Magazine article Times Higher Education

Fewer Funds May Mean 'Tough Decisions' as Mental Health Demand Soars

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Fewer Funds May Mean 'Tough Decisions' as Mental Health Demand Soars

Article excerpt

A 132 per cent rise in the number of students declaring a mental health problem has sparked fears that government funding cuts may force universities to make "increasingly tough decisions" about the support they can provide.

An analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency records found that nearly 18,000 students at English higher education providers said that they had a mental health problem in 2012-13, compared with fewer than 8,000 in 2008-09.

The research, carried out for the Higher Education Funding Council for England, says that the most selective institutions experienced a much bigger rise, averaging 157 per cent, compared with universities with lower entry requirements, where the increase was 104 per cent.

This means that 1.4 per cent of all students in England declared a mental health problem in 2012-13, with specialist and elite institutions again experiencing higher rates than less selective universities.

Interviews with 165 staff and students at 12 higher education institutions, conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies and Lancaster University, did indicate that a more open culture around mental health and improved diagnostic procedures were felt to have contributed to the rise.

The success of widening participation and the provision of courses that are felt to coincide with higher proportions of learners declaring mental health problems - for example, some music technology and computer games courses attract large numbers of autistic students - were given as other possible factors.

The researchers also found that higher tuition fees "may be inciting fresh anxieties once studying", translating into "increasing pressure to succeed" from relatives or in the job market.

"Pressure to succeed was said to be particularly exacerbated at some more selective institutions in recent times," the report says. …

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