Holding answer received on 24 July 2019
Higher education providers have legal responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010) to support students, including those with mental health conditions. As independent and autonomous institutions it is for providers to determine the precise nature of any mental health training they offer to staff.
Mental health service provision is a priority for the government, which is why the former Prime Minister (Theresa May), my right. Hon friend for Maidenhead recently announced measures on 17 June which overhaul the government’s approach to preventing mental illness. These measures included providing £1 million to the Office of Students (OfS) for a competition to find innovative new ways to support mental health at universities and colleges. The OfS is currently working with students, sector representatives, experts and relevant government departments to develop priorities. They aim to publish further details by the end of the year.
The department is also working closely with Universities UK on embedding the Step Change programme. This calls on higher education leaders to adopt mental health service provision as a strategic priority and take a whole-institution approach to embed a culture of good mental health practice.
The University Mental Health Charter, which was announced in June 2018, is also expected to drive up standards in promoting mental health and wellbeing, positive working environments and excellent support for both students and staff.
The former Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation (Chris Skidmore), my hon. Friend for Kingswood gave a speech on 7 May 2019 that focused on early career researcher contracts and employment conditions. The Independent Review of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, led by Professor Julia Buckingham, has recognised issues of wellbeing and poor mental health as a significant challenge faced by early career academics and researchers. Recommendations to address these challenges are currently under review and a revised concordat is expected in September.
We hope future joint work by the OfS and Research England into the mental health and wellbeing of doctoral researchers can identify good practice to take forward in this area.