UofG one of many universities unaware of student suicide deaths

University of Glasgow Main Building

Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Madeleine Baker

Bethany Woodhead
Editor-in-Chief

The University of Glasgow is one of many leading UK universities who have been found to be unaware of how many of their students have died by suicide.

An investigation shows that 55% of some of the UK’s leading universities are unaware of how many of their students are dying by suicide.

The University of Glasgow is amongst the list of universities contacted in an investigation by The Tab that do not record student suicides. Other universities that do not record them include Edinburgh, King’s College London, Durham, and St. Andrews.

Of the 62 universities contacted, 10 institutions – including Warwick, Birmingham, and Sheffield – did not respond. Some universities cited privacy concerns when asked for specific numerical data.

MP Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing & Social Care and Transport, described universities’ lack of information on the matter as “incredibly alarming,” stating: “We are in the middle of a student mental health crisis, and if universities don’t even collect data necessary to tackle this then they are letting down their students.”

Universities are being encouraged to follow the likes of the University of Stirling who, since 2017, have been actively recording student suicides.

Stirling University’s Dean for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion said: “We felt it would be useful to be informed about it because, like anything, when we have more information, we’re able to then tailor our response and our strategy and our resources to the issues that might come up. […]

“We will record this data if we are formally informed that that is the cause of death. Typically, we would know that through discussions with the family or the police.”

Most universities highlighted that their lack of data was due to the fact coroners do not routinely inform them of their decisions surrounding cause of death. However, the coroner in the case of Ben Murray – a Bristol student who took his own life in May 2018 – told the University of Bristol that they should be investigating every student death. Ben was the 10th student in two years from the University to die by suicide.

Despite a stronger sentiment from universities and government ministers alike about the importance of student mental health and wellbeing, and the increased funding into mental health support and services, some institutions emphasised the limits of their responsibility, citing the nationwide data collection on student suicides by the Office for National Statistics as the reason not to collect specific university-level information.

A Universities UK spokesperson responded: “Universities are not required to disclose specific information on how many of their students have died by suicide as in some cases relatively low numbers mean that such information could easily identify families and friends and create further risk. However, universities should look into each student death to understand causes and improve practice.”

When asked for comment, a University of Glasgow spokesperson stated: “The university records the number but not the cause of student deaths.”

If you struggle with mental health issues or would like to speak to someone, please contact Glasgow Samaritans for free on 116 123 or get in touch with the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services on 0141 330 4528. In an emergency always dial 999.