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Oct 19, 2023 | by What Works Centre for Wellbeing

What works to support student mental health – new evidence hub launched

What works to support student mental health and wellbeing? To investigate, we’ve been building the evidence and practice, including a recent review of student mental health interventions, and have been part of a consortium of partners that has pooled its expertise. 

Together, we’ve produced a Student Mental Health Evidence Hub that will help universities and colleges provide support for students.

Today is the launch of this new open-access digital resource; here we discuss the evidence base, summarise the Hub, and explore further resources and learnings.


Laying the foundations

Understanding and supporting student mental health helps students thrive whilst they’re studying but has benefits for their future wellbeing too. Universities and colleges are an important context for improving wellbeing; building on their support for students with robust evidence of what works, resources, and guidance.

We’ve been growing and bringing together evidence and resources for places of higher and further education since 2017. From some of our early work, including our research with the University of East Anglia in 2018, we identified an evidence gap in student mental health and wellbeing interventions. So in response, together with Universities UK and the University of Liverpool, we published a review of reviews in 2020, mapping which interventions work in higher education and adult learning. To explore student wellbeing further, we recently analysed UK data to understand how the wellbeing and mental health of students in higher education varies over time and in relation to demographic characteristics and circumstances. 

The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub continues this work, providing information and guidance for the sector on how they can improve the efficacy of their student mental health support.

Student Mental Health Evidence Hub

Building on our work with universities and colleges since 2017, the Hub includes guidance on evaluating existing programmes of support, examples of current practice, and a first-of-its-kind toolkit outlining the evidence base on what works which is mapped to the University Mental Health Charter.

What evidence is in the Hub?

The Evidence Toolkit, which is part of the Hub, includes ten different kinds of activity that has been researched and/or is done in practice: 1Discover more details about these areas in the Hub.

  • Psychological
  • Recreation
  • Physical activity
  • Active psychoeducation
  • Passive psychoeducation
  • Pedagogy
  • Places and Spaces
  • Settings based
  • Peer support
  • Intersystem collaboration

It does not yet include suicide prevention or data analytics interventions as these were out of the current scope.  

Building on our practice database there are some examples of current practice and guidance on evaluation to further build the shared knowledge base and fill evidence gaps.  

How is the Hub organised?

The Hub consists of five key elements:

  1. A toolkit and associated toolkit pages, updating our earlier evidence review.
  2. Examples of practice from the sector
  3. Evaluation guidance on how to select and measure mental health outcomes in non- clinical settings, written especially for the project
  4.  Student perspectives
  5. Project resources

Evidence and evaluation play a crucial role in advancing our understanding of what works to support student mental health.2Professor Edward Peck, Student Support Champion and Vice-Chancellor Nottingham Trent University.

Who developed the Hub?

The project has been managed by a consortium of five expert partner organisations to pool together expertise and ensure the Hub’s value to the sector: AMOSSHE, SMaRteN (led by King’s College London), Student Minds, and What Works Wellbeing, with TASO as the lead partner. 

The development of the Hub was also supported by a Student Panel, which included students from various backgrounds, courses and higher education providers, all with an interest in promoting student mental health. The panel provided insights into how students experience current support systems in higher education.

Discover more

Our resources and learnings on student mental health and wellbeing include:

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