New Digital Peer Support Networks to Help Transition from School to University

Students going to university for the first time will be able to access new peer-to-peer support networks in person and online to help smooth the transition to higher education as part of a major new Government-backed project.

The initiative, led by the University of Lincoln, UK, is designed to support students’ mental health and well-being, particularly in relation to the transition from school to university. It will combine traditional face-to-face support with a new suite of digital tools and content, created by students for students.

The project is being driven by a cross-disciplinary team of staff and students from the University and other further and higher education institutions in the city who will develop processes, procedures and tools to enable students to support each other and themselves as they prepare for, enrol at and progress through university.

As well as providing enhanced face-to-face support and other provision for university applicants, the team will also develop of a range of digital tools, platforms and content to enable students to take a self-sufficient approach in their university preparations, integrated into a school outreach programme and embedded in the curriculum.

Project partners include local NHS services, Lincolnshire Police and Lincolnshire County Council, Lincoln College and Bishop Grosseteste University, with digital content creation supported by UniHealth, Fika and Expert Self Care.

Jacqueline Mayer, Head of Student Services at the University of Lincoln, said: “University education is a transformative time for many young people, not just in their academic development but in acquiring independence and life-skills. It is also a very different learning environment to school or college and for many new undergraduates, will be the first time they have lived away from home.

“At Lincoln, we’re focussed on ways we can support students with this transition. Our record on student retention and graduate outcomes, coupled with our approach to student engagement and digital technologies, means we’re well-placed to lead this major new project to enhance mental health and well-being support available for the all-important first year of university, working with stakeholders from across the region. We hope this work will prove valuable not just for our own students, but those in schools, colleges and universities across the UK.”

Charlotte McHugh, Head of Student Services and Supported Education at Lincoln College, said: “Addressing the challenges faced by young people as they transition through further and higher education is a major priority for Lincoln College, particularly in the area of mental health support. It is great that providers of post-16 education and health organisations are working together to achieve a common purpose. We look forward to working with our local partners to ensure this funding achieves genuine positive impact on the lives of young people locally.”

Nick Bennett, Co-Founder and CEO of Fika, said: “We’re proud to be working with the University of Lincoln and the other partners on this innovative step change project – sharing learnings from our own research and app development programme at Fika. Scalable, peer-to-peer solutions and empowering students to consider emotional fitness for themselves and each other during the important transition into university. We are looking forward to helping students build increased confidence and key life skills which will serve them throughout and beyond university.”

The project, ‘Transitioning Students Effectively: a student-led approach to mental health support’, is funded with a grant of £736,000 from the Office for Students through its challenge competition to achieve a step change in mental health outcomes for all students.