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Updates & insights

Are HEIs being steered in the right direction with serious incident reviews?

Levi Pay, director and principal consultant, presents the emerging national narrative and its implications for higher education institutions.

On 6th September 2023, we held a Policy Pitstop event with 50 colleagues from across the higher education sector. The event focused on the serious incident reviews that HEIs may now need to carry out following a student death, particularly where it is suspected that the student died by suicide.

Below you can view the recording of the 30-minute briefing I provided, to help set the context at the event:

You can also download the slides from the presentation, below:

Policy Pitstop slides - Serious incident reviews - September 2023 - Plinth House
Download PDF • 2.68MB

We have published a separate article capturing key points made by participants during this event. We are not sharing a recording of the discussion part of the event, since we want colleagues, at these events, to feel comfortable sharing their experiences, questions and suggestions.

Update (11th September): The UK government today published its Suicide prevention strategy for England: 2023 to 2028. Published a couple of days after our Policy Pitstop event, this strategy contains little to reassure universities and HEIs when it comes to future regulation in this area, reiterating the steer about 'rigorous local reviews' we have heard previously from the higher education minister and Higher Education Student Support Champion.

Our three recommendations for HEIs:

As a reminder, here are the three main recommendations that we set out for HEIs at the end of the session:

  1. Have an internal discussion within your HEI to bring everyone up to speed on the UUK guidance and agree your interim approach to carrying out serious incident reviews. Remember to focus this discussion on everyone that may have an important perspective in student death management; for example, remember to include your HEI’s governance team so that they can brief senior managers and your governing body before they start to ask questions about your institution’s compliance with the new regulations.

  2. Share any thoughts with the Higher Education Student Support Champion and his team. Now is the time to share any thoughts you have on what HEIs should be required to do to carry out serious incident reviews and how these reviews will fit with other processes (such as coroners’ inquests or procurator fiscals’ inquiries).

  3. Make sure your student death policy and procedures are fit for purpose and that you plug any training gaps. Whatever happens with the national requirements on serious incident reviews, it is likely that there will be an even greater spotlight on how universities manage student deaths. It will be helpful to find some time in the academic year ahead to make sure everyone feels confident about the process for coordinating your HEI’s response to a student death, and for supporting the family, students and staff members who are affected.

Resources referenced during the Policy Pitstop discussion:

Other relevant resources:

We will be lettings colleagues who have subscribed to our mailbase know about our future Policy Pitstop events; these free online discussion events focus on topical and challenging issues in the world of student support. For colleagues who are looking for more support with managing aspects of a student death, we are also running a ticketed online half-day training event on Wednesday 24th April 2024 called “Coordinating actions and providing support following a student death”.

You are also welcome to contact us to discuss bespoke or in-person training events or to talk about other types of consultancy support, such as a review of your student death procedures.


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