ENGLAND – While some simply keep no records, many pointed out coroners are under no obligation to tell them if a student’s dies by suicide, our investigation found.
The findings raise questions about whether universities can know if their support services are adequate, with the National Union of Students warning of a “student mental health crisis”.
The union said it was “deeply concerned” about the issue of suicide in higher education.
The publishers of the Yorkshire Post sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all UK universities asking how many of their students had died by suicide since 2018. Of the 114 which replied, 67 (59 per cent) said they did not hold this information.
Five universities refused to divulge the figures while responses from the remaining 42 universities revealed records of at least 120 students having taken their own lives since 2018 – with 15 being at Yorkshire universities.
Leeds Trinity said it held data for student suicides but none have been recorded since 2018.
The University of Huddersfield, The University of Hull, The University of Leeds, Leeds Arts University, Sheffield Hallam University and York St John University provided numbers for deaths of students since 2018 but not numbers of suicides.
They said either they don’t keep that data or it is not provided by coroners while The University of Bradford didn’t respond.
A spokesperson for the National Union of Students said: “Students are burdened with anxiety, feeling overlooked by those in power, and unsupported in addressing the financial difficulties that compound the student mental health crisis.
“Students have been campaigning for university welfare services to improve for many years now, and although we’ve seen additional funding for institutions as a result of our efforts, there is still progress to be made.”
Universities UK, which represents the sector, said: “Universities want to learn from each avoidable student death to improve the ways that we work with statutory services to manage risk.”
It is working with the suicide prevention charities Papyrus and Samaritans on new guidance for universities on what to do after a student takes their own life, due to be published this summer.
A spokesperson said it would be interested in discussing whether coroners could notify a university as standard if one of their students died by suicide.
The spokesperson said: “We would definitely be open to exploring this with coroners and public health authorities and how it could work in practice.”
However, the Ministry of Justice appeared less keen, saying coroners were “already obliged to issue a Prevention of Future Deaths report if they identify any circumstances that need addressing”.
The revelation comes on the eve of an update to a major national report into student suicides by the Office for National Statistics.