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Student and staff health and wellbeing

Good mental health helps students and staff to fulfil their individual potential and brings wider benefits to our society and economy.

Universities UK established a proactive programme of work on mental health in higher education in December 2016. The programme will ensure that wellbeing and mental health are a strategic priority for universities. Two principles inform this work:

  • ​​​We all have mental health, well or unwell.
  • A whole university approach to wellbeing is needed.​

#StepChange framework​​​

Step Change framework was published in September 2017 to support higher education institutions to improve the mental health of students and staff. The aim of the framework is to encourage university leaders to adopt a strategic, whole organisation, whole population approach to mental health. The publication sets out:​

  • a case for a strategic approach
  • a vision
  • a whole-institution approach
  • an eight-step framework for achieving the vision


UUK has worked in partnership with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to address gaps in evidence on mental health in higher education. Not by Degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK's universities research includes a narrative literature review, sixteen case studies, and a survey of higher education provision across multiple settings, including UUK and GuildHE members, the Mixed Economy Group of the Association of Colleges, and Independent Higher Education.

Continuing priorities


University of the West of England (UWE)​, Cardiff University, University of York​, Student Minds, and UUK have successfully submitted a project bid to Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund. As part of this, individual universities are developing their own institutional mental health strategies. These strategies are being co-created with the input from students and staff. 

​The role of Student Minds is to support the inclusion of student voice in the project.
The role of UUK is to:
  • Support the implementation of the approach initially across three institutions
  • Support the development of a suite of improvement tools
  • Develop a validated mental health and wellbeing audit
  • Disseminate these tools across the sector


To share the work and findings from the framework more widely and to encourage its uptake, we will be collaborating with several universities to organise launch events across the country. This supports the development of a local profile for the strategic, whole institution approach and allows the individual institution to announce their own actions in response to the framework.

If your institution is interested in organising such an event, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.

Working with government

Following the publication of 'Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper', UUK is pleased to be part of a new national strategic partnership with government, third sector, professional bodies, students, colleges and employers focused on improving the mental health of 16-25 year olds by encouraging more coordinated action, experimentation and robust evaluation.

Student Mental Health Services Task Group

Universities UK launched Minding our future, a prospectus which aims to improve links between local NHS services and the support that universities provide. The document sets out students' characteristics and vulnerabilities and new guidance to improve the coordination of care between the NHS and universities so that all students can access the care they need. 

Suicide in the student population

An important focus of this work is student suicide, which has become a topic of national concern. Within higher education community the impact of suicide can be wide ranging and profound.

UUK is partnering with University of Worcester to collect vital research data about the incidence of student suicide and current suicide prevention strategies across the HE sector.

UUK has also supported the work of the Office for National Statistics to improve the national suicide dataset.

Guidance for universities on preventing student suicides

UUK has co-produced a guide for university leaders with Papyrus to urge university leaders to develop standalone suicide prevention-intervention-postvention plans as part of their over-arching mental health strategy.

Graduate wellbeing

It is recognised that transitions increase vulnerability to mental health difficulties. This includes the transition from higher education to a workplace. UUK is working with City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) and Student Minds to explore better practice in graduate wellbeing.​

Contact & social media

For more information on this work, please contact Universities UK's enquiries service or tweet us @UniversitiesUK #stepchange​      #studentmentalhealth


New advice for universities and students on dangers of initiations

23 September 2019
​Universities UK (UUK), in collaboration with Newcastle University, has today launched a briefing, Initiations at UK universities, to raise awareness of the dangers of initiations and excessive alcohol consumption among students.


John de Pury

John de Pury

Assistant Director
Universities UK

cover image of initiations publication

Initiations at UK universities

23 September 2019
UUK in collaboration with Newcastle University, has launched Initiations at UK universities to raise awareness of the dangers of initiations and excessive alcohol consumption among students.

Preventing student suicides

Guidance for universities on preventing student suicides

5 September 2018
Universities UK and Papyrus, the UK’s national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide, have published new guidance to help university leaders prevent student suicides.

Minding our future: starting a conversation about the support of student mental health

11 May 2018
New guidance aimed at improving the coordination of care between the NHS and universities, so that all students can access the care they need.

Universities UK response to 'Transforming children and young people's mental health provision: a Green Paper'

Consultations and responses
15 March 2018
The government's green paper​ has provided an important opportunity to transform children and young people’s mental health, and universities will be at the forefront.

Student mental wellbeing in higher education: good practice guide report cover

Student mental wellbeing in higher education: good practice guide

13 February 2015
For the teaching and support of students experiencing mental health difficulties was commissioned by us and produced by the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group.