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  • Students’ Union UCL protests underfunding of Student Psychological Services on University Mental Health Day;
  • Management to consider increasing resources for SPS, with UCL Registry and Student Support and Wellbeing acknowledging the need and placing bid for two Grade 8 FTE counsellors and Grade 9 Deputy Director to oversee complex mental health cases;
  • Further agreement made to bid for further resources should the waiting list fail to shorten substantially;
  • Decision comes after months of grassroots campaigns from students and activists at UCL.

Yesterday, representatives from the students’ union and its affiliated campaign - UCL: Fund Our Mental Health Services - met with the Registrar and the Director of Student Support and Wellbeing to discuss increasing resources for Student Psychological Services.

This follows months of grassroots campaigning through rallies, banner drops, open day disruption and protests, culminating in last week’s meeting of Academic Committee that saw numerous Faculty Tutors and Deans come out in favour of our demand to improve funding for on campus counselling.

Already ongoing changes to the general wellbeing system at UCL were elaborated on at the meeting; we restated our position that while these represented many positive improvements, their effect would be greatly limited for so long as the service remained starved of resources, and waiting times remained so high.

In response to this, it was confirmed that the Registry - under whom SPS falls - has now tabled a bid for an increase in general resources, which it would use to fund two additional FTE counsellors and a further Deputy Director at Student Support and Wellbeing to handle more cases of complexity beyond the reasonable scope of a university counselling service. This would amount to an increase in funding of over £140,000.

It was also confirmed to us that should a combination of a moderate resources increase and the introduction the ‘Cardiff model’ - the new triaging system at use by SPS - fail to lower waiting times enough, then further resources would be sought as part of the next financial planning round.

The central objective of our campaign was never simply to increase funding for SPS by some arbitrary sum; it was, and remains, to reduce waiting lists and to expand the support available, and to bring in additional counselling support in order for that to be possible. We remain sceptical as to whether or not these improvements to the service will be sufficient to enable this, having called for for the recruitment of 6.5 additional FTE counsellors to cover the waiting list.

Our campaign will therefore need to be continued until we are persuaded both that the improvements to mental health provision on campus are sufficient to support all students, and that the service is resourced properly for the future - whether due to the inevitable increase in students likely to register with the service in the coming years, or to support the growing complexity of cases that SPS has seen in recent times.

Nevertheless, this certainly represents a major victory for our campaign, and we hope that it will inspire other activists and unions across the country to take similar action. Dire mental health provision is shamefully widespread in the higher education sector, a feature of the marketisation that has come to our campuses, at once nurturing a febrile climate for poor mental health while also systematically underfunding our student support services.

We call upon university management to confirm the allocation of these resources with some urgency so that we can work together on implementing them to the benefit of the student community. This win alone will not solve the student mental health crisis - but increased resources will hopefully allow for a great many more students to be supported than is currently possible.

If you would like to get involved with this campaign, contact “UCL, Fund our SPS” and attend the next campaign planning meeting on Friday 9 February at 5pm