Mapping and Diagnosing Mental Health in/and the UK University Sector

by Dr Leon Rocha, Senior Lecturer in History


In recent years, we have witnessed radical changes in the UK university sector: the introduction of student tuition fees (now up to £9,250 per year); attempts to turn higher education into a marketplace of qualifications; rapid expansion of universities made possible through unprecedented levels of borrowing. At the same time, the mental health and well-being of university staff and students are reported to have rapidly deteriorated. There have been, however, few attempts to develop methods to investigate the relationship between recent transformations of universities and mental health.

This Wellcome Trust-funded project, entitled “Mapping and Diagnosing Mental Health in/and the UK University Sector”, proposes a novel and distinctive way to address this question: we produce the first network map of UK Higher Education featuring key actors and organisations, focusing particularly on those who have power and influence in relation to university health and well-being.

In tandem, we will collectively assess policies and documents surrounding university staff and student mental health. Where do they locate causes of mental ill-health and poor well-being? What approaches and interventions (e.g. whole system; mindfulness; building resilience; different therapies) are being used in attempts to ameliorate the situation? Who is being contracted to deliver them? Which kinds of expertise are foregrounded in relation to university staff and student mental health?

The project is directed by Dr Leon Rocha (School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln), Dr Philip Garnett (The York Management School, University of York), and Professor Felicity Callard (Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London).

You can watch our introductory video here, and follow our research on Twitter using the hashtag #MapUKHE. We envisage beginning our project in January 2020, and we will host a series of workshops and public engagement events in Lincoln and in London. If you have any questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us via the project’s email address.

UPDATE: We are currently seeking a Research Assistant for this project. The position (reference: COA352) will be based at the University of Lincoln, and is full-time (1.0 FTE) for 12 months. Salary level is Grade 6—from £28,331 per annum upwards. The closing date is Sunday 17 November 2019, with interview date provisionally set at Wednesday 4 December. The job advertisement and the application system are available here; for informal inquiries lease email Dr Leon Rocha via