UCL achieves the University Mental Health Charter Award

University Mental Health Award Logo - Credit: University Mental Health Charter University Mental Health Award Logo - Credit: University Mental Health Charter 

UCL is among the first universities to qualify for the University Mental Health Charter Award which recognises its commitment to continuous improvement in mental health and wellbeing.

The University Mental Health Charter Award is a scheme devised by Universities UK and the charity Student Minds, that aims to encourage universities to develop a whole-university approach to mental health. The Charter Award is a voluntary accreditation scheme that more than 40 universities have signed up for and supports institutions to assess their progress and understand their areas of strength and weakness in mental health and wellbeing.

UCL’s application was initiated by Professor Deborah Gill (then Pro-Vice-Provost Student Experience) in October 2020 and was led by Professor Anthony David, Director of UCL Institute of Mental Health, alongside a large team of representatives which included academics, professional services, students and external partners such as the NHS.

Professor David said: "Every faculty contributed and the University, from the leadership through to every kind of staff and student, was involved - making sure that all voices were heard, all views represented."

The award application included a self-assessment form focused on five overarching domains and 18 themes. The domains were: Learn, Support, Enabling Themes, Work and Live. The self-assessment enabled UCL to examine its approach to working towards the principles of good practice and identify areas for improvement.

Denise Long, UCL’s Director of Student Support and Wellbeing, said: "This was one of the first times that we’ve had an opportunity to reflect on and look at the breadth of what we’re doing across UCL."

Professor David added: "It was vital that we not only showcased our innovation in the area but honestly confronted challenges. We are a huge organisation, and it requires enormous effort to make everyone feel supported and valued all the time in the face of academic, environmental and geo-political challenges."

UCL submitted the final evidence-based self-assessment form, a student-led report and additional evidence in April 2022. The application was followed by a two-day site visit by assessors in July 2022. The assessors met with UCL President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, and a range of panels and focus groups of university staff and students to understand how UCL’s approach works in context.

The final report provided by Universities UK and Student Minds marked each of the 18 themes established in the self-assessment. All themes achieved ratings of "Addressing the Principles of good practice" or higher, which met the Charter Award standards. The Assessment Team identified one theme, Student Voice and Participation, as demonstrating excellent practice. In addition, the report highlighted the positive progress towards almost all the principles of good practice in nine areas including support services, residential accommodation and leadership. The assessment team noted there is a " genuine commitment from the leadership team, managers and staff to honestly identify problems and to seek evidence based, strategic approaches, through cultural change".  

Professor David concluded: "The assessors recognised the high priority given to mental health and wellbeing at UCL; it is one of our ’Grand Challenges’. After all, a mentally healthy university is a productive and successful one."

UCL will need to provide an annual progress report addressing the assessment team’s findings and can re-apply for a higher award in five years.