Students across the UK are avoiding university counselling services, fearing it will impact their academic record
A Bath-based support charity has said that students across the UK are avoiding university counselling services, fearing it will impact their academic record. Their findings have been supported by the Higher Education Policy Insititute’s survey of 14,000 students from across the UK.
The Bath and North-East Somerset branch of Off the Record, a youth counselling charity, told BBC News they had ‘hundreds of students, year on year’ using their services from the city’s two universities as many are worried about the stigma associated with receiving university counselling.
Director Phil Waters from Off The Record explained that some students feel as if ‘there’s perhaps some sort of agenda from the university support staff.’ This means that those students are more likely to seek external counselling because they believe it to be more confidential and objective.
The University of Bath’s vice-president for student experience, Dr Cassie Wilson, responded by saying: ‘Our objective always is to provide advice, support and guidance to any of our students who need it, to help them navigate periods of change and life transitions, and to help them succeed in their studies.’
A first-year Policy, Politics and Economics student, Tiny Simbani, told Redbrick: ‘[independent providers] would be less centred around concerns of academic life, so it’s a way for you to completely detach from that.’
Another student, Kaelen Kotecha, told Redbrick: ‘if I needed support I would go to someone independent, as I would worry about who has access to the record.’ Kaelen continues that there is a certain ‘embarrassment’ associated with asking for help at university due to the worry that ‘lots of people will know about it.’
Redbrick contacted Joanne Adams, Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing Service at UoB, who said: ‘there is a level of concern from students about who has access to their information and whether we share their contact details with their department, but we would assure students this is not the case.’
‘The Mental Health and Wellbeing Service is a confidential service and we ensure that the contact students have with our services is not disclosed to anyone, inside or outside the University, without consent from the student. Any therapeutic intervention undertaken by a student as part of the University Mental Health and Wellbeing Service is not recorded on the students’ academic record.’
Academic departments at UoB ‘do not have access to any information about contact students have with us, including the fact that contact has been made.’ Only if a student requests and it is ‘agreed [to be] beneficial to a student’s ability to engage with their course,’ could information regarding mental health and wellbeing be supplied for purposes of granting extenuating circumstances.
The Higher Education Policy Institute’s 2019 Student Academic Experience Survey shows continuing concerns of anxiety and stress among the over 14,000 full-time undergraduate students surveyed. According to the report, only 16% of students claim to have low anxiety levels, which is a considerably low percentage when compared to the rest of their age group.
During UoB support week, the Guild’s Welfare and Community Support Officer, Millie Gibbins said: ‘We want to get [students] talking about [their] wellbeing and give [them] the confidence to speak up if ever [they] need some support.’ The support at university includes the confidential and non-judgemental [society run] Nightline for students and the Student Mentor Scheme [funded by UoB and run by the Guild] who emphasise ‘no problem too big, no problem too small.’