Features | By Nick Chambers

Establishing a thriving wellbeing community at City

Learning through the Covid pandemic and then dealing with the cost-of-living crisis has placed a huge burden on the wellbeing of many students.


Delivering the best student experience possible is at the heart of City’s Vision and Strategy 2030. With this as a driver, City’s Student Health & Wellbeing department has responded to the challenges of recent years with a raft of positive changes.


The Department is split into four services:


  • Student Health and Wellbeing Engagement Service – offering first contact conversations, drop-in sessions and individual consultations around general wellbeing.
  • Student Disability and Neurodiversity Service – offering support and guidance, including reasonable adjustments for students with long-term health conditions, physical disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder. The service also offers personalised study skills advice.
  • Student Mental Health Service – offering practical and emotional support throughout, including specialist mentoring support and reasonable adjustment recommendations.
  • Student Counselling Service – offering confidential counselling support, helping students understand any issues or difficulties which may affect wellbeing, and help them learn how to manage their psychological health.


Each service has worked with students and staff to simplify processes, introduce new systems, and improve engagement.

Streamlining support


A single point of access e-referral system has been introduced, where the new Engagement Service triages students to the right source of support, and leads to the development of a personal support package.


After the first eight months of operation, the system led to over 1,400 new referrals.


For the most complex and high-risk students, a Mental Health Duty system has been established to ensure swift referral to the Mental Health Duty Advisor, who then makes several attempts to contact the student, de-escalate the risk and ensure their ongoing safety within 24 hours.

Wellbeing community at City

Assessing the support needed prior to arrival


While some students may come to university already aware of where they need additional support, others may not have had this opportunity or received a formal diagnosis. To help tackle this, a diagnostic assessment reimbursement scheme has been introduced so that students can receive assessments well ahead of their arrival at City, ensuring they have support already in place when they start.

Enabling access in a variety of ways


The Student Health & Wellbeing team has taken on board feedback to ensure students can access support in a variety of ways which work for them.


Working with the NHS, they have developed a series of 19 accessible self-help guides, bespoke for City students, that cover topics such as anxiety, depression, sleep and many more. They are available from a digital bookshelf, to download as a PDF or listen to in audio format.


The University has also invested in a new CityWellbeing app that both students and staff can access and is personalised for each stage of the student life cycle.

Centered around five ways to better wellbeing (Be active, Connect, Take notice, Keep learning, and Give), the app provides users with the tools to build healthy, small positive habits into their everyday lives. Most of all, the app is backed by Charley, an AI wellness coach that builds a connection with users through interactions and recommendations, one-to-one support and coaching through clinically approved interventions.

New sensory room


For neurodiverse students and staff who may need to take a break, whether from information overload during lectures, anxiety around assessments or simply needing to recharge before facing the daily demands of university life, a new sensory room has been opened. This safe and peaceful space is equipped with the likes of:


  • Audio systems for relaxing music
  • Scent dispensers to calm the senses
  • Psychedelic lighting for a peaceful and inviting ambiance
  • Bubble wrap for sensory input
  • Hand silhouettes to help ground oneself
  • Massage chair for physical relaxation.


To further support neurodiverse students, the Disability and Neurodiverse Service has rolled out a neurodiversity training programme across City’s Schools, to ensure that academic colleagues are best prepared to support these students from the beginning of their studies.


James Saward, Head of Student Health and Wellbeing, reflects on the progress the team has made:

“Over the last year, our focus has been on developing an innovative, inclusive, and inviting Student Health & Wellbeing team. Through reviewing our systems and processes, we hope that we have enhanced the student experience of our services, enabling students to share their stories when it suits them. It’s our privilege to be able to support our students throughout their student journey and help them achieve their goals during their time with us.”

Wellbeing community at City
The Student Health and Wellbeing team were awarded ‘Team of the Year’ at the 2023 Staff Excellence Awards.