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Nottingham leads national improvements in mental health support for international students

Wednesday, 05 June 2019

An initiative led by The University of Nottingham to develop an HE sector-wide approach to supporting the mental health of international students coming to the UK to study is set to benefit from a share of £6 million in funding from the Office for Students.

The project involves a partnership with the UK’s student mental health charity, Student Minds, student insight and engagement specialists Campuslife, SOAS University of London, and the University of Leeds.

It is one of just 10 initiatives to be recognised nationally and has been awarded £316,000 from the OfS as part of its major new programme to find innovative ways to combat a sharp rise in student mental health issues and spark a step-change in student support across the country.

“We are proud and delighted that our initiative is among the small number of projects recognised nationally by the OfS. This funding will allow us to develop a new set of guidelines and a practical toolkit that will help our higher education colleagues to develop their own effective approach to supporting international students studying in the UK, a time in their lives when they are particularly vulnerable and in need of additional support.
Andy Winter, Director of Campus Life

The proportion of full-time UK undergraduate students reporting mental health concerns when they enter higher education has more than doubled over the last five years. Once they arrive, students face many new pressures. According to a recent poll, more than 87 per cent of students said they struggle with feelings of anxiety, and one in three experienced a serious psychological issue which required professional help.

Data published by the OfS shows that full-time students with a declared mental health condition are more likely to drop out, and less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 degree or secure good jobs after graduation.

Life in the UK

The Nottingham-led initiative is focused on international students, who are also faced with the additional challenge of adapting to life in the UK. Many of them carry a weight of expectation and pressure to achieve from their families and may have concerns about crises back home.

However, when things get tough, they find it even more difficult to access support and often battle cultural attitudes to mental health, support services and medication – in many countries, these issues are often associated with shame and stigma.

Despite the mental health needs of international students differing from their UK counterparts, very few universities or healthcare providers provide targeted support for this group.

The project will be aiming to discover what works well in improving international students’ mental health through effectively engaging and working with international students to establish more culturally-aware responses. The best practice guidance will then be shared across the whole HE sector.

The OfS funding will be matched with £200,000 of investment from The University of Nottingham and an additional £116,000 in in-kind contributions from the other partners.

Now, more than ever, all organisations who interact with international students need to identify whether we are doing enough to address the added barriers and challenges students face when in a new country with new systems to navigate. We’re delighted to be working with Nottingham, Leeds and SOAS – three universities and Students’ Unions with diverse international populations, exciting ideas and real commitment to improving the student experience for international students. Together, with a variety of additional partners, we’re excited to tackle the issues in both a ground-up and strategic way for the benefit of the whole sector.
Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds

The project will deliver a series of guidelines, case studies, an online toolkit and will disseminate its results through a HE-sector conference, which will aim to help other institutions to develop their own bespoke strategy for supporting international students.

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More information is available from Andy Winter at the University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 9515758,andrew.winter@nottingham.ac.uk

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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the  2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.

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