Richard Harman letter to The Times: Schools and responsibility for how undergraduates handle the next step

The Times, 01/04/15, Richard Harman, Chairman of HMC writes in response to the article on pastoral care at University.


The completely lop-sided slant given to yesterday’s story about undergraduate mental health (Spoon-fed private pupils less able cope at university 29.3.15) left Times readers with a distorted view. In fact, independent school pupils continue to do better on all the main measures of achievement at university, including the proportion who complete their course.

HMC schools help pupils build resilience and independence, so this is not surprising.  However, to describe excellent pastoral care as spoon-feeding is surprising at a time when your newspaper’s important Time to Mind mental health campaign is calling for improved services and understanding of childhood mental health.  The NUS, vice-chancellors, heads from state and independent schools and college leaders are all concerned about the new tidal wave of pressures that 16-21 year olds face and that is why the HMC has taken a lead in addressing ways to create better transitions for students from school to university.

In this light Professor Ferudi resembles King Canute. He may wish that the move from school or college to university was a ‘normal event’ for those young people who make it, but the facts are against him.  The number of undergraduates disclosing mental health problems has doubled over a decade while 60% of students experiencing mental health difficulties keep these private from their university.  All steps to understand why this is so are to be welcomed.

Richard Harman

HMC Chairman

Read the letter © The Times