Thriving Learners

1. Thriving Learners Survey


The Thriving Learners study aims to gain understanding of the mental health and wellbeing of Scottish learners that will lead to recommendations on prevention, early intervention and support of learners’ mental health and wellbeing within higher education institutions.  This is the first study of its kind to focus solely on the mental health and wellbeing of students in Scotland.

This work is being conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with support from Universities Scotland and is funded by The Robertson Trust.

What is the purpose of this research?
Thriving Learners will be the largest research study of its kind aiming to build a better understanding of mental health and wellbeing of students in Scotland. These findings will lead to recommendations on prevention, early intervention and support of learners’ mental health and wellbeing within higher education institutions. The first phase of this work is a survey that seeks to understand the current state and prevalence of student mental health and wellbeing in Scotland. All universities in Scotland are in full support of this work with oversight provided by the Universities Scotland Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Group chaired by Professor Pamela Gillies (Principal, Glasgow Caledonian University and Universities Scotland’s elected Lead Member for Mental Health). 

The objectives of the study are to:
  • Investigate the current state and prevalence of student mental health and wellbeing in Scotland.
  • Explore the landscape of provision within each institution including networks, collaborations and gaps between institution supports, local NHS services and community services and networks.
  • Explore the relationship between a range of risk and protective factors on learners mental health and wellbeing and experiences of support.  These will include adverse childhood experiences and other life experiences, quality of relationships and social connections, and individual health behaviours.  
  • Understand what supports and protects mental health and wellbeing of learners in relation to personal networks, membership of groups and societies and availability/access to specific mental health services.
  • Identify evidence of what works/emerging positive practice to prevent mental health problems and promote wellbeing among learners.

Do you have to take part?
Participation in this survey is entirely voluntary. Furthermore, you can withdraw your participation at any point during the survey if you so desire.

If you chose not to take part with the survey then please close this page or click ‘No’ at the consent question at the bottom of the page. If you decide part way through the survey that you no longer want to take part then close the webpage.

What will you do in the project?
The research involves completing this survey.  This survey should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. The survey will ask about a range of wellbeing and mental health topics to help us understand the current state of student mental health and wellbeing within Scotland.

At the end of the survey you will be asked if you would like to participate in a prize draw for completing the survey. There are two £75 prizes and a one £50 prize per institution. If you agree to take part in the prize draw then you will be provided with a link to where you can enter your details.

The survey will be open until 5pm Wednesday 31st March 2021.

Why have you been invited to take part?

Within this first phase of work the Mental Health Foundation are surveying students across all 19 universities within Scotland.  This survey is available to all who are enrolled at a university in Scotland. There are no exceptions to this, the only inclusion criteria is current enrolment at a university in Scotland.

All that is needed to take part is access to the internet to complete the survey.

What are the potential risks to you in taking part?

There are some questions that respondents may find distressing such as questions about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and self-harm. We have included a list of support organisations at the end of this document, which you can contact if you wish you talk to someone should you find any questions distressing.  You will find details of support organisations within this information sheet.

What information is being collected in the project?
We are collecting information on a range of topics concerning student mental health and wellbeing. This includes information on your wellbeing, your mental health, your physical health, your life experiences including adverse childhood experience and whether you are care experienced, your experiences at university and your engagement with student societies and clubs.

If you were a resident in Scotland before starting university you will be asked for your postcode – this will only be used to help provide Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data.

No other identifiable data will be collected in this survey.

Who will have access to the information?

Only the named Researchers at the Mental Health Foundation will have access to the raw data. If data analysis is required to be carried out by an additional researcher, all identifying information (i.e. postcode data) will be removed prior to the analysis.  The exception to this is should the named researcher leave post and/or have a prolonged period of absence and a replacement be required. 

The Thriving Learners project has insight from both a Research Advisory Group (made up of 12 representatives from Scottish universities and other organisations such as Universities Scotland, the Robertson Trust and NUS Scotland) and a Learner Advisory Group (made up of 12 student representatives from a range of universities in Scotland). These groups will not have direct access to any information or data but will help us ensure that our findings are appropriate.

Where will the information be stored and how long will it be kept for?
Survey data will be collected via Smart Survey and stored within the Mental Health Foundation online, cloud-based, password protected storage facility. Once the survey is closed the data will be extracted from Smart Survey and then the data on Smart Survey will be deleted. Survey data will be collated into an overall database using software such as Microsoft Excel and/or SPSS. Aggregate data analysis will be conducted within this software, but all analyses stored within the cloud-based storage facility. All data will be stored and processed in compliance with GDPR rules.

Data will be kept for three years.

Please also read our Privacy Notice

What happens next?
If you would like to find out more about the research then please contact Chris Maguire, Senior Research Officer, at the Mental Health Foundation.

This research will be published in a series of key findings documents later in 2021. Reports with further analysis will be published in due course as well. These reports will be published on the Mental Health Foundation website and will also be shared by Universities Scotland and The Robertson Trust.

It is also intended that there are academic papers published about the findings of this research. 

If you would like to take part in the research then please give your consent at the end of this page and proceed, thank you for taking part.

If you would not like to take part in the research then thank you for your time and nothing further is required of you.

Researcher contact details:
If you have questions about taking part in the research, if you would like more information please get in touch with Chris Maguire, Senior Research Officer at the Mental Health Foundation:                                            

If you have any complaints about the research then please get in touch with Julie Cameron, Associate Director, Scotland and Northern Ireland at the Mental Health Foundation:

Chief Investigator details:
Lee Knifton, Reader, University of Strathclyde

This research was granted a favourable opinion by the University of Strathclyde Ethics Committee.

If you have any questions/concerns, during or after the research, or wish to contact an independent person to whom any questions may be directed or further information may be sought from, please contact:

Secretary to the University Ethics Committee
Research & Knowledge Exchange Services
University of Strathclyde
Graham Hills Building
50 George Street
G1 1QE
Telephone: 0141 548 3707

Please note:
All information collected as part of this research will be treated as confidential and any personally identifying information will be removed so responses are anonymous.
All data you provide (including any audio-recordings) will be stored securely for a maximum of one year following the conclusion of the research, after which it will be securely destroyed.
The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) will conduct this evaluation in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 2018, the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (December 2003) and the General Data Protection Regulation which came into effect on 25th May 2018.