• 37% say state of mental wellbeing has declined since starting higher education
  • 55% of students surveyed have considered leaving higher education
  • Primary cause is experiencing mental health related issues

Over a third of UK students (37%) are experiencing their state of mental wellbeing changing for the worse since starting higher education, according to a new report published today, by specialist recruiter Randstad.

The 2020 ‘a degree of uncertainty: student wellbeing in higher education.’ report, based on a survey of over 1,800 students about their current state of mental wellbeing, suggests that the state of mental health in higher education is deteriorating, with 64% of respondents claiming that their studies and university lifestyle impacts state of wellbeing negatively. 

The new report also discovered that over half (55%) have considered leaving their course. Of those that have considered leaving, 71% said that access to DSA (Disabled Students’ Allowance) and support they received, encouraged them to continue with their studies. 

Nearly one in five students (18%) reported that academic stress was the dominant factor affecting their mental wellbeing. The increasing pressures of higher education and sudden changes of lifestyle as students adapt to university life mean that one in 16 don’t make it into their second year of university, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. One in ten also stated that they were not getting enough support from their place of study, which was a contributing factor towards considering to exit higher education. 

Victoria Short, Managing Director of Randstad Public Services said: “There are thousands of students across the country who have a disability, a mental health condition or learning difficulties who can benefit from Disabled Students’ Allowances. Not everyone knows that DSA exists however; nearly a quarter of those surveyed were not aware they had the invaluable service available to them, which 96% recommend taking advantage of. 74% of those surveyed stated that DSA support had a positive impact on studies and helped to achieve higher grades, further supporting the benefits of such an incredible scheme. Our new report highlights some of the concerning issues and contributors towards poor mental health among students. Universities need to be doing more to support students’ needs. Although being able to access DSA is beneficial for those that need it is a step in the right direction, higher education institutes need to be more forthcoming in promoting the benefits. There is a need to create a more open culture to discuss any potential barriers to learning, such as poor mental wellbeing.”

Top five factors impacting student mental wellbeing.

Reason                                              Percentage of respondents 

Academic stress                                18%

Financial pressures                           14%

Balancing studies with work             10%

Making friends/social pressures      10%

Health conditions                             10%

Findings from the new report suggest that the state of mental wellbeing has taken a sharp decline compared to the same period two years prior. 55% of respondents are considering leaving due to the above factors in 2019, compared to 46% in 2017. With academic stress and financial pressures being the top two reasons impacting student mental health, it’s clear that little progress has been made and UK students are increasingly needing further support in order to maintain a healthy mindset. 

The ramifications may be even more serious in the future.  According to the 2019 Support for Disabled Students in Higher Education in England government report, the number of students reporting they have a mental health condition has doubled since 2014/15. Findings from the 2020 report suggest that this is on the rise.

Randstad Student Support is the biggest national provider of non-medical higher support to students in higher education. Randstad works with university counselling and wellbeing services to reduce waiting lists and provide much-needed counselling support to their students, along with providing wellbeing mentors to support students with short-term “stressors” to stay on track and engaged with their studies. 


About Randstad

Randstad is an HR services business active in 38 countries around the world.  In 2018, Randstad trained over 300,000 people and helped more than 2.5 million candidates find a job with one of 250,000 clients.  In 2018, Randstad had approximately 39,000 corporate employees and generated revenue of € 23.8 billion. Randstad was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands. Randstad N.V. is listed on the NYSE Euronext.  Randstad is a global leader in the HR services industry, supporting people and organisations in realising their true potential by combining the power of today’s technology with a passion for people. For more information, see www.randstad.co.uk.


Full report can be downloaded from https://www.randstad.co.uk/employers/areas-of-expertise/student-support/student-mental-health-report-2020/