Navigation Toggle Icon

Meet our Regional Student Support Managers

14 March 2024

Our three Regional Student Support Managers advise our frontline teams on complex support cases, work with university partners to provide a joined-up support process for students and help to develop our staff training.

For University Mental Health Day, we spoke to Ami-Rose, Luke and Jenny to find out how they got into student support, what they want to achieve in 2024, and what issues they think need more focus in student support.


Ami-Rose Wrack, Regional Student Support Manager (London)

Ami-Rose Wrack (London)

How did you get into working in student support?

After university, I took a year out and taught English in China. Seeing how poorly student wellbeing was dealt with in China at the time – particularly the amount of pressure on students due to the one child policy – was what inspired me to work in student support. So when I came back to the UK, I did a master’s degree and worked in and around mental health afterwards, but student support was my specific interest.

I began working with a Higher Education institution, and then in November I started working at Unite Students. As a new member of staff, I’ve spent a lot of time meeting university support teams and going into our own buildings to meet our city teams, to really highlight the importance of student support and make sure they’re aware of who I am, so that they can get help and guidance if they need it. I’ve really enjoyed building those relationships.


Student support has rapidly evolved over the last decade. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

When I was a student, no-one ever spoke to me about my mental health or wellbeing. If someone asked me to go back to university and point out where the welfare team were, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I don’t remember anyone saying to me, “If you feel this way, this is where you can go to get help.”

So, it’s brilliant to see the spotlight on student wellbeing from the Higher Education sector. It’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind, which makes it far less of a taboo and way more accessible to anyone who needs support.


Our relationships with university support teams are crucial to providing joined-up support. How do you work with your university contacts to make sure that students get the care they need?

What I’ve learnt quite quickly is that universities have really rigorous, structured support systems already in place. So, I’ve really tried to develop ways in which we can align with what they’re doing for students so there’s no confusion or crossover. A big piece of work I’ve been doing since I joined is meeting with university contacts, finding out about their student wellbeing offer and making notes. If something happens in one of our properties, it means we can immediately signpost them to what the university has in place.

By supporting students through universities’ own pathways, the support system is clear to the student. There’s no confusion about different options. It’s so much more holistic to communicate and work closely with the university on this.


What’s one topic within student mental health that you think more people should pay attention to?

I used to work in a hospital, and the quietest patients were usually the ones that were struggling the most. So students who aren’t coming forward about their struggles are a big worry for me. That’s particularly true of international students, who don’t necessarily have a clear understanding of how they can get support – it’s something they may not have experienced previously, or they may be scared to ask in case it puts their visa or immigration status at risk, which it wouldn’t.

Communication around that is important, so they’re aware that support is confidential. That’s why the app that’s part of our new Student Assistance Programme is so important – they can just use the live chat option or send a text to get support. We need more options like that so the student can access support remotely.


What do you want to achieve in 2024, and what part of our student support offer are you most excited about for this year?

I want to continue working with universities to understand their offer and build relationships, and I’m excited to roll out the updated Mental Health First Aid workshop that we’ve been working on to our city teams. It looks at how to handle difficult situations, having appropriate boundaries and so on. It really gives our teams the opportunity to understand mental health better, how it impacts them, how it impacts students and how they can better be prepared for any situation that gets thrown at them. We should be launching that in the next few months.


Luke van der Kooij - Regional Student Support Manager (Scotland & North)

Luke van der Kooij (Scotland & North)

How did you get into working in student support?

Previously I’ve worked with young people in the charity sector, across the US and the UK. But I’ve always been interested in how young people can benefit from a supportive environment. In my last role at UK Youth, I looked at 18 to 25-year-olds’ experiences of inclusion and loneliness and realised how challenging life can be for students. They need additional support more than ever, and that’s our role.

I feel very privileged to work in a role where every conversation is centred around making sure students have the very best experience, always being able to focus on how we can get to a positive outcome, and working with wonderful people who all want the same thing and are working together to achieve that.


Student support has rapidly evolved over the last decade. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

Since the pandemic, we’ve had a lot more flat disputes and conflicts. It makes sense; this generation of students lost some foundational years to Covid, and it’s difficult to build those skills of getting on with people and being part of an active community.

But on the other hand, students are a lot more aware of mental health and proactive in terms of understanding their own needs, looking at how, when and who to reach out to, and seeing that as a priority. Parents are also increasingly focused on that; they want to know about our support offer before their child even arrives.


How do you work with your university contacts to make sure that students get the care they need?

We have a variety of ways we engage with universities. We have monthly calls where we share trends we’re seeing at local and national level, case conferences about high-risk students and what their support offer looks like, reviewing referral pathways and at what point we’d escalate an issue through our Support to Stay framework. We do occasionally offer workshops around our support offer and data from our Applicant Index for university partners.  We’ll use universities’ own referral pathways so that we’re both aligned and can provide a holistic support experience for the student.


