One thing that universities could do to stem the downward spiral of student mental health as they continue with remote studies is to ensure regular tutorials are the norm. Three weeks before Christmas I had to fetch my son, who is a final-year student, from his Russell Group university after he broke down on the phone, citing unbearable pressures that were making him consider dropping out. When I asked him when he was next due to speak to his tutor, I was shocked to learn that he had no scheduled tutorials for the rest of term, and had only had two all term. Informal checking with friends and family reveal his experience is far from unusual. What has happened to the university offer? Aren’t regular tutorials the norm as part of the £9,000 fees? And aren’t they even more important during remote learning?
As universities are keen to point out, many of them now have good mental health support for students if they would only ask for it. This expectation on students to seek help ignores two common symptoms of severe anxiety: the sense of being frozen and unable to reach out; and the sense of not being deserving of support. My son experienced both of these thought patterns and hence the anxiety grew until it overwhelmed him.
Regular tutorials should not be a “nice to have if there’s time” or if students request them. Surely they are a must-have in order for teaching and pastoral staff to know how students are and to pre-empt crises.
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