UWE Bristol becomes first university to earn Merit status for approach to mental health and wellbeing

Media Relations Team, 14 March 2024

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Aerial view of UWE Bristol's Frenchay campus

UWE Bristol has become the first university in the UK to achieve the University Mental Health Charter ‘Award with Merit’ for embedding mental health and wellbeing as a strategic priority and implementing a whole-university approach.

The University has received the Award for its commitment to the evidence-informed principles of the University Mental Health Charter Framework created by Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity.

Yeme Onoabhagbe, Interim CEO at Student Minds, described the achievement as an ‘extraordinary milestone’. She said: “The attainment of the Merit status reflects the unwavering commitment, hard work and effort invested by UWE Bristol’s staff and students to embed a whole-university approach to better mental health. It's a testament to the university’s collective effort and dedication.

“This remarkable achievement marks this next phase in UWE Bristol’s journey, and the outcomes report serves as a powerful tool to keep developing a better future for the university’s students and staff.”

UWE Bristol was one of 32 universities to join the University Mental Health Charter (UHMC) Programme when it launched in 2021. The Programme brings together universities committed to making mental health and wellbeing a university-wide priority, sharing practice and creating cultural change.

All universities on the Programme pledged to work towards a Charter Award which recognises universities that demonstrate excellent practice and ongoing improvement of mental health and wellbeing. Universities are assessed by a team of peer-assessors against the UMHC Framework, which was developed in consultation with students and people across the Higher Education sector and beyond. Assessments are then scrutinised by an independent panel to ensure consistency and fairness, before outcomes are ratified.

To date, Student Minds has a network of 96 universities on the Charter Programme. Ten of these have received an Award. UWE Bristol is the first to achieve the Award with Merit status which is awarded to universities ‘addressing’ Principles of Good Practice (or higher) in all themes of the Assessment, and has at least three themes ‘demonstrating’ good practice or higher.

In the Assessment Outcomes Report, the Assessors singled out the UWE Cares programme for special praise, describing it as ‘excellent practice’. Karen Archer, who leads the UWE Cares programme, said: “UWE Cares provides quick, empathetic, and accurate signposting to our students, enabling them to navigate all of the fantastic support at UWE Bristol. We have a whole-university approach to ensure that some of the most vulnerable students feel seen and supported. We are thrilled to have been recognised as an excellent area by the Assessment Team.”

In a letter to UWE Bristol, Student Minds’ Head of Programmes Jennine Fox said: “It is evident that the University has successfully engaged with the spirit of the Charter as a learning and development tool. The Award Panel emphasised the Institution's responsibility to the wider sector to share examples of good and excellent practice, particularly in Support and Leadership, and its approach to the Assessment process.”

Jo Midgley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Registrar at UWE Bristol, said: “I would like to thank our dedicated staff and students for their efforts in working towards this important Award. For their work to be recognised in this way is a truly fantastic achievement. We are committed to continuing our learning and to further enhance our whole-university approach, to empower everyone in our community to thrive and flourish.”

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