Just ethnic matching? Racial and ethnic minority students and culturally appropriate mental health provision at British universities

Funmi-Victoria Olaniyan, Graeme Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The need for “culturally appropriate” support for racial and ethnic minority (REM) students has prompted several British universities to embrace targeted interventions such as “ethnic matching” to encourage professional help-seeking on campus (i.e., pairing REM students with ethnically similar practitioners). There remains, however, little clarity on what culturally appropriate support entails. This study explores how REM students define culturally appropriate support and the approaches they view to be effective in promoting help-seeking. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 48 REM students in two British universities. Data analysis was guided by principles of constructivist grounded theory and reflexive thematic analysis.  Results: REM students discuss three ways universities can provide culturally appropriate support; via ethnic matching; a broader cultural appropriateness; or a person-specific service. For these students, a service narrowly focusing on race/ethnicity has the potential to remove rather than enhance accountability and engagement within mental health service provision, and not adequately valorize the experience of the student as both individual and racialized. Conclusion: A protocol-driven and instrumental understanding of “culturally appropriate” support may serve to reduce REM student willingness to seek professional help. Universities, therefore, should commit to a student-centred process, combining racial diversification and cultural recognition with a reflexive person-specific approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2117444
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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