Top of the list of student demands: not lower fees, but more counselling

May 11, 2015 by

Stress and anxiety are becoming an epidemic in universities, and yet services offering support are being cut back

When students from Goldsmiths University occupied Deptford town hall in south-east London in March, many of their demands were familiar: “Fight marketisation and privatisation of higher education.” “Police not welcome on campus.” But the very first demand on their list was a new one: “Recruit more counsellors.”

The students currently occupying the London School of Economics also want more therapy: “We demand … the removal of the standard six-session cap.” And on OccupyKCL’s list of demands, nestled between “ethical investments” and “free education”, is this one: “A permanent additional CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] therapist.”

Ruth Caleb, who runs the counselling service at Brunel University in west London, has been listening to students’ problems for 25 years. Since 2005, the number of students seeking her help has more than doubled. When she started, the most talked about subjects were “homesickness, first boyfriends, learning to live with new people”. Now, the problems are: depression, eating disorders, self-harm. At the same time, many universities have cut back spending on counselling services for students with mental health problems.

Professionals such as Caleb have been sounding the alarm for some time. In 2011, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported a steady increase in both the incidence and severity of mental distress among students over the previous decade. At that time, around 4% of the student population was seen by a counsellor; this year, that is closer to 8%, according to Patti Wallace, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s lead adviser on university and college counselling.

Source: Top of the list of student demands: not lower fees, but more counselling | Education | The Guardian

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