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What is SENSE?

Mental health problems in students are becoming increasingly common. Up until now, little has been done to understand why this is. We want to understand more about student mental health and wellbeing, so that we can start to improve things.

Starting a new university course often involves a new environment, a different peer group and academic challenges. For many, university also means leaving home, managing finances independently, and starting to develop a new, more adult identity. University can be an exciting time for these reasons, but it can also be difficult.

Our study, SENSE, is a survey of students’ wellbeing and mental health, taking into account the factors that make university life unique. We’re asking about finances, living situation, workload, and more, and looking at how these may impact on feelings such as loneliness, life satisfaction and symptoms of depression and anxiety. We will also be looking at how students’ wellbeing and mental health changes over the academic year.

We are already working with the relevant UCL departments and UCL Students’ Union to increase the impact of the SENSE study findings. Your participation could help inspire changes to policy, university wellbeing initiatives and student support services.

The final wave of the survey is now live, open to all those who completed the first wave a year ago.


"The mental health of our students is a priority for UCL, and researchers from across our institution have worked together to create the SENSE survey. I look forward to seeing the outputs of this research to improve our understanding of students’ needs and to ensure the support we offer is tailored to those needs."

Professor Anthony Smith, UCL Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs)


News & Updates

The final phase of SENSE is now complete! (Nov 2020)

The fourth and final phase of SENSE is complete! We had a really great turnout and are so grateful to everyone who took part. We will now get on with analysing the data - check back here and follow us on Twitter for updates.

SENSE phase 3 is now complete! (July 2020)

Lots of our wonderful participants took part in the SENSE survey again for phase 3 - thank you all! This phase included some questions on how students have been affected by COVID-19.

SENSE phase 2 is now complete! (March 2020)

Thank you to everyone who participated. This will help us understand whether students' mental health and wellbeing changes across the academic year. Look out for phase 3!

Happy New Year! (Jan 2020)

Welcome back, UCL students! Hope everyone had a lovely festive break. Thanks again to everyone who took part in wave 1 of the SENSE survey last term - we had over 3,000 responses!

SENSE launch (Oct 2019)

Look out for the SENSE team around the UCL campus! Well be promoting the survey and giving out pens, stickers and flyers from Monday to Wednesday this week. We might even give you a chocolate.

Planning the main SENSE study (Oct 2019)

From 1st-3rd October we held consultation groups with current UCL students. Thank you to everyone who came - we got some great feedback on our recruitment processes!



Click to download PDFs of SENSE study materials for your reference.

Participant Information Sheet

This contains all of the details you will need to decide whether to take part in SENSE. It can be viewed at the start of the survey.

Consent form

You will complete this consent form at the beginning of the survey. You can download this for your records.


"UCL and the Union are committed to improving the wellbeing and experience of our students. It is invaluable for us to get a deeper understanding of their needs and how best we can support them, this survey will enable students to tell us in an anonymous and honest way so that we can get a greater understanding and improve our support for them."

Aatikah Malik, Welfare and International Officer, Students' Union UCL


Contact Us

Thank you for your interest in our research.
Please feel free to get in touch with us via Twitter or the SENSE study email address.

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"I am delighted to see the launch of a survey to quantify the prevalence of mental health problems amongst our students. This is such an important issue for UCL. I am sure the results will be enlightening and will be put to good use to address the issues highlighted."

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the Faculty of Brain Sciences


Help and Support

If you would like to seek help for any of the mental health problems discussed in this survey, below are some of the support options available to you.

Support available specifically for UCL students

  • UCL Student Support and Wellbeing: a team of expert wellbeing, disability and mental health advisers, offering a range of support for students, including confidential meetings, daily drop-in sessions and advice on extenuating circumstances and interrupting studies. You can call 0207 679 0100, email here, or find more information here.

  • UCL Student Psychological and Counselling Services: a free service providing short-term counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, psychiatric support and psycho-educational groups to help you deal with a range of personal, emotional and psychological concerns. Find more information here.

