Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group minutes: June 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group on 29 June 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment, and Training
  • Debbie Browett, Scottish Government
  • Steven Paxton, Scottish Government
  • Daniel McCarron, Scottish Government
  • David Leitch, Scottish Government
  • David Lott, Universities Scotland
  • Katie Perrin, University of Stirling
  • Tom Hall, Colleges Scotland
  • Brian Magee, COSCA
  • Steve Mulligan, British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • Emma Roberts, Scottish Funding Council
  • Craig Smith, SAMH
  • Allie Scott, UHI
  • Liam Furby, NUS Scotland
  • Katie Gilbert, NUS Think Positive
  • Eileen Imlah, EIS
  • Stef Black, SPARQS
  • Dr Richmond Davies, Public Health Scotland
  • Stew Fowlie, Scottish Student Sport
  • Lorcan Mullen, UNISON
  • Hannah Axon, COSLA
  • Andy Shanks, University of Edinburgh


  • Julie Sinclair, SAAS
  • Marianne Reilly, Unite the Union
  • Fiona Drouet, Emily Test
  • Jill Stevenson, AMOSSHE
  • Jon Vincent, Glasgow Clyde College
  • Ronnie Millar, University of Edinburgh

Items and actions

Introduction, welcome and apologies

Mr Hepburn welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted apologies from members as listed above.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting, subject to minor textual amendments, were agreed as an accurate record and members approved them for publication on the Scottish Government website.

Revised draft terms of reference (TOR)

Mr Hepburn invited members to comment on the revised TOR.

Stew Fowlie (Student Sport Scotland), commented that it would be helpful for the TOR to include explicit reference to a preventative approach to student wellbeing through all forms of physical activity.

Lorcan Mullen (UNISON), commented that the scope of the group’s activities should also include advising on best practice in relation to institutions’ support for student mental health and wellbeing, including best practice on staff resources, practices and training.

Tom Hall (Colleges Scotland), asked if it would be within the remit of the Group to review the funding methodology for mental health counsellor provision, as this had previously been the task of the Short Life Equity Working Group.

Officials clarified that the Short Life Equity Working Group was set up temporarily to deal with matters related to the allocation of funding for counsellor provision and equity of access. It was anticipated that it will suspend its activities once the issue of allocation of funding for 22/23 had concluded.

Action: Scottish Government officials to update the Draft TOR, in line with member’s comments, and circulate to the Group for agreement by correspondence prior to the next meeting.

Revised timeline of activities

Mr Hepburn invited members to comment on the revised timeline for the Group’s future activities.

Pamela Gillies, commented that there is the need for a discussion between representatives from colleges, universities, and the NHS regarding clinical referral pathways and the joining up of services.

Action: Officials to liaise with the appropriate representatives from the education and health sectors to facilitate this discussion, and update the timeline accordingly.

Liam Furby (NUS Scotland) asked whether the timeline could include scope for urgent actions on student mental health to be taken forward by the Group prior to the completion of the Student Mental Health Action Plan.

Mr Hepburn advised that members can get in touch with officials to raise urgent arising matters at any time and that they can request additions to the agenda of future meetings.

David Lott (Universities Scotland), requested that the topic of student poverty is moved beyond September as Universities Scotland’s proposed roundtable on this subject will take place on 28 September. This would allow for the findings from this work to contribute to the discussion.

Action: Officials to update the timeline to move the discussion on student poverty beyond September 2022.

Craig Smith (SAMH), emphasised the importance of involving students in both the evidence gathering and the review phase, in order to ensure the plan is informed by their lived experience.

Tom Hall (Colleges Scotland), informed the Group that the final research report of the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Thriving Learners’ study, which focusses on the college sector, is anticipated to be released in October.

Eileen Imlah (EIS), asked for further information on the work plan item regarding embedding mental health in the curriculum, noting the broad scope of curricula in Higher and Further education and the particular challenges arising from this.

Action: Officials to share resources on embedding mental health in the curriculum with Eileen and liaise with her in advance of the next meeting.

Presentation on NUS Think Positive

Katie Gilbert, (NUS Think Positive), gave the Group a presentation on the NUS Think Positive Hub and the Student Mental Health Agreement Project.

The Group thanked Katie for her helpful presentation. 

Action: Officials to circulate NUS Think Positive’s resources with the Group after the meeting.

Scottish Government mental health strategy

Lesley McDowall (Scottish Government), provided the Group with an overview of the Scottish Government’s ongoing work to develop a new Mental Health Strategy, emphasising the importance of engaging with students and young people in the process, and encouraged members to participate in the open consultation which is currently live on the Scottish Government website until 9 September.

Officials advised that the link to the consultation had been shared with members prior to the meeting.

Tom Hall (Colleges Scotland), noted the importance of involving key stakeholders such as Children’s Hearings Scotland in the consultation process.

Eilieen Imlah (EIS), commented that the Scottish Government should also look to engage with people who do not have access to further and education or who withdraw from their courses early.

Richmond Davies (Public Health Scotland), asked about the Scottish Government’s timetable for the publication of the strategy. 

Lesley McDowall advised that the strategy is expected to be published around December 2022.

The Group thanked Lesley for her helpful presentation. 

Evidence gathering

Mr Hepburn informed the Group that officials are continually updating the base of evidence that will inform the development of the Student Mental Health Action Plan and invited members to share any relevant material with officials.


There were no further items of business.

Date of next meeting

Mr Hepburn informed members there will be a break for the summer and the date of the next meeting is yet to be confirmed.

Back to top