18 Jul 2023

Yesterday, on the floor of the House of Commons, Westmorland MP Tim Farron raised his campaign for a statutory duty of care to be imposed on universities over their students.

Tim is a longtime campaigner on the issue and last month put forward the 'Higher Education Students: Statutory Duty of Care' Bill. The Bill would provide students with better support for pastoral care from their universities and came about after the Carrick family from Kendal lost their son Oskar to suicide whilst he was studying at Sheffield Hallam University.

Tragically, Oskar made multiple attempts at his own life and despite him granting explicit consent for medical information to be shared with his parents they were not made aware of them.

In Parliament, Tim asked the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, whether she agreed that this duty of care should exist. He said: "Of course students deserve high-quality education at university.

"They also deserve to be cared for during what is, for most of them, their first time away from home.

"Does the Secretary of State agree with me, and with the families of young people who have tragically taken their own lives at university, that higher education institutions should do more to look out for an protect those students, including by having a statutory duty of care?"

In her response the Minister agreed there should be more support available. She said: "I completely agree. That is why the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education has asked all universities to sign up to the mental health charter."

Speaking afterwards, Tim said: "I found the Minister's response a little disappointing. The mental health charter is voluntary and unless universities face consequences for improper care we cannot guarantee the safety of our children whilst they are there.

"Most cases of mental health issues begin during university when a young person is under a lot of pressure and experiencing significant change in their lives.

"The families of the young people who have taken their own lives at university deserve, at least, to know there is a duty of care in place to prevent what happened to them from happening to someone else."