She was speaking after the release of the annual National Student Survey results which revealed that only 46% of students agreed that their University had taken sufficient steps to support their mental wellbeing during the pandemic.
Said the Foyle MLA: “Throughout the pandemic, students and their representatives have told us time and again of the impact of Covid-19 not only on their studies but also on their mental health.
“We cannot under-estimate the extent of the pandemic’s impact on our young people.
“Students have found themselves trapped and isolated from their peers and learning communities, denied the quality of education they are paying for and have suffered extreme financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, especially those who were left out of the government’s support programs such as international students from outside the EU and part-time students.
“I am aware of the efforts made by Universities this year and the significant public funding that has been granted to help address this problem.
“However, when 46% of our students tell us that we are not doing enough, a change is clearly needed.
“As we recover from the pandemic, senior management of Universities must recognise student mental health as a key priority and do more than pay lip-service to tackling the environmental and structural factors that impact our students’ wellbeing.
“As another academic year approaches, I am calling on Universities to provide clear assurances that student mental health will be prioritised in the year ahead, including by ensuring that institutional plans for visible and holistic mental health support have been put in place, developed in partnership with their Students’ Unions, that will comprehensively address the mental health needs of the students through their recovery from the pandemic.
“Students cannot be expected to continue to pay the price of this pandemic with their mental health.
“It is time for real action.”Tags: