Universities are complex and diverse organisations with both a conventional, complex and itinerant workforce. In addition, there is the added complexity of a student body with whom it has a moral and legal duty of care to provide pastoral and educational support often at a critical time in young people’s lives accompanied by high stress and emotion.
There has been steady increases in the numbers of reported mental health conditions in students — analysis by the Office for Students indicates an increase from 1.5% to 4.4% over the five years from 2013/14 to 2018/19.1
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought health and wellbeing into focus as students adapted to new ways of living and studying, including remote and hybrid learning.
This requires a careful, considered and nuanced approach in managing exposures around reputation, staff and student relations, and legal and statutory obligations. We know that universities can be complex, and coordinating management of risk can be difficult where a ‘multiagency’ approach is required. It does require a coordinated approach from HR, student liaison, legal, insurance as well as others to ensure consistency.
This bulletin looks at understanding the changing environment around mental health, and what best practice may look like by way of support. In addition, there is commentary from professionals on how forward looking institutions can manage risks arising here and use examples from elsewhere that may support and help.