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Northumbria University to use data analytics to support student mental health


Northumbria University will develop ways to use new sources of data to support the mental health of students, as part of a £14.5 million programme led by the Office for Students.

Northumbria is developing an Early Alert Tool designed to identify students in mental health crisis. In common with other universities it already analyses data it holds on grades, lecture attendance, library and virtual learning environment use, but the £2 million project aims to extend this.

“This project brings together the best ideas alongside cutting edge analytical technology to support all students, with the goal of seeing how big data can support a thriving student community,” Professor Peter Francis, deputy vice chancellor and project lead, said. “We will build an understanding of how a student gets into a state of crisis and whether joined up collected data can generate the targeted personalised support that they require.”

The university will work with Universities UK, Bristol University, Buckinghamshire New University, University of East London, Microsoft, Civitas, Student Room Group, Jisc and charity Papyrus on the project, as well as student unions of the universities involved. It hopes to complete the project by 2021 with the aim of producing outputs that can be used across higher education.

One other of the 10 projects funded by the Office for Students is technology focused. The University of Derby will lead a £2 million project to create a national online toolkit for academics offering guidance on improving student mental health. It is working with Aston University, King’s College London, Advance HE and Student Minds.

“Our focus is on the curriculum, as it is the only point of guaranteed contact between a university and its students,” said Gareth Hughes, research and innovation lead for student wellbeing at the university. “Evidence from research has shown that how students are taught and assessed can have both positive and negative impacts on both their mental health and learning.”


Image by rawdonfox,CC 2.0 through flickr

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