The Duchess of Cambridge visited first-year university students to hear how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the start of their undergraduate life.
Kate travelled to the University of Derby to find out how the students’ mental health is being cared for on campus.
A surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has led to thousands of students having to self-isolate in their halls at some universities, including Manchester Metropolitan and Glasgow University, 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.
During her visit, Kate was briefed on the national picture by Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity.
Talking to representatives of Student Minds, she asked if there had been an “increase in awareness” among students of mental health help, and if it had been “integrated” into their education.
She then spoke to students about how they have felt during the pandemic.
Husna Hanif and Laura Oliver, both 18, told the duchess they had “kept busy” during lockdown, adding that it was “hard not seeing friends”.
But Laura told the duchess that the university has been offering plenty of support to students, something that Kate said was “great to hear”.
The duchess 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.
She also heard that the university has trained its sports societies to enable students to support their teammates’ mental health.
The Student Minds’ Student Space initiative was also discussed – a new online portal created to support students during the pandemic which offers information and direct help by phone and text.
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 the infection rate among young adults is climbing steeply.
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.