• Chloe Maughan & Simon Tanner

Mental Health Challenge Competition; better coordination for student mental health service

Wavehill have been working with the Office for Students (OfS) since June 2019 to undertake an independent evaluation of their flagship mental health programme; the Mental Health Challenge Competition. Through this programme the OfS has given funding to 10 higher education providers in England to develop innovative approaches that bring about a step change in support for student mental health. A range of projects have been supported that have sought to strengthen partnerships between these higher education providers and their respective primary care and community mental health services. The intent of these partnerships is to reduce the risk of students falling through the gaps between different support providers.


The final report for the Mental Health Challenge Competition will draw on the experience of these 10 funded projects. It will explore the impact of the funding programme, and the contribution these projects make to understanding what works to better support student mental health and wellbeing. This will be published in autumn 2022.


In addition to the Mental Health Challenge Competition programme, the OfS have allocated a further £15m to higher education providers in England for the academic year 2022-23. This is to enable more universities and colleges to develop effective joint working between their student support services and local NHS mental health services, to ensure students are referred quickly and appropriately.

To coincide with this latest initiative from the OfS, we have developed a briefing paper exploring effective practice and common challenges in developing strategic partnerships between higher education providers and the NHS. This paper is drawn from the experiences of the projects funded through the Mental Health Challenge Competition. It shows that effective partnerships can help to improve awareness of support among different providers leading to better student referrals. This paper can help inform higher education providers and health care services who are developing their own approaches to partnering. We urge these organisations to review the resources and identify learning and practice that would support their own development work and delivery that can in turn better support students.


For more information on the Mental Health Challenge Competition and to access the resources produced by the funded projects please see the report on joint working between providers and the NHS to support student mental health.