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UPP Foundation backs ground-breaking study on barriers to accessing counselling for vulnerable students

£40k grant will fund Birkbeck, University of London's 'Outreach Student Counselling Project'

Birkbeck, University of London

The UPP Foundation, a charitable trust created by University Partnerships Programme (UPP) to help tackle the biggest issues facing the higher education sector across the UK, has today announced it is to award £40k to Birkbeck’s ‘Outreach Student Counselling Project’ – a study that aims to improve the retention of ‘outlier’ students by identifying the key challenges they face when accessing counselling.

Birkbeck’s Counselling Service has identified a number of groups of students that are less likely to access counselling whilst at University, which include men, refugees and care-leavers. As a result, common and potentially preventable struggles during study are not addressed, leading to high drop-out rates. The ‘Outreach Student Counselling Project’ aims to improve retention by helping more outlier students stay on track and complete their studies.

The 2-year project will comprise four stages and instigate a long-term, sustainable provision for outlier students. The research involved in Stage 1 of the project will identify key challenges faced by outlier student groups through drawing on research and information gathered by Birkbeck’s Counselling Service, Birkbeck’s Widening Access team and links already established by the Counselling Service across the Higher Education Counselling Sector. Further development and piloting of the programme will be rolled out in Stage 2, before full implementation and evaluation are applied in Stages 3 and 4, respectively.

Through better informed, tailored counselling provision, the Outreach Student Counselling Project aims to improve the wellbeing of outlier students who are experiencing emotional difficulties which are impacting upon their studies, confidence and experience at Birkbeck. A report of the findings will be developed and disseminated across the sector.

The £40k grant to Birkbeck, University of London, is the latest in a series of projects being backed by the UPP Foundation. Dr Paul Marshall, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the UPP Foundation, said: “This collaboration between the UPP Foundation and Birkbeck covers entirely new ground and stands to impact significantly on the lives of vulnerable students. We are confident that through a partnership with Birkbeck, the UPP Foundation can better understand the needs of these groups and address them directly.

“By sharing our findings, we envisage wider benefit for the higher education sector which can draw lessons from the innovative approach to counselling, developed by this project.”

Commenting on the partnership, Eleanor Mongey, Head of Student Services at Birkbeck, University of London, said: “Having this unique resource will allow us to target some of our most disadvantaged students at Birkbeck. To offer an opportunity for these students to access a bespoke service – and hopefully enable them to overcome the challenges they are experiencing – will, we hope, reduce drop-out rates, improve students’ mental wellbeing and, ultimately, change lives.”

Richard Brabner

Richard Brabner was appointed Head of UPP Foundation in July 2016. Working with the trustees, he sets its strategy and leads on all aspects of the UPP Foundation’s activities. Mr Brabner joined UPP in 2015 as Business Development Manager and his responsibilities included setting up the UPP Foundation.

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