Freedom of Information Frequently Asked Questions

The Student Counselling Service frequently receives requests under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 regarding the number of students accessing the Service, the issues they present with, response times, staffing levels, Service budget and expenditure.
To assist with answering these requests we publish information on an annual basis, and where possible, on a quarterly basis from 1st August each year (the start of the academic/financial year)

The Student Counselling Service

The Student Counselling Service (SCS) provides free confidential professional counselling service to all matriculated students of the University of Edinburgh. The Service also seeks to enhance and encourage the emotional well-being and mental health of University of Edinburgh students and those who support them. The Service seeks to reach this objective by facilitating personal development and psychoeducational groups and workshops for students; encouraging students to support themselves through the Bibliotherapy Scheme and other online resources; offering advice and support to academic staff concerned for the mental and emotional well-being of their students; and contributing to training and development programmes organised for staff and students by other departments of the University. The University is signed up to the Togetherall online community, which is available for free to all students and staff, providing a safe online community to support mental health 24/7. The Service is monitored by trained clinicians and within the platform members are anonymous. Students and staff can register at Togetherall using their University email account. Other online services for students and staff are SilverCloud and the Feeling Good App.

The SCS offers some form of help to all students who approach them. The nature of the help depends on the outcome of the initial appointment between student and counsellor.

The Student Counselling Service website provides details of the services and how students can access support.

The SCS, together with the Staff Counselling Service as a whole University Counselling Service, is an organisational member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). This is the leading professional body for counsellors and psychotherapists in the United Kingdom, with approximately 57,000 members. Since 2006, the Service has had Accredited Service status awarded by the BACP. The BACP Service Accreditation Scheme provides status and validation for the accredited service, and also provides robust evidence of service quality and professionalism. In addition, accredited services are bound by the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions. All BACP Accredited Services have demonstrated a high quality of service delivery, meeting benchmark standards that are maintained by annual monitoring and reporting

The SCS also provides training for Personal Tutors, Supervisors, Student Support Teams, and other academic staff as well as welfare staff in the Students' Association aimed at helping staff support and refer students who have mental and emotional health problems. Accommodation Services has a Residence Life Team who will support students living in University Managed Accommodation and link them with other University services as appropriate. All staff are made aware of the 'Helping Distressed Students' guide, which aids staff supporting students in distress or crisis.

There has been a significant rise in demand for student counselling services in the last few years. This increase can be attributed to several factors including: the success of the relocation of the SCS to the Main Library and then to the new Health and Wellbeing Centre, which has made the service more visible and accessible, and the perceived value of the Service among students and stakeholders. There has also been a steady growth in the student population over the last few years: 37,416 in 2015/16; 39,576 in 2016/17; 41,312 in 2017/18; 43,380 in 2018/19; 44,510 in 2019/20; 45,615 in 2020/21, 49,065 in 2021/22 and 49,740 in 2022/23. Information on student numbers can be found in the University factsheet, available through the University's publication scheme.

Student User/Referral Numbers

This data covers all new referrals from students in the course of the academic year and attendances at psycho-educational groups and workshops.  These statistics will be updated on a quarterly basis from 1st August each year.

All students who refer to the SCS receive a response, are signposted to other support in the process of referring and, with very few exceptions, are offered an initial appointment.

Student user/referral numbers
Academic year Students accessing SCS  
2017/18 3,402  
2018/19 3,845  
2019/20 3,438  
2020/21 3,340  
2021/22 4,392  
2022/23 4,043  

Clinical Staffing Headcount and Full Time Equivalent (FTE)

The Service employs both clinical staff (Clinical Managers, Counsellors and a Senior Mental Health Nurse Practitioner) as well as administrative staff.  Staff are employees on a variety of full time or part time contracts.  Staffing levels can change throughout the year and these figures will be published at the end of each year, after 31st July.

Clinical Staff Headcount and Full Time Equivalent (FTE)
Academic year Headcount FTE
2017/18 37 14.81
2018/19 43 16.57
2019/20 43 17.51
2020/21 42 17.51
2021/22 39 19.75
2022/23 38 20.04

Departmental Budget

The Student Counselling Service is allocated on an annual basis a Core departmental budget covering staff salaries, an operational budget and an equipment budget.  These figures will be updated on an annual basis as soon as they become available at the beginning of each new academic/financial year.

