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Student mental health start-up reveals national expansion plans

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Dr Andrew Markwick and Ellen Fox at Buckingham Palace

A University of Manchester start-up that can quickly identify students who may be struggling with their mental health has revealed plans to expand.

Third Floor Systems Ltd was founded by Dr Andrew Markwick in 2017 and has since created its first product, ‘StudentCRT’, a software system that puts student wellbeing first.

The system uses several types of student engagement data such as attendance, reports and non-exam marking, to quickly identify students who may be struggling with their mental health. Support and pastoral staff can then personally follow-up with those students before matters escalate.

According to The Office for National Statistics up to 100 students in the UK take their own lives in any given year. In the 2016/2017 academic year 95 UK students took their own lives.

Following a funding boost Dr Markwick is looking to rollout ‘StudentCRT’ across more schools within the university and at other universities.

He said: “We wanted to be sure we were doing the best we could to protect our students using the information we collect about them anyway, and that’s why we created StudentCRT.

“StudentCRT has now been used for 2.5 academic years in the School of Physics & Astronomy, and one year in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE). In recent times, we have had cases of suicide and attempted suicide among the student population in our school.

“These events made us consider whether we were doing our best with the data we had available to try to identify at risk individuals before things could escalate.”

“I took it upon myself to design a system that would make us confident that we were doing our very best for them and would identify at risk students. As such ‘StudentCRT’ was born.”

Dr Markwick has been a lecturer in the School of Physics & Astronomy for 13 years and is now seeking strategic partners to help see StudentCRT protect more student lives nationally.

Shortly after Third Floor Systems Ltd was formed the company landed a place on UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser (IO) Programme, which empowers innovators from across the University to create start-up businesses.

A start up award from IO followed and Third Floor Systems Ltd went on to compete in the final of the Pitch@Palace 10.0 competition at Buckingham Palace – founded by The Duke of York in 2014 as a platform to amplify and accelerate the work of entrepreneurs – towards the end of last year.

Dr Markwick said that a recent NUS report found that eight out of 10 students report struggling with their mental health.

“Our secondary goal is to improve staff workflow by rationalising the systems of attendance monitoring, reporting, and non-exam marking that we do,” he said. “This helps academics and tutors, who now only need to enter data in one place, in a consistent and intuitive manner.

“The system is a secure web application and is one that has great commercial potential. It’s clear to me that any other school, university or organization where the people ‘in charge’ have an interest in the wellbeing of the people they have a duty of care to and have the means to collect data on their attendance and performance, could benefit from this system.”