University to develop new mental health support for postgrad students

The University of Manchester has been awarded £150,000 to develop new ways of supporting the wellbeing and mental health of postgraduate research students.

The funding, from the Higher Education Council for England (HEFCE), will allow the University to improve targeted wellbeing and mental health services to postgraduate research students and, where needed, access to specialised NHS services.

The University of Manchester has almost 4,000 postgraduate research (PGR) students, with over a third of these coming from outside the EU. Because of the different ways in which these students interact with the University and the particular pressures they may come under, the new project will seek to develop more specific policies and services.

These will include: developing a new monthly wellbeing check which will be completed by students and supervisors, and working with the existing PGR Representatives’ Network. There will also be resources, such as mindfulness tools which will be developed with outside specialists and made available to students and staff.

The project will employ two full-time members of staff – one in the Students’ Union and one in the University’s Graduate Education Team.

There will also be extensive consultation and regular meetings with students themselves. Aleksandra Besevic, a member of the PGR Representatives’ Network who is studying consumer behaviour in sustainable fashion, said: “I’m very happy that the University has secured the funding to improve postgraduate wellbeing. I have been working on student wellbeing in the Faculty of Science and Engineering which has made a difference to the community and bringing students together.

“Wellbeing is often overlooked by the students themselves, so it is important to have activities arranged by students for students. I hope this will improve postgraduate wellbeing across the whole University and foster a balanced working environment.”

Aleksandra Besevic
Wellbeing is often overlooked by the students themselves, so it is important to have activities arranged by students for students. I hope this will improve postgraduate wellbeing across the whole University and foster a balanced working environment
Aleksandra Besevic

The money for this project has come from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund which provides targeted investment in activities led by universities and colleges. The fund supports a range of student and sector priorities, including innovation in higher education, efficiency and effectiveness, and student interest issues.

The University has already been successful in achieving Catalyst funding for projects around improving support for BAME students and those from low socio-economic groups and another to tackle harassment and hate crime.

In this round 17 awards were made in total across the sector and Manchester was one of only four institutions to receive the maximum allocation of £150,000.

Professor Matthew Lambon Ralph, Associate Vice-President (Research) and Director of the Manchester Doctoral College, said: “The health and wellbeing of our students is something where the University, working with partners, has been highly innovative. This particular piece of funding will allow us to thoroughly scope out the needs of this group of students and put measures in place which are tailored to their particular needs.”

The project team will include University staff with expertise in wellbeing and mental health, working in partnership with selected external partners from: the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Vitae, MIND, BluSCI, Six Degrees, Student Minds and the Institute of Employment Studies.

The project is due to finish in early 2020 and results will be shared across the HE sector as new services are implemented.

Speaking about the latest round of funding, HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said: “This programme to develop extra support for postgraduate research students is timely, and complements the resources HEFCE already provides to support student safeguarding and to address barriers to student success.

“We are delighted to support these innovative projects in the important area of mental health and wellbeing, and look forward to successful outcomes and the sharing of good practice for the benefit of all postgraduate research students.”

UPDATE: 18 April 2018

The University has also received £50,000 in funding for ‘Passivity, the Bystander and Religious Based Hate Crime’ a new project which will continue the work of the Speak Up Stand Up Active Bystander Imitative and bring people together to discuss, analyse and understand ‘the bystander’ in relation to religious based hate crime.

Alongside the Students’ Union, staff and students will come together to improve religious literacy among students and staff, including myth-busting, support the development of effective role models for students of different religions or beliefs and develop and sustain positive campus relations between different groups.

Eventually the project will support the production of a series of materials and events that will be used on an ongoing basis across campus.

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