  • UCL Student Funding Advisors: confidential financial support, advice and guidance for UCL students struggling with money management or complex funding issues. Email here to enquire or book an appointment, or find more information here.

  • Care First: counselling support available by telephone or online (instant messaging) out of hours (during UCL closure, weekends, bank holidays and overnight). Provide advice and guidance on a range of issues related to university and home life. Call 0800 197 4510 or click here.

Support outside UCL

  • If you need formal support with your mental health then you can discuss this with your GP.

  • If you feel at risk of harming yourself, please discuss this with your GP or go to your nearest hospital A&E department.

  • Samaritans: a free, 24-hour confidential listening and support service for people experiencing feelings of distress (call 116 123)

  • Nightline: a confidential listening, support and practical information service for students by students, open 6pm to 8am every night of term (call 0207 631 0101, text 07717 989 900, email here)

  • Papyrus Hopeline: Provides information and support for anyone under 35 who is struggling with suicidal feelings, or anyone concerned about a young person who might be struggling, open weekdays 10am-10pm and weekends 2pm-10pm (call 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209 697).

  • iCope: A confidential NHS psychological therapy service for those over 18 registered with a Camden, Islington or Kingston GP. Find more information and request an appointment here.

  • Shout: a 24-hour crisis text line for people struggling to cope who need immediate help (text 85258).

  • Beat eating disorders: free, confidential telephone helplines, web chat and online support groups providing information and support for people who have or are worried they have an eating disorder. Click here.

  • Drinkline & Drinkchat: free, confidential advice for anyone concerned about their drinking or someone else’s. Call 0300 123 1110 9am-8pm weekdays or 11am-4pm weekends, or chat online here.


The SENSE team

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Tayla McCloud

PhD student in the UCL Division of Psychiatry.

SENSE is my PhD project, and I am passionate about improving student mental health. I am particularly interested in the impact of socio-demographics and financial factors. 

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Dr Laura Gibbon

Teaching Fellow and Clinical Psychologist, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, UCL.

My work focuses on student mental health. I want to make sure clinical practice in this area is based on the best available evidence.


Phoebe Barnett

PhD student in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, UCL.

I am interested in the effectiveness of mental health support and interventions for university students. 


Professor Glyn Lewis

Psychiatrist and Director of the Division of Psychiatry, UCL.

My research investigates the causes of psychiatric disorders, and aims to improve care for people with mental health problems.


Professor Peter Fonagy (OBE)

Head of Division of Psychology & Language Sciences, UCL.

My work aims to integrate research with psychoanalytic ideas to improve the mental health of children, young people, and adults.


Professor Claire Callender (OBE)

Professor of Higher Education Policy at Birkbeck and UCL IOE.

My key interests are higher education student finances, student loan debt, and improving access to higher education.


Professor Steve Pilling

Professor of Clinical Psychology and Clinical Effectiveness, UCL.

I am interested in health services and psychological treatments research. I also bring together evidence to produce guidelines for UK mental health services.


Professor Emla Fitzsimons

Professor of Economics, UCL IOE.

I am Director of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, and have lots of experience conducting longitudinal research with young people. My research focuses on how early life experiences can affect later life.


Dr Praveetha Patalay

Associate Professor, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL.

I focus on the development, risk/protective factors and consequences of mental ill-health, and ways to promote wellbeing.


Professor Essi Viding

Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, UCL. 

My work centres around children and young people, in particular vulnerability and resilience.


Dr Gemma Lewis

Research Associate, Division of Psychiatry, UCL.

I research the causes, prevention, and treatment of common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety in young people. 


Kirsty Nisbet

Research Coordinator, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, UCL.

I am interested in research into young people’s mental health, particularly evidence-based prevention and treatments.


Sponsors and collaborators

We would like to thank the following sponsors and collaborators for their involvement in SENSE.

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