A leading UK university is to develop ways to use new sources of data to support the mental health of its students, as part of a £14.5 million programme led by the Office for Students. Northumbria University is developing an Early Alert Tool designed to identify students in mental health crisis.
In common with other universities, it already carries out data analysis on grades, lecture attendance, library and virtual learning environment use, but the £2 million project aims to extend this.
The university will work with other UK colleges and the private sector - including Bristol University, Buckinghamshire New University, University of East London, Microsoft, Civitas, Student Room Group, Jisc and charity Papyrus - on the project, as well as student unions of the universities involved. It hopes to complete the project by 2021 with the aim of producing outputs that can be used across higher education.
Professor Peter Francis, deputy vice-chancellor and project lead, said: “This project brings together the best ideas alongside cutting-edge analytical technology to support all students, with the goal of seeing how big data can support a thriving student community.
“We will build an understanding of how a student gets into a state of crisis and whether joined up collected data can generate the targeted personalised support that they require.”
Meanwhile, University of Derby will lead a £2 million project to create a national online toolkit for academics offering guidance on improving student mental health. It is working with Aston University, King’s College London, Advance HE and Student Minds.
Gareth Hughes, research and innovation lead for student well-being at the university, said: “Our focus is on the curriculum, as it is the only point of guaranteed contact between a university and its students. Evidence from research has shown that how students are taught and assessed can have both positive and negative impacts on both their mental health and learning.”