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17 August 2021

King's to partner on new study into mental health support for first generation university students

The study, which has been awarded over £180,000 from the Office for Students, will explore mental health interventions for students who are first in their families to attend university.


The Office for Students (OfS) has awarded a grant of over £180,000 for a new collaborative project exploring mental health and wellbeing interventions for students who are first in their families to attend university or who are studying without specific kinds of support from their families, such as estranged or care-experienced students. The study will be led by Institute of Education at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, alongside King’s College London, the University of West London, and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

The project, which will be co-designed and co-delivered with students and led by a combination of expert HE and mental health professionals, will generate much-needed evidence of what can improve mental health outcomes for this group of students through the provision of a novel transition support package for first-in-family students. This support package will include psychoeducation training, personal skills development, peer-to-peer support initiatives, mental health drop-in sessions, and online resources.

I am delighted to be joining forces with colleagues from other institutions to support students who are first in their families to attend universities. This initiative, co-designed with students, will deliver interventions to promote the development of skills and behaviours that support their mental health, empowering this group of students to succeed in higher education

Dr Patricia Zunszain, Project Lead from King's and Reader in Neuroscience of Mental Health Education

First generation university students, many of whom are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as students who who receive little or no family support, are at increased risk of poor mental health, social isolation, and non-continuation as they make their way through critical transition points in their university careers, such as entering and leaving university and moving between academic years and semester breaks.

Stresses during this period also include adapting to and coping with academic and financial pressures, building new relationships, increasing independence, the contrasts between home and university live, as well as general homesickness, and other aspects of student life.

This is an innovative project to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of our students even more effectively. We are looking forward to working with our collaborative partners as a joined-up approach between education and health professionals, working closely with students, is the best way to support students on their journey through higher education

Professor Anna Lise Gordon, Project Lead and Director of the St Mary’s Institute of Education

The grant is part of a wider OfS project to provide £1million of funding to explore innovative and intersectional approaches to mental health support for students.

The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Their aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.