The University of Manchester (UoM) has extended support for students and staff that come from countries in “conflict and upheaval.” However, many students are unhappy with the support they have been provided, arguing that it is wholly inadequate.
In a statement posted on October 5, Adèle MacKinlay, Director of People and Organisational Developmental at UoM, reassured students from countries of conflict would be provided with extra well-being support.
MacKinlay stated that Validium, UoM’s counselling partner, has a 24-hour service. She encourages anyone in need to talk to the counsellors. She added, “we are here to support you, at all times.”
Students disagree with the above statements as those who have previously tried to use the service felt incredibly let down by it.
Tom, a 3rd year student, stated that “getting an appointment with Validium is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It takes forever … you have to jump through many hoops to do so.”
Celina Pereira is the Student Union Wellbeing and Liberation Executive. She added, “I believe these urgent cases come from referrals from other teams who have assessed that a student needs immediate support.”
Sri Lanka was labelled as “high-risk” by the University on May 13 2022. Sid, a student with family in Sri Lanka, approached the UoM’s helpline in May but “received no exact help.”
They said that despite the fact “they [UoM] tried to do what they could. I do not think that the counsellor had been trained in receiving calls from this kind of distressful situation.”
Celina stated that this is one of her key priorities. However, she added that UoM only provides general support and “the service cannot cater to all students’ needs, particularly the most complex.”
MacKinlay’s statement gave the conflicts in Ukraine and Iran as reasoning for this new provision. Stating, “We understand that you or your friends and family may be directly affected by tragedies such as the ongoing war in Ukraine or the terrible situation in Iran…”
However, UoM’s statement did not mention other areas in conflict, such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine and more.
Furthermore, the page on UoM’s website entitled, “Our support for conflict and humanitarian disasters” only mentioned Ukraine and no other country.
Mohammed is a 3rd year student with Pakistani heritage. His grandparents reside in Karachi and were affected by the recent floods in Pakistan.
Mohammed told The Mancunion that “the University did not put out a single statement for Pakistan”. He said “they provided no statement of support” and believes the university could only be putting this statement out now because the situation in Iran is being covered by the media.
Celina stated, “the University needs to review their procedures for the categorisation of a country of “conflict and upheaval” and I appreciate the student who has raised this issue! They must be consistent and include countries like Palestine, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Somalia, and others, alongside Iran and Ukraine.”
When contacted for comment, a University of Manchester spokesperson said:
“The University provides a professional Counselling and Mental Health Service open to all staff and students. This includes people affected by issues arising from global conflict zones such as the ongoing situations in Ukraine, Iran and elsewhere. All clinical staff have training in approaches to working with trauma, including complex trauma. Where more specialist support or treatment is needed they will seek to refer to appropriate NHS services.“
“Counselling and Mental Health Service appointments are bookable by email, phone, or online. Routine appointments are usually available within a few days of making contact. Where there is risk or significant mental health concerns same day appointments are available with a mental health nurse.“
The University has said that if students experience any difficulty in accessing the service, or have any concerns about the provision they are encouraged to contact Sarah Littlejohn, Director of Campus Life, at [email protected].
Meanwhile Celina Pereira states that she has made the University aware of these grievances and that if anyone has more complaints they should contact her, [email protected]