The National Union of Students have launched a Liber8 Education Campaign
Liber8 Education identifies our clear vision for what an education sector which truly works for all would look and feel like, focussing on eight core campaign areas including:
Wide quantitative and qualitative evidence suggests that not all students are having equitable academic experiences.
42 per cent of Black students said the curriculum did not reflect issues of diversity, equality and discrimination.
One in 10 trans students never feel comfortable to speak up in class and almost one in four women do not feel comfortable to do so.
16.1 per cent is the gap between the number of 2:1 or 1st degrees awarded to White UK-domiciled students and BME UK-domiciled students.
Why does it matter?
- The curriculum should not disadvantage any student or students because of their background or characteristics – people should have equal opportunities to do well.
- If we liberate the curriculum it will also mean the curriculum will be diverse – which will help the development and learning of all students.
- If this goes unchallenged or is ignored, lad culture, harassment and sexual violence that is prevalent on many campuses will continue to harm the experience of women not enabling them to participate fully or take an active role not only during their time at university or college but in society more widely.
The need for student mental health services has been rising year-on-year. Research has shown a 132 per cent increase in students seeking support. Supply, however, has not met this demand. Far from investing in student support, universities and colleges have faced cuts in counselling services, whilst students face a growing wait to access over-subscribed services. In the future, anxiety over increasing living costs and debt will only deepen this problem.
Poor student mental health is a deeply worrying indication of the current state of our education system. We need more and better services, available to all.
At the moment our institutions are not equipped to deal with this problem. We know that only 35 per cent of colleges have a mental health policy and the majority of colleges reported that only some ‘front-line’ staff had been given mental health training.
In the NHS, the funding that was directed to mental health services stood at 12 per cent in 2012 and since then this figure continues to decline. One in four people now will experience mental health problems, yet services that are available continue to be chronically underfunded. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 changed the way local services are commissioned. The changes included setting up local Clinical Commission Groups (CCGs) that decide where to allocate health funds. Students however are often under represented on CCGs meaning health care issues that affect students are not properly considered.
Additionally, recent cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) have contributed to funding pressures on university services in England which in turn risks universities spending less on their mental health support services for students. Inadequate funding for and increased outsourcing of mental health services to private companies have negatively impacted the services that students rely on.
What we are doing about it?
We are conducting nationwide research to better understand how mental health affects our members and also ascertain what support services are available. The research will provide evidence NUS needs to make a compelling case for universities and colleges not to cut mental health provision and ensure students and their unions are equipped to challenge and support their institutions to improve support available. The research will also consider:
- The intersection of identity and access to quality, appropriate and accessible mental health services i.e. impacts the cuts to DSA have on access to mental health services for disabled students or how recent cuts impact mental health of Black, Women and LGBT+ students
- The key issues affecting students’ mental health and wellbeing such as employment, housing and finances and the impact of policies such as PREVENT.
We will also continue to work with and contribute to the Association of College’s Mental Health Portfolio group as well as continue to work with UUK on their guidance on mental health for universities. Student participation in their local Care Commissioning groups is a particular priority, and NUS will work with Student Minds to create guidance to facilitate the participation of students in their local CCGs. We will also work on increasing the capacity SUs have to assess the funding and quality of counselling services on their campuses through workshops and also provision of briefings, toolkits and ‘How To’ guides.