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59 per cent of Edinburgh students’ mental health has deteriorated at university – Tab survey

Four in five students think the uni doesn’t do enough to support students


59 per cent of students in Edinburgh say their mental health has declined since arriving at university, according to a new survey by the Edinburgh Tab.

Whilst four in five students also claimed the university does not do enough to support students, 85 per cent reported enjoying their time at Edinburgh.

The findings come from the Edinburgh Tab’s survey of students’ experiences in the city via its social media channels, with over 3,000 responses registered.

As well as answering five poll questions, students were invited to submit comments about their experiences at uni, leading them to address issues including mental health, student support and classism.

Respondents complained that “student services are not good enough”, describing the support in place as a “complete failed support system of ignorance”. One said they have “had a horrible experience with mental health services”, meaning they “had to pay privately for simple support”.

Others added that the university is “relying on the prestige of the name to get away with below-average teaching”. One student remarked: “I cannot explain how many times I have been let down by the student ‘support’ staff”.

In line with the finding that nearly three fifths of students reported a decline in their mental health, one told us: “I was happy before I came to Uni”. Another commented that coming to university has caused them to feel “extremely lonely”.

The University of Edinburgh says it is “fully committed to ensuring students have the best experience possible during their studies at Edinburgh”, and that it has made efforts to enhance student experiences in recent years.

“This includes the implementation of a new model of student support focused on providing an improved approach to advice and wellbeing, with dedicated staff on hand to support students in their Schools. We continue to work with students and listen to feedback to identify areas where we can deliver positive change that benefits our community”.

Survey results in full:

  • Do you enjoy attending Edinburgh University? Yes 85 per cent, No 15 per cent
  • Does the university do enough to support students?: Yes 19 per cent, No 81 per cent
  • Has your mental health deteriorated at university?: Yes 59 per cent, No 41 per cent
  • Do you regret your subject choice?: Yes 29 per cent, No 71 per cent
  • Do you think you’d be happier at another university?: Yes 19 per cent, No 81 per cent

Issues regarding classism and lack of support for students from state schools and working-class backgrounds were particularly widespread in the survey.

Issues regarding classism and lack of support for students from state schools and working-class backgrounds were particularly widespread in the survey.

The findings follow repeated reports of issues of classism at the university. In December, the university was accused of “upholding its elite reputation” by selling signet rings in its gift shop for £825. There is also evidence of accent discrimination against Scottish students, and a student group launched a campaign for a one-off cost of living payment in 2022.

Respondents remarked: “I wish I’d gone to a less private school uni”. One student described her time at the university as “such a clique experience”, adding that it is “very hard to fit in if you don’t come from money/private school”. Another said, “It’s so hard being at this uni if you’re not rich, feels like you can’t keep up”.

However, not all the responses with negative. Along with 85 per cent of poll voters saying they enjoy attending Edinburgh overall, students said: “I think the uni do a lot compared to others”, and that “the professors here are so much more approachable” than at other universities.

“All the societies properly value your health”, wrote one student, with another agreeing that “sport has made my time here, I’m extremely grateful for my club and the sports union”.

Despite this, 19 per cent of respondents believe they would be happier at another university, citing significant concerns about the negative experiences many students are undergoing at the university.

Our survey also revealed that 29 per cent of students regret their subject choice. One student shared: “I think the course switching system is too limiting. I’m doing engineering, and I hate it but can’t change.” Further participants in the survey complained about “random timetabling changes without (or with very little) notice”.

Referring to the university’s annual revenue, one student told the Edinburgh Tab that the university is “just making money for themselves”.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh University told the Edinburgh Tab: “The University is fully committed to ensuring students have the best experience possible during their studies at Edinburgh. We recognise that many students will face challenges, and we have put considerable effort into enhancing their experience and increasing the support available to them over the past few years.

“This includes the implementation of a new model of student support focused on providing an improved approach to advice and wellbeing, with dedicated staff on hand to support students in their Schools. We continue to work with students and listen to feedback to identify areas where we can deliver positive change that benefits our community. We would encourage final-year students to complete this year’s National Student Survey released [on Monday 6 February]. This is the official, nation-wide survey that universities and colleges use to inform changes that will help improve future students’ experiences.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, Calm (Campaign against living miserably) on 0800 58 58 58, and Student Minds online here. You matter.

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