In 2014 Bournemouth University decided to review the Student Counselling service provision it offered on campus to deliver a better and more holistic service for students. It worked with Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust, who had previously provided the counselling service to reconfigure the operating model. The Student Wellbeing service came into being in 2015.

Why was a wellbeing rethink necessary?

Within the Student Counselling model, students who had a welfare issue would register with the service and be automatically booked in for six counselling sessions. No other support was offered and the service, although reporting annually to the university, was not integrated. Students seeking non-counselling support had to find their own way to access this.

What changed?

Students who identify that they have a welfare issue register with Student Wellbeing. They are invited for an initial assessment within five working days, or one for urgent cases. Following the assessment the student can be referred for:

  • formal counselling
  • more general wellbeing support with a wellbeing advisor based within the service
  • GP surgery
  • a more appropriate service such as the local Improving Access to Psychological Therapy or Community Mental Health service.

The service runs three drop-in sessions a week where students can ask questions about the service or find out about local support. The service also hosts Rape Crisis and other local charities who provide drop in sessions on a regular basis for students with specific issues. The team has also introduced a range of new support activities such as workshops, Big White Wall and, very recently, webinars.

Making things streamlined

Student Wellbeing staff can make a direct referral service into the local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). This means that students do not have to go through a further NHS assessment which can add a number of weeks delay in receiving support.

This is possible by the fact that the Student Wellbeing staff are employees of Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust employees and all are qualified in IAPT assessments. The NHS lead for IAPT services in the region also has responsibility for the management and delivery of the BU Student Wellbeing contract. As the Foundation Trust also provide all local mental and sexual health services in the area we are currently developing more streamlined referrals for other services.

Coordinating the support on campus

The Wellbeing Coordinator (who manages the services and is also a Foundation Trust employee) is a member of the University Student Services Executive team. They are actively engaged in improving general wellbeing support across the university, including working closely with the Students’ Union. Activities this year have included leading the university’s World Mental Health Activities, providing integrated wellbeing activities for students in our ResLife programme and developing a referral pathway to SportBU (our sports department) for those on the waiting list for Student Wellbeing support

Hiring and training staff in different faculty areas

We have also supplemented our student support in other areas of the university including introducing a Student Support and Engagement Coordinator for each of our faculties and a ResLife programme in our halls with trained Welfare Coordinators for each. These teams work closely with Student Wellbeing to identify students who may be struggling but who wold previously have fallen through the gaps.

What has the impact been so far?

Bournemouth University has just under 18,000 registered students, of those 1125 registered with the Student Wellbeing service in 2017-18. This is up from 926 in 2015-16. Sharing of concerns has allowed us to intervene at a much earlier stage, ensuring that student support is put in place earlier. Between 15-16 and 17-18 we increased the number of student issues that we were aware of by 63%.

Not all of these issues will have been metal health or wellbeing issues but the vast majority are. These are students that previously are likely to have gone unsupported before our revised approach. The success of this support has been made possible by two things – the University recognising that student support, wellbeing and mental health is an area of importance and with investing in, and the willingness of our local healthcare provider to work in partnership with us to develop our services.

Practice examples from universities