Improving the mental health and wellbeing of young people is of primary importance. Organisations with wellbeing expertise, e.g., the What Works Wellbeing centre, recognise that supporting good mental health and wellbeing for 18-24 year-olds is essential to establishing good patterns of mental health and wellbeing into later adulthood. By addressing how the characteristics of the university environment can improve the life outcomes for young people, universities can identify whether their environments may be detrimental to certain young persons and can work to put into place policies and practices that can reduce the disadvantages that may be faced by some groups of students. The project findings will facilitate more strategic commissioning of university-linked student health services, and will provide richer information for young people and their parents as they seek and select appropriate universities. Indirectly, the findings will also benefit students by providing university policymakers with better information to guide practice.
Currently, universities tend to have a blanket policy on how they support their students. However, our research project aims to better pinpoint which groups of young people may need the most support in terms of educational, employment and mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Therefore, universities may be able to create policies or programmes that work specifically with these groups of young people.
National and international policymakers will be provided with evidence of relationships between the mental health and wellbeing of young people and their education and employment outcomes. Parliamentary committees (such as the Education Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee) and the OfS will have the evidence to know which groups of young people are most likely to succeed in particular university environments based on their mental health and wellbeing. This will enable parliamentary committees to recommend appropriate mental health support policies for different groups of students either during adolescence, at university, or during employment.
With the provided evidence, professional bodies and mental health charities, such as StudentMinds and What Works Wellbeing, can develop and revise targeted training and guidelines for students and academic staff on the prevention and management of mental health problems in young people throughout the UK, as well as providing appropriate information for their campaigns in order to lobby governmental groups.
These individuals can use the evidence to be informed in the short-term about the university environment and how they can enhance young people’s life outcomes. In the long-term, universities can also be lobbied to provide policies and practices for enhancing life outcomes of those not optimally supported.