This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It showcases the idea from Ross Renton, Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester.
According to the Children’s Society, serious mental health problems affect about one in ten children, with only 30 per cent receiving appropriate interventions. These unaddressed issues have, unsurprisingly, materialised within higher education. There has been a significant increase in demand for support services, with the Institute for Public Policy Research showing a fivefold increase in first-year students disclosing mental health problems within a decade. While it is right to recognise the significant commitment of institutions to support these students, it is often too little, too late. This should be a priority, with the appointment of a Commissioner for Student Mental Health to co-ordinate a national response to this crisis. They should be tasked to create a model that cuts through organisational divides and compels schools, colleges, universities, employers and the National Health Service (NHS) to be proactive, to collaborate and to target resources where they will have a sustained impact.
Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds often make choices about their studies based on graduate employment opportunities. It is therefore important that inconsistencies in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) coding system are addressed to ensure, for example, that graduate learning support workers in schools with substantial responsibilities are classified as graduates not non-graduates as has been the case.