A Freedom of Information request has revealed that, in real terms, the amount that the University has spent on its counselling service has been cut significantly since 2009. In the latest available year of 2014/15, the University spent £512,000 compared to £511,000 in 2009/10. If this spending was matched to inflation the University should have spent approximately £612,000, representing a funding gap of £100,000.
This is despite the tripling of tuition fees in 2012, a fees increase which students assumed would be reflected in increased funding in all aspects of their university experience.
This information, discovered by Leeds Labour Students, has been commented on by their Co- Chair, Antony Riley, who stated “It is time for the University to invest in its students, and not just its buildings. It’s fundamentally unjust that tuition fees can rise with inflation but not the critical health provision, essential to student welfare. This is simply not good enough and our society are campaigning for the fair mental health funding that students deserve.”
NUS Vice President (Welfare) Izzy Lenga added “mental health issues affect many students, and institutions must be spending more and not less in this area”.
Leeds University Union’s Welfare Officer, Chloe Sparks, added “I strongly support the need for increased funding in
the University’s mental health services and have been actively campaigning on this. I’ve worked with the University on things like Big White Wall (a free online mental health service), but there’s much more to be done so I encourage any students who are passionate about this to come and work with me.”
6.7% of students sought mental health support in 2014/5, compared to 6% in 2009/10, representing a slight increase. In the same time-period the number of Full time equivalent counsellors fell from 7.2 to 6.9 – or 15 counsellors employed in total in 2015/16 compared to 18 in 2009/10.
Nationally, NUS research has revealed that up to eight out of ten students may experience mental health issues in a year, with a majority saying that they did not seek support.
The University of Leeds’ cutting of mental health provision is in in sharp contrast to other Universities, such as York, which has committed to spending an additional £500,000 and two new members of staff for its counselling service.
A University spokesperson said:
“It is important to stress that we are investing in support and regularly review our services to ensure they are meeting the needs of students. Working with LUU, we have increased investment in the student counselling and wellbeing service in 2017-18, adding new roles, such as wellbeing practitioners, and new services, such as the Big White Wall, which can be accessed at any time. Mental health and wellbeing is an incredibly important issue which the University takes very seriously, working alongside other groups in the Leeds community to help students to reach their full potential.”