Student Counselling Service Budgets
Academic Year Budget - Salaries (£) Budget - Operational (£) Budget - Equipment (£)
2016/17 907,047 53,688 3,100
2017/18 1,002,670 52,988 3,100
2018/19 1,082,724 58,500 3,500
2019/20 1,206,379 40,800 3,500
2020/21 1,068,972 54,100 3,500
2021/22 1,124,172 54,100 3,500

Departmental Expenditure

In addition to the budget, Service expenditure can vary with additional funding made available, though not part of the original budget.  These figures will be published annually at the end of each financial year.

Student Counselling Service Expenditure
Academic Year Salaries - Expenditure (£) Operational - Expenditure (£)
2016/17 852,366 57,234
2017/18 955,173 33,666
2018/19 1,060,038 65,935
2019/20 1,121,999 39,269
2020/21 1,088,964 41,726
2021/22 1,090,281 43,779

Response Times

The Service records response times, in particular from the date of referral to the offer of a first appointment with a counsellor or clinical practitioner.  We only offer appointments at times when students have indicated they are available.  These statistics will be updated on a quarterly basis from 1st August each year. 

Response Time – Offer of First Appointment (%) 1 Week 2 Weeks 3 Weeks 4 Weeks 4+ Weeks
2018/19 64.5 27.5 18 1 1
2019/20 50 16 18 9 7
2020/21 49 15 13 9 14
2021/22  53 10 5 5 27
2022/23 64 22 9 3 2
2023/24 Up to 31 Apr. 2024 62 17 13 6 2

Please note that SCS does not keep data on average waiting times for either assessment or counselling or mental health support appointments.

Waiting times vary widely across the year and are dependent on a number of variables. These include: student-stated availability for counselling (which can be very limited or very open) and their stated preference to work with a certain type of counsellor or model of counselling; the triaging process (conducted by the Student Counselling management team) when students refer to us, in which, due to risk factors, some students are fast- tracked; and also whether students accept or decline first/second, etc. appointments made to them by the administration team.

The SCS places a greater emphasis on providing students an initial appointment, because this is the point at which the Service makes an assessment and offers appropriate resources based upon individual need, of which only one aspect may be ongoing counselling. The SCS does monitor students’ waiting times against its key performance indicators. The numbers are recorded for the waiting time between referral to the Service and assessment and also between assessment session and any ongoing counselling offered. The SCS reports this information at the end of each calendar month. Information on the annual response times for academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22 is provided in the Student Counselling Service Annual Reports  available on the Student Counselling Annual Reports page of the University website.

General Presenting Issues

The Service records student client's issues recorded at assessment or emerging through counselling.  These are published under general headings as a percentage of all student clients using the Service.  The recording scheme we use is one that was developed by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy's division for University and College counselling.  These statistics will be updated on a quarterly basis from 1st August each year.

Please note that the students may be recorded as experiencing one or more of these issues.


General Presenting Issues (%) 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22


2023/24 up to 31 Apr 2024
Abuse 4 4 5 8 6 6
Academic 21 16 17 8 9 8
Addictive behaviours 7 7 5.5 0.5 0.5 0
Anxiety 26 31 31 33 29 29
Depression and mood change or disorder 19 19 20 16 15 13
Eating disorder 1.5 2 2.5 2 1.5 2
Loss 7 7 6 6 7 8
Other mental health conditions 2.5 3 3.5 3 5 4
Physical health 2 2.5 2.5 2 3 4
Relationships 9.5 8 6 7 8 9
Self-harm 4.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 5
Self and identity 13 9 10 7 8 9
Sexual issues 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1
Transitions 2 2.5 2.5 2 2.5 2
Welfare and employment 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 1

Average Number of Students on the Waiting List

The waiting list for counselling (i.e. the number of students waiting for a counselling or other brief therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)) appointment, who have already had an initial assessment) is constantly changing on a day-by-day basis and we do not record data on a semester or yearly basis.

Average Number of Counselling Sessions

The average number of counselling sessions given to students who accessed counselling services for each of the last five academic years.

The SCS collects data on the number of sessions attended, i.e. used, by students. The average of number of sessions with a counsellor attended by students is provided in the table below.

Academic Year Average Number of Sessions
2018/19 4.25
2019/20 4.04
2020/21 4.75
2021/22 4.14
2022/23 4.33