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Education Secretary backs system to flag university students mental health problems to

Clare Marchant, the chief executive of the universities admissions service has already signalled that she is open to the possibility of adding a section to the Ucas application form, where students opt in to having  certain information about their wellbeing shared with their next of kin.   Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The Education Secretary has backed a system to flag university students’ mental health problems to parents.  Damian Hinds has urged vice-Chancellors to “get better at reaching out to family members” if a student is struggling, adding that this would be a “big step” towards improving pastoral care.His comments come ahead of an event today, hosted by the vice-Chancellor membership organisation Universities UK, aimed at developing advice for universities on consent for disclosure to third parties about students who are in difficulty. James Murray, who is the father of the tenth Bristol University to take his own life, has campaigned for a change to data protection rules prevent further deaths at universities.–– ADVERTISEMENT ––His son Ben, 19, died in May and it was only after his death the family discovered Ben had been falling behind in his studies, missing lectures and had been put in a “withdrawal process” by the university who were considering his “fitness to study”.Universities say that under data protection laws, they are unable to share confidential information about students – who are over the age of 18 so legally regarded as adults – without their express permission.But Mr Murray has called for the rules to be relaxed so parents can be told if students are struggling. Mr Hinds said: “Ensuring that university students, many of whom will be leaving home for the first time, are supported is a key challenge for the department and the higher education sector as a whole.“Our universities are world leading in so many areas and I want them to be the best in the world for support and pastoral care as well.“Ensuring that universities get better at reaching out to family members if a student is struggling with mental health is a big step along the road to delivering that ambition.”

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