Students have criticised UEA’s decision to discontinue its five counselling courses from September 2017. They claim that the withdrawal will have a detrimental impact for students currently studying at the Counselling Centre, campus counselling services, and on local mental health services.

A “Keep Counselling” campaign urges the university to reconsider the decision. In an online petition, students ask UEA to explain how the voluntary counselling that diploma students offer to campus and local mental health services will be met in the future.

The group said: “More than forty students currently study counselling at UEA and those on Diploma courses supply 1,600 hours of free counselling per annum to support students and staff at the university’s Wellbeing Service.”

A university spokesperson said that the closure decision had “not been taken lightly” and “does not reflect a negative view of the value of counselling to the wider community.”

“Rather, it reflects the School of Education and Lifelong Learning’s need for greater alignment of its courses and a more coherent portfolio of activity centred on the teaching of Education theory and practice.”

Clive Lewis, who is running for re-election in Norwich  South, said the closures “remind me very much of the university’s motivation for closing the music department – their first motivation wasn’t to provide services for public good but instead it was business and profit. Our universities must get the balance right between being a viable institution and serving wider public interest.”

The Labour politician added that universities “feel they are being left little alternative but to maximise income from tuition fees to make ends meet. One of the benefits of my party’s policy of ending tuition fees will be to put funding of HE on a fairer and broader footing.”

Students say the university has not effectively liaised with local charities about the decision’s impact.

Keep Counselling state that local charities MIND, Eating Matters, the St Barnabas Counselling Centre, and the 4Cs Counselling Centre in Dereham, will also be affected by a lack of UEA placement students.

They said: “Most charities were unaware of the forthcoming course cancellations and concern is now being voiced about the impact that the sudden loss of mental health provision may have in the region.”

A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said:

“The closures of courses at UEA will damage local mental health services for all, including the university’s own students, staff and families.

The local mental health trust, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), currently has more than 350 unfilled clinical jobs.

It is a great shame that the university is seeking to extract maximum profit rather than choosing to behave as a responsible member of the local community, training students to deliver excellent healthcare. We urge the university to reconsider its decision.”

A UEA spokesperson said: “There are alternative providers of counselling courses in the city and region, such as City College Norwich, the Norwich Centre, the University of Suffolk, the University of Cambridge and University Centre Colchester (linked to the University of Essex), where students can study counselling.”

Professor Richard Andrews, Head of the School of Education previously stated: “Students currently enrolled on Counselling courses will be able to finish their current programme of study as planned and the quality of your course and qualification will be unaffected.”

However, the Keep Counselling group said “students who joined the current PG Certificate courses are no longer able to complete the full flow of their training…despite having been told that that all courses would be available to them when they signed up last year.”

They add that news of the closure “arrived too late in the academic year to enable current students to apply for training elsewhere, thereby curtailing their ability to become fully trained counselling practitioners.”

Students also disagree with the school citing low demand as a reason for closure. They say:  “The University has an international reputation as a leader in the Person Centred Counselling approach and its courses are regularly over subscribed.”

UEA disputes this, stating “In each of the past three years we have had fewer than the full-time equivalent of 35 students studying across the five full and part time courses offered.”

A university spokesperson said: “UEA continues to support mental health provision through the clinical psychology courses (66 currently on the course), High Intensity CBT and Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner courses (with more than 80 people commencing training on each of these in the last 12 months).   In terms of UEA student counselling a new blended service model is being developed that will see an increase in cognitive behavioural therapy counselling capacity and less emphasis on person-centred counselling.”

Commenting on the closures SU Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo said: “Cutting counselling courses during a counselling crisis is misguided. The university’s decision appears rushed and we are concerned about the lack of consultation that has taken place over such a sensitive issue.”

In a blog post, Postgraduate Education Officer Maddie Colledge said the closures “mark a major loss to your institution.”

She added: “The equivalent of 4 fulltime members of staff will be lost from the counselling service,” with “at least 9 placement students” lost for local charities and schools.

Miss Colledge said: “University policy says you’ll see a full justification for the closure- but it’s not materialised. The process guarantees that an Equality impact assessment is completed- but you’ve not seen it. The loss in counselling staff in SSS does not concern the university, as the ‘new model’ for wellbeing they are developing is moving away from counselling and towards other ‘evidence based and cost effective’ services.

What this means in real terms is unknown as no strategy exists, and no evidence has been provided to demonstrate the rationale behind these changes. Students have not been consulted about what they want from a new mental health strategy, despite the fact that their tuition fees fund this service.  Even if the counselling hours are replaced by other front-facing services, the total hours of support available will not increase significantly, and students will still be placed on two month long waiting lists.”

The students’ petition can be viewed here: https://www.change.org/p/x-prevent-uea-from-closing-down-counselling-courses

4 COMMENTS

  1. The real issue is that UEA is short of space and can run much more profitable courses in the spaces used by the counselling courses. The fees for the CBT courses in MED are almost double those for the PG Dip in Counselling.
    UEA has failed to support this department for years. They could have had a research strategy for the department and singularly failed to support students and staff in developing this. I applied for an EdD with a counselling focus at EDU a few years ago and was told there were no relevant supervisors for me to do it.
    Furthermore, the running down of these courses is closely related to the changes forced through in Student Services and in the scrapping of the old University Counselling Service. The course has been forced to take fewer students as there were fewer local placements when students on the diploma stopped being guaranteed a placement at the University Counselling Service.
    The University Counselling Service and the EDU courses had a successful symbiotic relationship and were at one time producing research together into the Person Centred and Experiential Approaches but this was all stopped by the former Dean of Students. Also, as rightly pointed out, the University benefitted from a large group of committed volunteer counsellors working at the service from November to July every year.
    UEA has also become very hostile to the Person Centred Approach despite the fact that NICE now recommend a form of Person Centred Counselling for depression. Surely, UEA could have developed something similar particularly when it has such a history in the development of the approach in the UK??!

  2. The fees for the CBT courses based in MED are nearly double those for the PG Dip in counselling. The real issue is that UEA can get much more money by using the space occupied by the counselling courses for other more profitable courses.

    They have not been interested in supporting research into PCA or counselling more generally for a long time. When I applied for an EdD at EDU the response was that there was no one to supervise my subject (i e. Counselling).

    An evidence based version of person centred counselling is now recommended under the NICE guidelines for depression. There were much more profitable ways UEA could have taken this department but they chose not to invest in it with regards to research (which is what supports academic departments to carry on teaching.)

    They seem to think that PCA has no value despite there having been a successful marriage between the course and the previous University Counselling Service (which was doing research at one time). Now, yet again we hear that CBT is going to fix the Student Wellbeing Service. Well, good luck to them is all I can say, especially if waiting lists for predominantly CBT services in the community are anything to go by.

  3. Also some of the alternative courses mentioned aren’t even in the same counselling approach, for example some are pscyhodynamic and not person-centred. So that shows how much the people who made these decisions know about the progression for certificate students and how little consideration they’ve given to us…. It’s horrendous

  4. Thank you for this article! UEA has failed to listen to our concerns so thank you for getting them out there.

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