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Our investment in student support explained

12 Feb 2021

A message from Professor April McMahon, Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Student Experience, and Dr Simon Merrywest, Director for the Student Experience

Student support

Dear colleague,

Investment in student support explained

The health and wellbeing of our students is one of our highest priorities, and our services support thousands of students every year. Feedback has shown that many of our students want to know more about how much we spend on these services and where we allocate the money.

We have pulled all of this information together and shared this with our students this week. Below you will see the full message we have shared, and we would encourage you to read it, and refer to it when responding to queries from staff and students. [Please note in particular that the figures below do not include baseline costs associated with student support within the Faculties, and the support provided by the Library].

Best wishes

Professor April McMahon, Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Student Experience

Dr Simon Merrywest, Director for the Student Experience

Overall spend

This year, an additional £1.9m has been invested into supporting you throughout the COVID-19 crisis and this challenging academic year, taking the total to just almost £6.5m so far, as well as significant rent changes for those living in University accommodation. There is also extensive support from your Schools and Faculties which is not included in these figures.

Some of this additional investment has come from the government, whilst our alumni and supporters also donated an astonishing £1.4m at the start of the pandemic which has supported a number of these projects.

Mental health and wellbeing

Our planned spending on University-wide mental health and wellbeing for this year was £3.8million. On top of this we have invested an extra £450K in staff posts in these services and £101K in innovations such as the SafeZone app and our 24/7 mental health helpline.

The investment we have made this year has included:

  • Our recently launched 24 hour mental health helpline and wellbeing app, giving you immediate access to trained counsellors and advisors, and linking back into our own mental health service.
  • A student peer to peer buddying scheme, launched in partnership with the Students’ Union, to support students who feel isolated as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Online mental health platform Togetherall; a 24/7, safe online community that helps support its members with self-guided courses and resources.
  • The University Counselling and Mental Health Service, which is open to all students and offers confidential help with any personal issues you might be facing.
  • If you live in Halls, your ResLife team offers out of hours access to staff who can support students with practical issues as well as with mental health support needs.
  • We have invested in additional Response and Wellbeing Advisors and Link Workers. The Advice and Response Team are a confidential support service and source of advice and support about any aspect of wellbeing or issues impacting on a student.
  • The Disability Advisory and Support Service (DASS) which offers an accessible and inclusive service to help all students succeed at University. This year, we’ve invested £1million into helping support students through this service, with around 35% of the work this team does being mental health-related.
  • comprehensive package of support for students who are self-isolating is in place and is regularly communicated to all students.
  • During the Christmas period a mini site detailing the full range of support during the University closure period was made available to all students. A dedicated inbox for enquiries was manned every day (including Christmas Day) and around 250 students were supported with a range of queries and more serious issues during this period.

Our investment includes £138k towards the Greater Manchester Universities Student Mental Health Service, which was launched to provide expert support for students who have complex health needs. Working in partnership with the region’s five universities, we’re able to refer students to access professional help for conditions including psychosis, depression, personality disorders and eating disorders.

Financial support

This academic year we had already planned to make available over £700k of financial support initiatives, but due to the increased challenges we know many students are facing during the COVID-19 crisis we have so far more than doubled this, by investing an additional £716k combined with a further £402k from the government.

We have also invested an additional £260k in IT support for students, including £130k to purchase new laptops that are available to loan and £10k towards dongles to support those without adequate internet access at home.

As a student you may be able to access financial support in many ways, including:

  • The Living Cost Support Fund is a University scheme that is open to all students and can award grants and loans to help you overcome financial hardship or unforeseen expenses. We’ve invested an additional £600k contribution to the Fund to help those left struggling during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve been highlighting the Living Cost Support Fund this week on MyManchester News providing more information about how to apply.
  • The Manchester Master's Bursary widens access to master’s courses by removing barriers to postgraduate education. We’ve invested an additional £100K this year, which means we’re able to provide an extra 25 Manchester Master’s Bursaries to students from widening participation backgrounds.
  • The Work Experience Bursary has benefited from an additional £30k investment, and is available to support even more students in undertaking career-related work experience.

Accommodation

We gave all students in our halls of residences a reduction for semester 1 (Sept 2020 – 31 Jan 2021) totalling 30%. This was provided irrespective of whether they stayed in halls over the holiday period or not. Students living in University accommodation who have not returned to their accommodation since the national lockdown announcement on 5 January are not being charged until the end of the current restrictions or the date that they return to their accommodation in Manchester. This will cost more than £10m.

Students in residences can break their accommodation agreement, clear their rooms and hand back keys once during term time in the 2020/21 academic year without financial penalty.

We know this year has been difficult but we are committed to supporting you and continuing to further enhance what is available Please continue to let us know what you need through your Schools, our central services and your student representatives, so that we can best meet the challenges that lie ahead.