Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
Universities receive £1.5 million to support mental health and wellbeing for postgraduate research students
Funding totalling £1.5 million has been awarded by HEFCE to 17 universities in England, to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students. Five further universities are involved in the scheme as partners in joint projects. The HEFCE funding is being matched by the participating institutions.
The new funding will support a range of activities including projects to:
- develop new practice for the pastoral support of postgraduate research (PGR) students
- enhance training for PGR supervisors and other staff
- support students’ transition into postgraduate research, with its different expectations and working practices
- work with other institutions and external partners to improve support for all PGR students.
The projects are designed to be strategic and sustainable, and postgraduate research students will be involved to ensure that their priorities and needs are being met throughout.
The projects will also benefit from a programme of support, evaluation and dissemination, funded by HEFCE and delivered jointly by HEFCE’s successors, the Office for Students and Research England. This will ensure that best value is realised for postgraduate research students and the higher education sector beyond the projects themselves.
This programme will be one of the first examples of the Office for Students and Research England working together to provide additional activities and benefits for students, universities and colleges.
HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said:
‘This programme to develop extra support for postgraduate research students is timely, and complements the resources HEFCE already provides to support student safeguarding and to address barriers to student success.
‘We are delighted to support these innovative projects in the important area of mental health and wellbeing, and look forward to successful outcomes and the sharing of good practice for the benefit of all postgraduate research students.’
David Sweeney, HEFCE’s Director for Research and Knowledge Exchange and the Executive Chair Designate of Research England, said:
‘Postgraduate research students form a critical link in the supply chain for the UK’s research base and knowledge-intensive economy. The research environment and the PGR student experience can have their own challenges, and we want to understand better the factors that impact on the wellbeing of researchers.
‘This is an important topic in which both Research England and the Office for Students have an interest, and we look forward to working together to ensure that this scheme delivers long-term value, helping to ensure future research students realise their potential.’
- HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund provides targeted investment in activities led by universities and colleges. The fund supports a range of student and sector priorities, including innovation in higher education, efficiency and effectiveness, and student interest issues.
- An invitation to submit proposals for projects supporting mental health and wellbeing for postgraduate research students was issued on 9 November 2017 and closed on 20 December 2017. HEFCE has awarded a total of £1,585,201 across 17 projects.
- The proposals were assessed by a panel comprising internal (HEFCE) and external expertise. The panel was chaired by HEFCE’s Head of Research Policy. Panel members included representatives from Universities UK, Student Minds, and the postgraduate mental health and wellbeing working group for the UK Council for Graduate Education.
- In 2017 Universities UK published a strategic vision and framework for developing whole-university approaches to supporting mental health in higher education (www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/stepchange/Pages/default.aspx). The framework highlights a number of areas for the higher education sector to consider, including leadership, prevention, early intervention, and partnerships.
- A report by Deloitte, on the economic impact of HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund, found significant benefits for students, the economy and society (www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rereports/Year/2017/cfeconimpact/).
- The Office for Students and Research England will replace HEFCE from 1 April 2018.
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