Wellbeing survey 2021 findings

Students sitting at table during welcome week

Thank you for contributing your views in the 2021 Wellbeing Survey. Here are some of the issues that you've shared with us, and what we're doing in response.

Students with physical disabilities who took part in the survey show one of the most marked deteriorations in their mental health and wellbeing in the last two years

Recent years have seen a significant increase in students declaring a disability, with a corresponding increase in demand for the work of the Disability Services, and an in the complexity of cases the Service is managing. 

In the academic year 19/20 Disability Services saw a 43% increase in the number of students who shared their disability with them. Since January 2021 the service has been restructured with additional members of advice and admin staff now in post including the role of an Assistive Technology Adviser. This is a brand-new role developed in recognition of the growing importance of assistive technology in ensuring disabled students can fully engage with their learning and succeed in their studies.

The team now offer Study Skills Workshops  throughout the academic year and Dyslexia Workshops. Disability Services are also planning their pre-entry work with 22/23 students to offer proactive support via meetings, summer schools and social groups to better enable students to transition into university life and manage the impact of their disability.

One in four told us they felt a heightened sense of loneliness

This is a similar finding across the higher education sector - but is significantly higher than levels of loneliness experienced in 16 to 24 year olds in the general population. In response to this, we know how important it is for students to make social connections from the moment they arrive at Bristol. We have invested in social spaces for students in the Senate House refurbishment and have delivered University-wide events, such as the festival-themed Welcome Village, to help students settle in and make friends from the very start. 

We have also supported Bristol Students' Union (SU) Welcome activity such as their two-day Welcome Fair which connects students to their peers and gets them involved in one of the hundreds of student groups Bristol SU has to offer.

The mental health gap seen in previous surveys between some minority student groups and their peers appears to be closing e.g., Black Asian and Minority Ethnic, International and students who are first in their family to go to university

We have worked to increase diversity in our wellbeing staff and provided access to culturally appropriate counselling services, such as NILAARI, to encourage students to come forward and talk. We've appointed two student counsellors with expertise in supporting trans people. We've also set up projects like Black Men and Women Talk, encouraging students of colour to promote mental fitness and wellbeing.

Drugs and alcohol consumption is still prevalent: 56% of students are still drinking at hazardous levels

We continue to provide support and advice so that students know about the impact of drugs and alcohol, and where they can go to get help when in need. Working with Bristol Drugs Project (BDP), Bristol City Council and Bristol SU, we promote a harm reduction approach, which includes the introduction of drugs testing, recovery spaces at events, workshops and talks. No student will be sanctioned if they come forward to ask for help. 

With the SU, we have set up a pioneering harm reduction drop-in with The Drop (part of BDP) where students can go for an anonymous chat with a worker from The Drop and pick up a free drug testing kit funded by the University. We are looking to better train our staff around harm reduction, particularly Personal Tutors.

Students found it easier to access non-specialist wellbeing support, such as Wellbeing and Residential Life Advisers compared to specialist support like GPs (local doctors) and counsellors

We have streamlined access to wellbeing support via our single point of access and provided online self-help resources, workshops and training modules to encourage positive mental health and wellbeing for students. We also encourage students to register with local health services, but we know that there is more to be done here, particularly for international students.

One in five students had experienced sexual violence or harassment while at university

We take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and hate crimes at our University. In response to your feedback, we have trained more sexual violence liaison officers and developed a new community induction course for all students, providing training and information about acceptable behaviour and mutual respect throughout our community. We know that we still have work to do to clarify where students go to report sexual violence and what the process is, so that they feel safe coming forward.

We will also be working closely with the SU on further developing support for students and our joint approach, particularly following the recent release of their No Means No research on sexual violence and consent culture at the University.

The survey findings suggest that student mental health and wellbeing has worsened since 2019

While perhaps not surprising, students taking the survey show greater symptoms of depression and anxiety than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, that’s not unique to Bristol; there are concerns across the HE sector and for young people more widely.

One in four of us will have a diagnosed mental health concern at some point in our lives, with almost 75% of issues first appearing in adolescence or early adulthood. Mental health issues often start before students arrive at universities, with complex cultural developmental factors involved.

We are striving to help students manage the challenges they are facing, particularly COVID, housing and financial issues, and we are listening to them through our continuous partnership with the SU. We are working with secondary schools, other universities and the NHS to address mental health issues in young people. We are always looking to make our services more accessible for students who need support and have grown our services significantly in line with student number growth as well as hiring more specialist staff e.g. Trans counsellors, Mental Health Advisors. We are also applying to the Student Mental Health Charter, an external benchmark evaluating student wellbeing and mental health support in higher education, to seek independent feedback.

Students have been involved in the co-production of our mental health strategy which outlines our future plans to improve support for wellbeing for all students at Bristol. This document will be shared with you soon.

Read all the results of this years survey and see how we are responding in the Student Wellbeing Survey 2021 Results (PDF, 1,323kB)

Wellbeing Survey 2021 results

Read the full Student Wellbeing Survey 2021 Results (PDF, 1,323kB) 

I'd like to thank all the students who have contributed their views on wellbeing to this, and earlier surveys. As a result, we have a huge bank of student feedback which we use to shape our wellbeing and student support services and initiatives to support our student community.

Professor Sarah Purdy , Pro Vice-Chancellor, Student Experience

It's great to see that students take the time to give the uni and the SU feedback. With this information, we are more able to improve existing services or support new initiatives

Ruth Day, Student Living Officer, Bristol Students' Union

To the 15,000 students who have taken part in this study since 2018, we salute you. You are helping to shape and improve the student experience for your peers and for students to come. In sharing your journey, researchers and policymakers can better understand the issues facing the university community and focus on evidence-informed strategies to support good mental health and wellbeing for us all. Twenty minutes of your time on ‘just another’ survey may change someone else’s journey dramatically. Thankyou.

Research team
students sitting on grass outside senete house
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