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OfS releases briefing on student mental health during pandemic


Regulator publishes advice on how universities can support students’ wellbeing

The Office for Students has published a briefing for universities on how to support students’ mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Disruption to students’ day-to-day lives during the pandemic means there are now “complex challenges and considerations” for universities trying to support their students’ wellbeing, England’s regulator said. Universities have been forced to abandon face-to-face teaching and switch to online lectures and seminars, meaning many students have moved away from their term-time accommodation and are harder for staff to reach.

In the briefing the OfS said some groups of students, including disabled students and those with caring responsibilities, may need extra support during the pandemic. The regulator has already confirmed universities can use their student support and disabled student premium funding to give their mental health services a boost.

Universities could help students by adapting their usual mental health support to online or telephone consultations, the OfS said. But the regulator explained this “could affect different groups of students in different ways” as some will have limited access to the internet or could have complex needs “which cannot easily be supported through digital delivery”.

While many universities “have responded quickly” to the changes, the OfS warned that some of the problems caused by the pandemic might last longer than expected.

“Given the disruption to normal study patterns, and potential longer-term changes to higher education as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible that universities and colleges will see new patterns in their students’ mental health and wellbeing emerge,” the OfS wrote.

The briefing is the second in a series of briefings published by the OfS to help universities deal with challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.