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Counselling Service

PGR Catalyst Project

Students’ mental health

Students’ mental health is a well-known issue that affects and concerns universities across the UK. Yet, the focus is often on undergraduate students and not postgraduate research students, who can be more reluctant to discuss their concerns about and experiences of mental health within their University.

A recent Vitae report highlights the risks among postgraduate research students regarding their wellbeing and mental health, the challenges institutions face, and the effectiveness of support provision.

The HEFCE Catalyst Fund provided £1.5 million for 17 projects to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students. The Office for Students is working with Research England to deliver this scheme. The investments will help develop new practice for the pastoral support of postgraduate research students, and improve training for their supervisors and other staff.

New project focussed on postgraduate research students' mental health

Durham University has been awarded a grant to develop an online educational resource to support postgraduate research students’ mental health and wellbeing. This will focus on the role of the supervisory relationship, and the training resource will help both supervisors and their supervisees.

The aims of the project are to:

  • IIdentify and address mental health needs within the supervisory relationship to promote early intervention
  • Recognise the specific role of supervisors in supporting mental health and wellbeing, and identify the limits of that relationship for resolving wider mental health difficulties
  • Prevent the development or exacerbation of mental health symptoms by identifying the helpful and unhelpful relationship patterns that can emerge in supervision.

Work to create the programme will begin in June 2018 and finish in January 2020. The finished programme will be available nationally, across the Higher Education sector.

The project will be a joint effort between Durham University and three Doctoral Training Partnerships - NINE, Northern Bridge and IAPETUS. Durham Student’s Union are supporting the project and postgraduate research students will be on the Project Reference Group.

Find out more

The project will begin with a series of focus groups for supervisors and supervisees. Details of events will be posted here in future.

To express an interest in the project, or to share your experience of mental issues within the context of postgraduate supervision, please contact