The petition, which expires in May, is pushing for transparency from universities regarding student deaths by suicide.
The petition to present Harry’s Law as legislation now includes a requirement for coroners to inform undersigned if a student death is deemed a suicide.
Last month, The Glasgow Guardian co-signed the petition along with 22 student papers across the nation. In communication with The Glasgow Guardian, the parents of Harry Armstrong-Evans commented:
“The key clauses of ‘Harry’s Law’ relate to the accurate recording and publishing of student suicide information. Without accurate and accessible information it is impossible to solve the problem. The cost is minimal because the information already exists. How can anyone object to the sharing of this information as it has been shown that talking about the issues reduces the number of suicides. It is clear to me that Exeter effectively concealed the number of suicides by saying that by identifying a particular course would identify the student, and would thus contravene data protection. I believe this is rubbish, since data protection does not apply to information already in the public domain or about someone who has already died… Our objective is to make student suicides never events.”
Additionally, the petition is calling for requirements on universities to publish annual data regarding the number of students who die by suicide and the course the student is taking. It would also grant the Department of Education the ability to investigate universities, and place those which have suicide rates higher than the national average, on special measures.
“Prospective students and parents should be able to review suicide rates as a part of the decision-making process when choosing a university,” the petition website reads. Rupert and Alice Armstrong-Evans explained “we are claiming that the promotional prospectuses, in the case of Exeter University, give a totally misleading picture of the kind of welfare support on offer and this amounts to misrepresentation under the Trades Description Act.”
The petition, which ends 8 May 2023 after six months of being open, follows the death of University of Exeter student Harry Armstrong Evans, who lost his life to suicide in 2021. Armstrong Evans and his parents were unaware that another student on the same course took their life a year before Armstrong Evans enrolled at University of Exeter.
The petition currently has 1,675 signatures and requires at least 10,000 in order for a government response. If the petition reaches 100,000, it will be considered for a parliamentary debate.
The Glasgow Guardian reported in January that 43 students died at The University of Glasgow between 2008-2019. However, the University stated they do not keep a record of how the deaths occurred, and added that “it would not be helpful for families or students to speculate on any cause of death.”
The legislation, if it is established, would also provide mental health and suicide prevention training for academic staff, per concerns from the coroner who criticised University if Exerer’s response to Armstrong Evan’s death, the BBC reported.