During my first term as Postgraduate Education Officer, I wrote a blog about mental ill health among Postgraduate Research students and how the Higher Education sector has reached a point where working until breaking point is normalised.
Research we've undertaken at uea(su) has shown that the pressure that comes with undertaking a PhD can really put a strain on the mental health of Postgraduate research students. Our Honesty Project in 2015 revealed a disturbing picture, with only 6% of respondents reporting no mental health issues while studying.
Postgraduate research students are a group who are often overlooked when it comes to the debate about mental health in Higher Education, which has a tendency to focus on students on taught programmes.
This is why we're really pleased to be working with the University on a £300,000 project to research and pilot innovative approaches to support the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students.
A joint bid, led by Associate Dean Dr John Turnpenny, to the Higher Education funding body HEFCE has been approved and the £150,000 funding they are providing will be matched by the University to meet the total. Part of the funding will be used to create a full-time staff role dedicated to improving wellbeing amongst PhD students.
The project has been developed following feedback from students, will look at how higher education institutions can support good mental health and wellbeing among PGR students, and will run from now up until January 2020.
It will have eight key areas of focus, half student led and half led by the University.
Student-led research will concentrate on:
- Developing a research community culture strategy across UEA’s four Faculties, Norwich Bioscience Institutes and the University of Suffolk
- Creating Resilience Training and Personal Development Planning Initiative with action learning sets, yoga for the mind and emotional resilience workshops
- The development of ‘low commitment’ sports and fitness activity to help develop mindfulness, exercise and walk groups to support health
- Evaluation of current online support programmes for postgraduate researchers and staff
UEA led research will focus on:
- Developing and running pilot MA Higher Education Practice module on postgraduate supervision and online training for all postgraduate supervisors – recognising mental health issues and taking early action
- Creating an Associate Tutor support network enabling postgraduates to exchange good practice approaches and support
- Developing a Health Impact Assessment to embed good mental health and wellbeing into everyday practices
- Research and Advocacy pulling together the lessons from Project Courage to share with other higher education institutions, organising a national mental health summit and sharing lessons broadly for maximum effect.
This project means that over 1400 PGR students will have access to enhanced mental health and wellbeing and we're looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. The success of the bid and the future of the project is also evidence of the work and dedication of individuals within the University, who have been advocating on PGR mental health long before this funding was received.
I’ll be keeping you updated on this project, but if you have any questions, comments or ideas please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org