UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


SENSE survey

A collaboration with the UCL Division of Psychiatry, IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society, UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Birkbeck, ‘SENSE’ stands for Student mENtal health SurvEy.

Find out more about the SENSE survey at the study website

The number of students reporting a mental health problem to their university is increasing, but not enough is known about the reasons for this. In addition to the risk factors for mental health problems which we know about in the general population, the life of a student may present its own unique challenges: starting a new university course often involves a new environment, establishing new peer groups, and academic challenges which may affect how students feel throughout the year.

SENSE in a longitudinal online survey about life at university, mental health, wellbeing, stressors (e.g. financial difficulties, academic pressure and loneliness) and whether and how students seek support for their mental health. We sent the survey to all UCL students at the start of the 2019/20 academic year, and then followed up respondents at three subsequent time points (each term that year and then the first term of 2020/21).  

We are now starting to analyse the survey data. Findings will be shared on our website, and we will also be feeding this information back to senior leaders at UCL and other key stakeholders, to help inform how students are supported. 

SENSE is coordinated by Tayla McCloud. Find out more about Tayla's research via her departmental profile and twitter.

What is this type of research?

This is an online survey study.

What are they for?

These studies are for inviting the perspectives of a wide range of people about a particular research topic. As online surveys are relatively brief and convenient to complete, they enable researchers to achieve far wider engagement than is feasible in interviews and other in-person research. They also often offer participants anonymity, which can attract people who might not otherwise participate in research. 

How do they work?

Surveys may include a range of questionnaires, such as inviting participants to provide information about their mental health, wider health, their finances, housing, and social and family lives. Responses might be recorded as 'Yes' / 'No' answers, in checkboxes, or on sliding scales. This 'quantitative' framework allows for statistical analysis of participants' responses in order to build a sense of any trends and associations in the data. Follow-up surveys allow researchers to map these trends over time ('longitudinally').