mental health at universities” revealed by the pandemic.

The petition claims that there has been a “blatant and obvious neglect” of students’ mental health across the UK, and criticises the “decision makers at the top” for failing to account for the mental wellbeing of students. 

West hopes that this petition will lead to a “landslide culture change” in how mental health support is approached. He states that universities should view mental health support as an area to “upscale in, to innovate in, and to excel in”, as opposed to a “necessary investment”. 

West believes that university league tables should show which institutions provide “not only quality education but will also care for their students beyond their studies”.


Mountain View

Over 80% say their mental health would improve with less work: Cambridge must rethink workload and the eight week term

The petition calls for the public to hold “universities accountable in [mental health support] because there are many hundreds of future students that don't know it, but desperately depend on this change.”

This news comes three months after an open letter (05/02) written by the co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary University Group (APPUG) noted that 16.9% of 17-19 year-olds in 2018 had a diagnosed mental disorder, with roughly half entering higher education. The letter stressed the pandemic’s adverse effects on the mental health of the student population. 

The APPUG letter noted that universities were set to spend at least £118 million in 2021 on further mental health support. The APPUG co-chairs called for an “integrated approach to young people’s mental health across schools, colleges and universities [that] would prevent teenagers falling through gaps in services and better equip universities to support students as they enrol”.

In March 2021, the Student Experiences in the Pandemic (STEP) study, conducted by Professors Peter Jones and Tamsin Ford of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine, surveyed 1,083 students across 31 Colleges and found that “Cambridge students seem to experience more mental distress than population-representative young people before the COVID-19 pandemic”.