Student Mental Wellbeing & the Curriculum 

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


In the UK, pre Covid-19 pandemic, one in four students experienced a mental health difficulty, with 71% reporting that academic work from university is their main sources of stress (Brown, 2016). Systematic review evidence shows that an inclusive curriculum that enhances the way students learn and academics teach promotes mental wellbeing (Fernandez et al, 2016). The design of the curriculum has a significant impact on the way that students respond to their course and academic staff. Therefore, Universities need to consider the role of curricula, including the role of academic staff, in supporting good mental wellbeing (Hughes et al, 2018).
The University Mental Health Charter from Student Minds (Hughes & Spanner, 2019) acknowledges that any genuine whole university approach has to consider the role of academics and the curriculum in supporting good mental wellbeing (Houghton & Anderson, 2017). The Charter urges that the role of academics must be clarified, and staff must be guided to understand how they can support student mental health and wellbeing through good pedagogic practices. These practice areas are specified in Universities UK’s recently published Self-Assessment Tool for mentally healthy universities to support improvement (UUK, 2020).
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented mental health burden on students (Grubic et al, 2020), evidencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression (Wang et al, 2020), with 83% expressing worsening of pre-existing mental health conditions (YoungMinds, 2020) and a rise in isolation-induced loneliness (a recognised suicide risk) (Grubic et al, 2020). Thereby, increasing further the importance of designing inclusive curricula that impact positively on student (and staff) mental wellbeing.
The aim of this presentation is provide an overview of the projects on which we have been working in relation to student mental wellbeing and the curriculum. We started with a scholarship project funded by Glasgow Caledonian University, which then led to us carrying out work with sparqs (student partnerships in quality Scotland). Subsequent to this we were successfully funded to run a QAA Scotland Collaborative Cluster to enhance the professional development of all Scottish HEI staff in relation to student mental wellbeing. We will discuss the projects’ findings with their implications for higher education providers, followed by some take home messages to promote student wellbeing across the curriculum.

Brown, P., 2016. The Invisible Problem?: improving students' mental health. Oxford: Higher Education Policy Institute. -
Fernandez, A., Howse, E., Rubio-Valera, M., Thorncraft, K., Noone, J., Luu, X., Veness, B., Leech, M., Llewellyn, G. and Salvador-Carulla, L., 2016. Setting-based interventions to promote mental health at the university: a systematic review. International journal of public health, 61(7), pp.797-807.
Grubic, N., Badovinac, S. & Johri, A.M., 2020. Student mental health in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for further research and immediate solutions. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, p.0020764020925108
Hughes, G., Panjawni, M., Tulcidas, P. & Byrom, N., 2018. Student Mental Health: The role and experiences of academics. Oxford: Student Minds. -
Hughes, G. & Spanner, L. 2019. The University Mental Health Charter. Leeds: Student Minds. The University. Mental Health. -
Universities UK 2020b. Self-Assessment Tool Stepchange: Mentally Healthy Universities, Universities UK, London: Universities UK. -
YoungMinds 2020 Coronavirus: Impact on young people with mental health needs, YoungMinds, London.
Period20 Jan 2021
Held atUniversity of Glasgow, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionLocal


  • mental wellbeing
  • curriculum
  • student experience