University awarded £139k government funding to offer bespoke mental health and wellbeing support to postgraduate research students

A project to support the health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students (PGRs) through peer workshops is launching next month at the University of Plymouth.

Thanks to funding confirmed today by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the University will deliver a suite of online materials for training PGRs to provide peer support through informal events on mental health and wellbeing.

The focus of the workshops themselves will be on the early identification and prevention of mental health problems through the development of coping skills, with specific workshops for part-time, self-funded, and international students.

PGRs will contribute to the development of the training materials, lead the feedback, evaluation and revision cycle, and – through delivery of the peer-support workshops – play an active role in the support of their fellow PGRs.

Plymouth is one of 17 universities in England to receive part of £1.5m funding from HEFCE to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of PGRs.

Led by Professor Jon May and Dr Cordet Smart from the School of Psychology, the project will complement the University’s existing wellbeing services, comprising of counselling, mental health support and self-development workshops. Students are also able to access immediate listening support services and the 24/7 Anytime Advice and Mental Health Helpline with no appointment required.

The projects funded by HEFCE are designed to be strategic and sustainable, and postgraduate research students will be involved to ensure that their priorities and needs are being met throughout.

The University received £138,798 from HEFCE to run the initiative, which it will match fund.

Professor Julian Chaudhuri, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at the University of Plymouth, said: 

“Transitioning into postgraduate research can be a stressful time for any student, as it comes with new expectations and working practices. But we want to encourage and empower students to excel in their work, so we’re delighted that this funding has been realised. We are absolutely committed to encouraging and supporting all of our students at every stage of their study, and this new initiative will ensure that we help our postgraduate research students receive tailored support from the people who know their situation best – their peers.”
The projects will also benefit from a programme of support, evaluation and dissemination, funded by HEFCE and delivered jointly by HEFCE’s successors, the Office for Students and Research England. This will ensure that best value is realised for postgraduate research students and the higher education sector beyond the projects themselves.

HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said: 

“This programme to develop extra support for postgraduate research students is timely, and complements the resources HEFCE already provides to support student safeguarding and to address barriers to student success. We are delighted to support these innovative projects in the important area of mental health and wellbeing, and look forward to successful outcomes and the sharing of good practice for the benefit of all postgraduate research students.”

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