What’s one topic within student mental health that you think more people should pay attention to?

Loneliness. There are so many different strands: isolation through mental health; a lack of belonging; not knowing how to develop friendships; homesickness and so on. It’s something we should pay more attention to, with a proactive approach to students and events like we do through our Resident Ambassador programme.

Preventing student loneliness helps students to be more involved in university life through events, societies and their course. Once a student feels isolated, it’s much harder to reach out and get support, and the impact to mental health is huge. As a sector we need to be more involved in supporting students to create those communities and sense of belonging.


What do you want to achieve in 2024, and what part of our student support offer are you most excited about for this year?

Embedding our Student Assistance Programme. It includes a 24/7 wellbeing helpline, an app where they can access support through livechat, and ongoing counselling and clinical support through Silvercloud. Having access to that support without needing to go through the NHS will be transformational for students.

I’m also looking forward to providing more training for our operations teams, both through e-learning and face-to-face. They do an amazing job working with students daily, and helping them to deal with challenging situations, signpost to university or NHS services and maintain clear boundaries will make students’ experience even better.


Jenny Dalzell - Regional Student Support Manager (South & Central)

Jenny Dalzell (South & Central)

How did you get into working in student support?

I had a temporary job in the debt team at the Open University a long time ago – I liked working on campus and being in an environment with students. After that, I worked at the University of Birmingham as a Crime Prevention Coordinator. I was part of the security team, but working very closely with student support, supporting victims of crime and educating students on how to keep themselves safe.

That gave me a good insight into the world of student support. I’d worked with vulnerable people in previous roles as well, but I loved working at universities. Then the job came up at Unite Students, and that seemed like a good step which brought together all those elements. Five years on, just when I think I’ve heard it all, I’ll read a report and still be surprised by all the different things you come across in this role.


Student support has rapidly evolved over the last decade. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

There’s been a real commitment to student support from the sector, and it’s exciting to be a part of that in terms of accommodation. We now have better communication with universities, the NHS and other services, so we really understand what’s going on with a student and how all those different elements come together to support them.

More visibility of student mental health has been positive too. The number of students who speak to us about it has gone up, but we probably always had this many students going through difficult times. It’s a reflection that more students feel they can speak to us. There’s still work to do though; not all students will reach out for that support.


How do you work with your university contacts to make sure that students get the care they need?

Meetings with university partners are something I really enjoy – looking at how we best collaborate, what projects we’ve got coming up, what insights we can share, and how to align our processes such as Support to Stay with theirs to ensure the best outcomes for students. Our strong relationships with universities have a positive impact on the way we support students. 

All universities have somewhat similar processes, but how these are managed and delivered may be slightly different – the way we communicate, and the frequency of meetings will vary between different universities. Understanding that large network of universities and their offering across my region is an important and interesting part of my role. 


What’s one topic within student mental health that you think more people should pay attention to?

There are two that I want to highlight. For us and across the sector, we’re seeing a slight increase in reports with students who have issues around eating. It might not be a diagnosis of an eating disorder, but maybe we’re seeing some of the signs and symptoms.

The other thing is that, especially following Covid, more students than we realise have been exposed to traumatic events or bereavements. We see students who have these complex histories at such an early age, and they bring that to university with them. So, we just need to make sure that the right support avenues are there for them when they arrive.

I’m particularly passionate about trauma and traumatic bereavement due to my own experience; my sister was murdered when I was 14. I can share that information more freely – the reason for that is because I did access support. So, I’m very passionate about encouraging students to access support. There are ways of dealing with things and being able to live with what’s happened.


What do you want to achieve in 2024, and what part of our student support offer are you most excited about for this year?

Continuing to roll out our Student Assistance Programme. There’s the student wellbeing helpline and an app with wellbeing resources, counsellors on live chat, and video call options. I’m so excited when I see on reports that our frontline teams have signposted students to that service. This year is all about embedding that into our offer.

There’s a lot that we want to achieve this year. We want to further enhance and improve our resident ambassador offering by really elevating that sense of community within our buildings, and understanding how to reach different student groups, align to different student needs and making sure that students’ voices are heard in that.


Learn more about how student accommodation can support universities’ University Mental Health Charter applications here.

Like what you read?

Click the sign up button to receive updates from us. 

Choose from the topics you’re most interested in, or our Higher Education newsletter, in which we share a selection of our latest research, blogs, podcasts and video content about student accommodation and wider student life.

You can unsubscribe or update your preferences at any time. Just click the link at the bottom of any email you receive from us or let us know by emailing

Sign up

Areas of interest(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.