Last year, the Office for Students (OfS) announced a major programme to find innovative ways to support groups of students with characteristics that increase the risk of poor mental health and those who may experience barriers to accessing support.
The OfS awarded just over £3 million, with co-funding of more than £3.16 million from lead providers and their partners, across 18 projects which will run until September 2023.
The programme includes more than 90 organisations, including higher education providers, charities, NHS partners, students’ unions, sector bodies, digital providers and local authorities. The projects work as a network.
University staff will work with the Students’ Union and Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Recovery College to develop, test and deliver an innovative online suite of tools to support students in managing their own mental health.
‘PACE – a co-explored and co-created solution to address the mental health difficulties of students who undertake placement learning’ is part of a mental health funding competition programme which is funded by the OfS – the independent regulator for higher education in England.
The funding was offered to develop and test approaches that enable a more joined up service between the higher education and health sectors.
The two-year pilot project, which will start immediately, will focus on three groups of students studying for nursing, primary education and engineering degree courses.
Clare Dickens, academic lead in mental health at the university as well as the chair of City of Wolverhampton’s Suicide Prevention Stakeholders Forum, said: “It’s clear that the emerging impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health poses both challenges and opportunities.
"We are absolutely delighted to have secured funding to develop an online toolkit which will aim to allow students to flourish and grow within their academic and practice-based learning.
“Co-creation is at the heart of the proposal and students will be engaged throughout the life of the project from concept and development through to testing and evaluation.
“Our priority will be to look at intersectional considerations based on the profile of the students in our target group to tailor provision accordingly. Beyond the project, the tool will be adapted and rolled out to other courses and made available to other providers, creating a sustainable resource which will be available across the university and the wider sector.”
The university is contributing over £120,000 in match funding to the project as well as co-investment from partners, bringing the total investment to over £300,000.
Kerry Wilkes, principal at The Recovery College, Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us and our students to share our philosophy, ethos, principles and practise, and we are delighted to be partners in The Pace Project.
“Reducing stigma, tackling barriers and providing our students with hope, opportunity and choice is part of our mission."