Student Mental Health Partnerships Project

UWE Bristol is leading a partnership across the Higher Education sector to improve care for students in need of mental health support through the development and evaluation of local partnerships between universities, the NHS and Students’ Unions, connected via a National Learning Collaborative.

The project is one of ten projects funded through the Office for Students (OfS) Mental Health Challenge Competition, and led by universities across the country, to find innovative approaches to improving mental health outcomes for students.

Universities UK’s ‘Minding Our Future’ report (2018) found that students experience great variation in mental health care, and suggested that there is an urgent need to better co-ordinate care between universities and local NHS services.

Aims of the project

The Student Mental Health Partnerships project aims to:

  • improve local care pathways
  • co-produce the design and delivery of care with students and practitioners
  • share best practice
  • evaluate effective models of partnership working.

Throughout all stages of the programme, university and NHS partners are working together with students and student bodies. We are working with the national charity Student Minds to empower Students’ Unions to play a key role in each local hub and ensure that student voices shape the development of care pathways and other recommendations.

"I just don’t think services talk to each other effectively, I’ve been passed from service to service, rehashing my problems each time and I don’t think they understand how distressing that is "

Elliot , London

Elliot London

Regional partnerships

Five regional partnerships are being developed between universities and local NHS services:


Bristol: UWE Bristol, the Students’ Union at UWE, University of Bristol, University of Bristol Students’ Union, Bristol City Council, West of England Academic Health Sciences Network (WEAHSN) and the NHS

This partnership is focussed on:

  • Information sharing – improved understanding of HE/NHS support available and how they work together.
  • Pathways and infrastructure – creating a bespoke student referral and care pathway.
  • Language and culture – establishing common language around risk and referrals.
  • Research – around student’s experience of care pathways and consistency with NHS and referral data.
  • Student engagement – creation of a student experience forum.


Liverpool: University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool Guild of Students, and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

This partnership is focussed on:

  • A care pathway focussed specifically on students who self-harm
  • Guidelines for the treatment of self-harm in community settings


Manchester: University of Manchester, University of Manchester Students’ Union, and the NHS

This partnership is focussed on:

  • Improving and evaluating the existing Greater Manchester partnership between HEIs and the NHS.

North London

North London: UCL, Students’ Union UCL, Imperial College London, Imperial College Union, and the NHS

This partnership is focussed on:

  • Developing a needs-based care pathway for the full range of mental health presentations
  • Bringing together the Thrive model with the stepped-care model used in IAPT and other NHS adult mental health services.
  • Developing and testing an evaluation framework


Sheffield: University of Sheffield, Sheffield Students’ Union, and the NHS

This partnership is focussed on:

  • Increasing capacity and helping to bridge the gap between primary and secondary care with the provision of evidence-based interventions.
  • Enabling high level training and supervision of trainee therapists
  • Developing high quality and high impact research projects
  • Developing and testing an evaluation framework

"I’ve had so many assessments from different care providers and repeated my story several times unnecessarily. It's just exhausting."

Amy, Manchester

Amy Manchester

National Learning Collaborative

Universities UK is leading a National Learning Collaborative bringing together the project partners with other Higher Education and Health sector bodies to:

  • Share learning across the five regional partnerships and the wider sector
  • Support the implementation of the commitment to student mental health in the NHS long term plan
  • Embed co-production of service design and delivery with students and practitioners.

The Academic Health Sciences Network

There are 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England. They were established by NHS England in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale. Each AHSN works across a distinct geography serving a different population in each region, but they all come together to form the AHSN Network. The AHSN excels at improving quality and promoting adoption and spread of proven innovations into practice. The project is working with AHSNs to help connect with relevant NHS bodies, and to advise the project on innovation and system change across NHS services.

What will the project deliver?

  • Partnership working between universities and local NHS services
  • Final report to share impact of the different regional partnerships
  • Evidence-based evaluation framework