Kate on campus with university students in Derby
The Duchess of Cambridge has visited first-year students at the University of Derby to hear how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the start of their undergraduate life.
Kate travelled to the city to meet students and find out how their mental health is being cared for on campus.
She arrived wearing a colourful mask in line with rules for students and staff in communal areas.
The duchess’s visit on Tuesday came as Universities UK, which represents 139 institutions including the University of Derby, published a new checklist to help universities support student wellbeing during the autumn term.
Universities should ensure that students have access to basic necessities during self-isolation, including food, laundry services, cleaning materials, bin bags, tissues and toilet rolls, the guide says.
A surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has led to thousands of students having to self-isolate in their halls at some universities, with some hanging signs out their windows saying they did not have food.
More than 50 universities in the UK have confirmed cases of coronavirus as students return to campus, with students self-isolating at Manchester Metropolitan and Glasgow University.
Nearly 500 students and staff at Sheffield University have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of term, and more than 750 students are self-isolating at Northumbria University after testing positive.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has warned that undergraduates being “trapped in halls” could exacerbate mental health issues.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to get university students back to their families for Christmas despite warnings that rates of infection in young adults are climbing steeply.
The duchess’s visit to the university’s main Kedleston Road site ties in with World Mental Health Day on Saturday.
She was briefed by Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, on the national picture.
Her first discussion was in a socially distanced circle.
Kate asked representatives of Student Minds if there had been an “increase in awareness” among students of mental health help – and asked if it had been “integrated” into their education.
She then spoke to students about how they have felt during the pandemic.
She once again donned her face mask as she walked through the main lobby to speak to the students.
Husna Hanif and Laura Oliver, both 18, told the duchess they had “kept busy” during lockdown – adding that it was “hard not seeing friends”.
She asked the pair if there was enough support at the university – to which Ms Oliver replied: “There’s so much support.”
“That’s great to hear,” Kate said.
The duchess also heard about Student Minds’ Student Space initiative, a new resource created to support students during the pandemic, which offers information and direct help by phone and text.
The 24/7 text service using trained volunteers is delivered in partnership with Shout, an initiative from the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together mental health campaign.
Kate was told that nursing students have been buddied up with fellow students in the year above to provide them with peer support during challenging clinical placements, and that the university has trained its sports societies to enable students to support their teammates’ mental health.
The duchess, who has a history of art degree, spent her university days at St Andrews in Fife and met her husband there.
In their first year in 2001, William and Kate lived a few doors apart in St Salvator’s hall of residence and became friendly, socialising together and playing tennis.
Both were studying history of art, although William later switched to geography.
It was Kate who was credited with persuading the prince to continue his studies when he considered quitting as he struggled to adjust to university life during his first year.
They began sharing a four-bedroom Edwardian townhouse in Fife with friends at the start of their second year, before the group of four students moved into a secluded rented cottage outside the town.
They graduated at the same ceremony in 2005.