Every four days on average, over the last 10 years in England and Wales, one student in Higher Education has committed suicide, according to the ONS. Campaigners believe the general duty of care required of universities is inadequate and that many of these deaths could have been prevented if there were a clear standard to be followed.
Hilary Grime of Sissinghurst suffered the tragic suicide of her daughter Phoebe, formerly a student of Cranbrook School, at Newcastle University in 2021. Hilary joined forces with other bereaved parents and families to address the situation and formed a group called The Learn Network. She then met with her MP, Helen Grant, in December 2022 and as a result Mrs Grant sponsored and hosted an event in Parliament this week to raise awareness of the situation amongst MPs and Peers.
An online petition was also set up which has received over 128,000 signatures in support. The petition was delivered to No.10 Downing Street on the same day as the event and is expected to trigger a parliamentary debate about the need for a statutory duty of care to be created.
Helen said “Whilst many universities have good pastoral services in place for students at such a vulnerable stage in their lives, a more consistent and robust framework needs to be in place to help safeguard and prevent these tragic deaths. I hope our event today will elevate awareness within Parliament and I very much support a debate being timetabled on this issue.”
Hilary Grime said “A statutory duty of care would establish a minimum standard of professional behaviour. This would clarify the responsibilities of universities to help all students throughout their ‘uni journey’, to protect their safety, health and welfare. The current system is not working, and we need to act now. We cannot bring back those we have tragically lost, but we can save and support current and future students.
“I am carrying on Phoebe's voice and I will never give up this campaign because I believe in what is right and fair, as Phoebe would have done. With a statutory duty of care our universities would become world renowned centres of excellence in pastoral care and guidance, of which we will be very proud.”