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A new toolkit to enhance student mental health

08 Feb 2022 | Professor Sally Bradley As the toolkit “Education for Mental Health: Enhancing Student Mental Health through Curriculum and Pedagogy” is launched, Sally Bradley shares her thoughts on the importance of embedding student mental health in the curriculum.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “This is nothing to do with me, I’m not a student counsellor.” Think again! Curriculum, defined in terms of overall experience in study, and the design of the curriculum is central to the student experience in higher education. It is through this that assessed learning takes place. The curriculum is part of the student experience.  

Yet, curriculum is not straight forward, what about the hidden curriculum – beliefs and expectations; values – and where does informal learning sit? 

Or maybe you are thinking, “Oh just another thing to include…What about my content? That’s what the curriculum is about!” But you want your students to engage in your subject, don’t you? So designing the curriculum which is meaningful, scaffolded and facilitates deep learning would be beneficial to you and your students!

Don’t we all want our students to thrive and flourish?

Education for Mental Health: Enhancing Student Mental Health through Curriculum and Pedagogy takes a broad view regarding curriculum, from the perspective of design through delivery to assessment. If curriculum design, implementation, and assessment are seen as core to the student experience then mental wellbeing must be embedded within it, rather than something which is an afterthought. The model used in the toolkit is from Kraut (2009) where optimising wellbeing should enable students to flourish.

That is our aim, a positive student experience, isn’t it?  Easy to say, difficult to implement? 

The toolkit offers resources, evidence, key learning and tips for embedding student mental health within the curriculum. The publication provides case studies and evidence which demonstrate how curriculum design can support both wellbeing and learning and therefore of benefit to all involved in curriculum design, delivery and assessment. A well designed and scaffolded curriculum can have a positive impact on wellbeing and in turn better and deeper learning, and indeed better levels of student satisfaction. A curriculum with embedded student mental health within it therefore benefits us all.

Student mental wellbeing is important for all students and staff working with students, in and out of formal teaching spaces. Is it just a UK concern? No! It is global, which our international colleagues are also grappling with as seen in Advance HE’s global collaborative project on student mental wellbeing. But there is a tendency for projects to remain local, or down to one individual driving it. This toolkit provides a reference point to move local initiatives and projects forward into a more structured approach within curriculum design, with student wellbeing embedded rather than being seen as an ‘add on’ or “just another thing to think about”.

The Education for Mental Health: Enhancing Student Mental Health through Curriculum and Pedagogy resource was developed as a partnership between the University of Derby, King’s College London, Aston University, Student Minds and Advance HE. It was funded by the Office for Students via a Challenge Competition. It has been created to provide evidence informed guidance on the ways in which curriculum can support both wellbeing and learning. It is grounded in the research literature and has been created through research and co-creation with students, academics, Quality staff, Learning and Teaching staff and Principal Fellows.

As a result of this extensive collaboration and co-creation, the comprehensive toolkit makes embedding student mental health in the curriculum accessible; to individuals, staff groups and whole institutions, with resources which are research and evidence informed as well as staff development activities which have been tried and tested, with case studies alongside. The pedagogy underpinning curriculum design and practices is referenced throughout the resource.

The development activities range from reflection on individual practice and self-directed learning, to group development activities and workshop content. It will be invaluable for Programme Teams as well as Educational Developers and leaders of Post Graduate Certificates in Academic Practice or Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The Curriculum design for mental health and wellbeing: Guidance and resources for learning and teaching development programmes in higher education  provides resources and activities supported by case studies. The resource provides a comprehensive source of pedagogic literature relating to curriculum and student mental health.

The resource will be of benefit to all involved in curriculum design and support, and was developed for academic staff, academic managers, university leaders and all of those involved in the development and delivery of curriculum, within higher education.

After all, we want students in university to thrive and flourish.


Professor Sally Bradley is a Senior Adviser (Professional Learning and Development) at Advance HE and led a global collaborative project on student mental wellbeing and the curriculum, as well as working with the Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning.


Kraut R. (2009). What is good and why. Harvard University Press; Jul 1.2009


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