College Expo panel to debate student mental health

The third annual College Expo Student Experience Discussion Panel, and very first as part of the new College Expo Roadshow series, will take place at Borders College, Galashiels Campus on Tuesday 28 March – chaired by Jon Vincent, Principal, Glasgow Clyde College. Book your free place here.

In response to feedback from last year’s attendees, College Expo is being extended this year with three panel discussion sessions which will be hosted in colleges around the country in March (Borders College), April (Forth Valley College) and May (UHI Inverness); with the two-day Virtual College Expo taking place on 21 and 22 June.

Discussion points from the first Student Experience panel discussion at Virtual College Expo in 2021 were collated and further explored through a piece of action research, which included a survey and focus groups. The findings of this research provided insight into the many ways colleges are working towards meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of their students.

The Student Experience Action Research report, was published in June 2022 and provided the focus of discussion at last year’s College Expo Student Experience Panel discussion. The report highlights what is working well:

  • College counselling services are the most impactful support offered by colleges
  • The volume and variety of approaches implemented across the sector in both the physical and online space, with the majority being delivered on-campus
  • Students are consulted regularly to provide feedback and co-create strategies, which is having an impact on policies and interventions offered in Scotland’s colleges
  • Colleges demonstrate an ability to act promptly on student feedback to develop initiatives, with examples including running awareness days and developing services.

The report also considered some barriers experienced by the sector:

  • There were concerns relating to the time and capacity required to evaluate the wide range of mental health and wellbeing supports that have been introduced
  • Concerns were also apparent due to funding associated with roles and the ‘short-termism’ of this funding
  • Difficulty in reaching students, particularly those learning remotely was highlighted as another barrier.

In December 2022, the Mental Health Foundation published its Thriving Learners research. This is one of the largest and most significant studies of student mental health that has ever taken place in the UK. Over the two years of this project, the researchers engaged with more than 17,000 college and university students and staff across Scotland – their student-facing survey was completed between March and May 2022 by more than 2,000 students studying at a Scottish college.

The study found that:

  • 64% of college students in Scotland had low mental well-being
    Among the college students who said they had low well-being, three-quarters said they experienced food insecurity or had a long-term health condition, and half had a disability
  • 37% experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months while 31% of students worried about running out of food; 30% ate less due to a lack of resources or money; and 17% lived in households that had run out of food
  • 54% reported having moderate, moderately severe, or severe symptoms of depression. Among students who have experienced food insecurity, 25% had severe symptoms of depression
  • 55% of students said they had concealed a mental health problem due to fear of stigma.

These findings will form the basis of discussion at this year’s Student Experience panel discussion, which will explore what has been done to support students to date, what the future priority areas are, and what may now need to happen to make this as effective as possible.

Networking will begin at 1.30pm, with an opportunity to meet the CDN Research and Enhancement Centre team and hear more about the developing Step Forward programme and our wider research work. The panel session will then begin at 2.30pm.

Book your free place for what promises to be an important discussion around a critical topic.

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