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The Annual Student Priorities for Wellbeing report is a comprehensive overview of the key issues that have impacted student wellbeing over the past year. This years report analyses the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on student wellbeing. The cost-of-living crisis has had dramatic impacts on student wellbeing, with inflation rising to a 40 year high and increased numbers of students pushed into poverty. Some of the headline stats the report highlights include:

  • 97% of UCL students are concerned about the cost-of-living crisis
  • Private rental costs in London increased by 17% over the past year, with rents at UCL owned accommodation increasing by 11% between 2022-23 and 2023-24
  • 81% of students are directly impacted by mental health difficulties

This report focuses on the 3 key areas of:

  • Financial Wellbeing
  • Mental and Social Wellbeing
  • Physical Wellbeing

The report draws on extensive desk-based research, alongside five focus groups with UCL students, quantitative and qualitative data from a national survey on the cost-of-living crisis, and semi-structured interviews with elected student leaders. Importantly, this report would not have been possible without student feedback so thank you to all involved.

What we learned about student wellbeing this year

The cost-of-living crisis has had widespread impacts on student wellbeing over the past year. UCL and the Students Union have worked in partnership to support students with a range of measures, including increasing levels of funding available to students, launching an ambitious Student Life Strategy to bolster student wellbeing, and achieving accreditation with the University Mental Health Charter Award. However, it is clear there is much more that needs doing.

Financial Wellbeing

Many of our students are living with very significant financial challenges to pay basic living costs and there is widespread evidence that things have got more difficult for students over the past year.

This section includes an overview of financial support available to students, students' experiences of employment, and housing. London's housing market is widely recognised to be in crisis and international students face a particularly difficult set of challenges in accessing affordable housing. Our spotlight on international highlights the importance of UCL's guarantor scheme while highlighting some areas where the effectiveness of the scheme could be improved.

Mental and Social Wellbeing

Concerningly, 80% of UCL students have cut the time they spend socialising over the past year, often because of needing to work increased hours or being unable to afford social activities. This section delves into students' sense of community and belonging and the student mental health crisis. The section also contains spotlights on trans students' experiences of transphobia at UCL and Black students' experiences of accessing wellbeing support

Physical Wellbeing

Physical activity and exercise are crucial to students' wider wellbeing. The Student Life Strategy recognises and responds to this, setting ambitious targets for record numbers of UCL students being engaged in sports and physical activity programmes.

This section gives an overview of the work being undertaken by UCL and Students' Union UCL, as well as the challenges that students face, particularly with financial barriers to participation.

Recommendations for UCL

Throughout the report recommendations for UCL are made about how the University can better support student wellbeing. The report also includes 5 commitments the Students' Union have made ourselves. The full list of recommendations are in the report but some of the key ones include:

Financial Wellbeing

  1. UCL should continue to review postgraduate research stipend levels in line with inflation.
  2. UCL should explore options to increase undergraduate bursary levels in line with inflation on an annual basis.
  3. UCL should commit to a much lower increase in rents over the next few years. Ideally, UCL should implement a rent freeze across all its accommodation for the 2024-2025 academic year and ensure that there is strong and meaningful consultation with students and engagement with the Students’ Union in the rent setting process. As a minimum rents in some accommodation should be frozen to respond to the tough financial pressures facing students.

Mental and Social Wellbeing

  1. UCL should invest in a significant expansion of the Union’s gym at the Bloomsbury campus as part of a new
    Students’ Union building and in expanding smaller sports facilities across campus.
  2. UCL should rejoin the Stonewall equality scheme. For the duration of time that UCL are not part of a
    membership scheme UCL should uphold its promise to implement and expand upon the commitments in the LGBTQ+ action plan.
  3. UCL should continue their work aimed at improving the diversity of their counsellors, and aim to employ more Black counsellors to ensure that students who request a Black counsellor do not face increased waiting times.

Physical Wellbeing

  1. UCL should invest in greatly expanding the Union’s gym at the Bloomsbury campus and expanding smaller sports facilities across campus.
  2. UCL should invest in developing multi-sports facilities at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at the Olympic Park.

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