A new taskforce to support students adjusting to university life has been set up by the Education Secretary.
The Education Transitions Network, which is supported by leading organisations, will look at how students moving to university can be better supported in the first year of their studies.
The new taskforce will develop measures to help students make a smooth transition into higher education and maintain good mental health. Those currently on board include UCAS, the National Union of Students, Student Minds, Universities UK, and the Office for Students.
Last week, the largest ever student mental health poll revealed that the number of university students suffering from mental health problems is at an all-time high.
There is already work underway across the higher education sector to improve support for student mental health, with the Department for Education identifying four areas of risk that can affect the mental health of young people going to university.
The four key areas include independent living, independent learning, relationships, and wellbeing. Students attending university will likely have to manage their finances for the first time, make new friends and can sometimes be vulnerable to loneliness and isolation.
The Education Transitions Network will also include the Association of Colleges and Sixth Form Colleges Association to ensure that schools and colleges play a vital role in preparing students for the new difficulties they can face when they start university.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “Going to university should be a positive, life-changing experience. Understandably for many young people, the idea of leaving home and starting to live independently can be exciting but also daunting.
“Juggling challenges like independent studying or managing finances can be hard enough, but with the added element being in a new place, surrounded by new people, it can for some be overwhelming. We need to make sure students have the support they need to thrive at university and help these really be the best days of their life.”
In December, the Education Secretary wrote to the chair of an expert panel convened by Universities UK to urge that it did all in its power to help higher education institutions do more to reach out to students’ emergency contacts when it is clear that it is in the best interests of a student’s health.
A network was first announced last year by former Universities Minister Sam Gyimah as part of a range of measures to improve student mental health support, including the development of a University Mental Health Charter led by Student Minds, which will reward institutions that deliver improved student mental health outcomes.
Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds, said: “We often hear from students and in our research that times of transition can significantly impact student wellbeing throughout their university experience. We therefore welcome the work of the Education Transitions Network, in enabling further collaborations in this space.”