SOAS University of London

SOAS partners with Nottingham on project to improve mental health support for international students

10 June 2019

SOAS University of London has partnered with the University of Nottingham who are leading an initiative to develop an HE sector-wide approach to supporting the mental health of international students. The project is set to benefit from a share of £6 million in funding from the Office for Students.

In addition to SOAS and Nottingham working together, the project involves a partnership with the UK’s student mental health charity, Student Minds, student insight and engagement specialists Campuslife 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.

Lydia Pell, Head of Student Advice and Wellbeing, said: “We are very excited that Student Advice and Wellbeing alongside the SU and project partners will be at the forefront of developing sector wide best practices for international students.

“Our SOAS student body is diverse, and has been asking us to really consider how we meet their needs. I envisage that this project will help SOAS and the wider UK sector ensure that our support services are meeting international students mental health needs and that our services are culturally competent.”

SOAS campus College Buildings

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.

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.

Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds and a University of Nottingham alumna, said: “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.”