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Closed petition Create statutory legal duty of care for students in Higher Education

No general statutory duty of care exists in HE. Yet, a duty of care is owed to students, and the Government should legislate for this. HE providers should know what their duty is. Students must know what they can expect. Parents expect their children to be safe at university.

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The mental health, safety and well-being of HE students should be a Government priority. Student engagement, retention and success should be another. Both are indisputably linked to the duty of care students receive.

A duty of care already exists for staff, and for students under the age of 18 in HE. There should be parity in duty of care for all members of the HE community.

This is not a petition for ‘in loco parentis’ or for duplication of the NHS. We only seek parity and legislative clarity on duty of care for all students.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

128,292 signatures

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 5 June 2023

Watch the petition 'Create statutory legal duty of care for students in Higher Education' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 20 January 2023

Higher Education providers already have a general duty of care not to cause harm to their students through their own actions.

Higher Education providers do have a general duty of care to deliver educational and pastoral services to the standard of an ordinarily competent institution and, in carrying out these services, they are expected to act reasonably to protect the health, safety and welfare of their students. This can be summed up as providers owing a duty of care to not cause harm to their students through the university’s own actions.

Over the last decade, higher education providers have devoted considerable resources to their student support services, and a good deal of support is now widely provided to students who struggle with their mental health. However, tragically suicides do still occur in higher education, and investigations into the circumstances of such deaths have sometimes shown the support offered by the university was not all it might have been. We have encouraged universities to learn from such cases and redouble their prevention efforts. Former Higher Education Minister Donelan wrote to vice chancellors specifically on this subject in both July 2021 and December 2021.

We acknowledge the profound and lasting impact a young person’s suicide has upon their family and friends, and know among the petitioners there are those who have personal experience of these devastating, tragic events. While press narratives often suggest students are an at-risk population, ONS data May 2022 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/estimatingsuicideamonghighereducationstudentsenglandandwalesexperimentalstatistics/2017to2020) shows a significantly lower suicide rate in HE students compared with the wider population (including students) of similar age. This is supported by Figure 6 from the linked ONS publication, and the third bullet point at the top of the page. We, therefore, feel further legislation to create a statutory duty of care, where such a duty already exists, would be a disproportionate response.

Department for Education

Share your views on a statutory duty of care for higher education students:

The MPs on the Petitions Committee have scheduled a debate on this petition.

Nick Fletcher MP, a member of the Petitions Committee, has been asked to open the debate, which will take place on Monday 5 June.

Share your views

To inform the debate, we would like to hear from you about your experience of and views on mental health support at universities.

You can share your views with us by completing this survey: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=nt3mHDeziEC-Xo277ASzSpMLsAawCSdBvMh9cdt5o9ZUQ0U4MzIxNlRFUUNPWEtMUVE4MjExRjA4Ny4u

The survey will close on Thursday 4 May at 10am.

Your responses will be anonymous. A summary of responses will be published on the Parliament website. It will also be shared with MPs and may be referred to in the debate or within other parliamentary documents. Please don't share anything that may identify you.

Watch the debate

The debate will take place on Monday 5 June at 4.30pm.

What are petitions debates?

Petitions debates are ‘general’ debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

Petition debates don’t end with a vote to implement the request of a petition. This means that MPs will not vote on changing indefinite leave to remain fees at the end of the debate.

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MPs to discuss calls for a statutory duty of care towards higher education students

On Tuesday 16 May at 3.30pm, MPs will hear from petitioners about their call for a statutory duty of care towards higher education students. The Committee will also hear from representatives of charities, the NUS, universities and student service providers.

A written transcript of the evidence session will be published on our website a few days after the meeting.

What are evidence sessions?

Evidence sessions are public meetings with experts, officials or people with personal experiences of the topic being examined. Evidence sessions help Committees to understand how Government policies are working in the real world, and what needs to change to make things better.

Debate on a statutory duty of care for higher education students

This evidence session will help MPs to better understand the context behind the petition you signed, calling for a statutory duty of care for higher education students to be introduced, which will be debated on Monday 5 June at 4.30pm.

What are petitions debates?

Petitions debates are ‘general’ debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

Petition debates don’t end with a vote to implement the request of a petition. This means that MPs will not vote on whether to introduce a statutory duty of care for higher education students.

Get involved in the work of the UK Parliament

Sign up to the Your UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference.

Government publishes a new National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England

On Monday 11 September the Minister for Mental Health and Women's Health, Maria Caulfield MP, announced a new National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England. This refreshes the national strategy for England that was published in 2012.

The suicide prevention strategy

The Strategy outlines actions across national government departments, the NHS, local government, employers, the voluntary sector and others. It includes new priority areas of action, such as improving online safety, addressing the links between suicide and factors such as gambling and domestic abuse, and combatting different methods of suicide.

The strategy aims to half the number of suicides over the next five years and also set outs measures to improve support for people who have self-harmed and those bereaved by suicide.

The Government has said it will continue to review progress and update actions within the strategy.

What are written statements?

Written ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to keep Parliament up to date with Government policies and actions, including its response to major issues or incidents, and to put this information into the public domain.

Find out more about written statements