Everyone should have a safe, healthy and inclusive student experience. Your university or college will provide support to help you during your studies. This is called pastoral support.
If you have additional needs, or if wellbeing and student support is particularly important to you, you might want to consider what each university and college offers as part of your decision about where to apply.
Universities and colleges offer support for a wide range of pastoral issues, including:
- Health and wellbeing (including mental health)
- Accommodation support
- How to stay safe
- Reporting incidents such as bullying and harassment, and sexual misconduct
- Money advice
- Support for students with additional support needs such as carers, care leavers or care experienced young people, and estranged students.
Types of support
Universities and colleges are independent. This means that each university and college will offer different types of support.
Support will depend on the particular issue and may include access to:
- Wellbeing courses or workshops
- Self-help resources and factsheets
- Tailored support including disability services and international students’ services or other tailored support
- Mentoring and peer support
- Counselling and advice services
- Faith-based services
- Signposting to specialist support such as a Rape Crisis Centre, Women’s Aid or Mind.
Your university or college will want to support you to have a positive experience throughout your studies. However, it’s important to understand that they have different responsibilities from schools, or a parent or carer, unless you are from a care experienced background.
Most universities and colleges have a students’ union or guild. These are primarily to represent students’ interests and can provide advice and support on a range of pastoral matters.
Support for care leavers
Universities and colleges often offer additional pastoral support to care leavers or care experienced young people.
You may also be eligible for additional financial support.
Support for disabled students
Universities and colleges have specific support for students with disabilities or additional needs.
This support will depend on your needs and may include reasonable adjustments such as:
- extra time in exams
- providing teaching materials in alternative formats.
You may also be eligible for financial support through Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA).
You will need to give your university or college information about your disability or condition so that you can access this support. You can do this through your UCAS application or directly with them. Making the university or college aware of your needs at an early stage will help it to put agreed support in place sooner.
They may find it helpful to know about Education, Health and Care plans that you have had at school or college, but these are not transferred and will be replaced by the new support arrangements.
Mental health conditions
A mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on a person’s normal day-to-day activity.
This means that you may be able to get additional support from your university or college, including additional financial support or reasonable adjustments to support you in your learning. It’s important that you discuss your needs with the university or college and this can be done confidentially.
GPs or local mental health community teams and other local organisations might be better placed than university and college support teams to support people with mental health conditions.
Informing your university or college of specific needs
You should inform your university or college of any personal circumstances that may affect you while you’re studying as soon as you can. This will help them to offer appropriate support.
They can’t discriminate based on any information you disclose during the application process or while you study with them.
Getting medical care as a student
If you’re moving away from your local area, remember to register with a GP near your university or college so that you can access health services and specialist support quickly. This is particularly important for students with ongoing health conditions, including mental health. The NHS website has more guidance on getting medical care as a student.
Where to find information
University and college websites
There is information on university and college websites about the student experience and the support they offer. This includes how to access support and any eligibility criteria you need to meet.
The university or college’s students’ union or guild should also have information online about its work and the support it can provide.
Information for disabled students
The charity Disability Rights UK has factsheets and guides for students.
UCAS has a list of frequently asked questions to support disabled students.
If you have a disability and are considering a higher or degree apprenticeship, you may find this guidance from the Disabled Students’ Commission useful.
You can find links to information about Disabled Students Allowances in our How will I pay for it? section.
Open days are often a good way of finding out about the support available. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- What is the pastoral support offered by the university/college?
- I have [specific need] – what support would be available for me?
- What kind of support does the Students’ Union offer?
- How are students involved in the design of support services?
- How will the information I share be kept confidential?