Research into Recovery and Wellbeing

A website about the work of the recovery research team at the Institute of Mental Health

The University of Nottingham



The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) has funded the Recovery Colleges Characterisation and Testing (RECOLLECT) Study (grant RP-DG-0615-10008) (2017-2018). Recovery Colleges are a new approach to supporting people living with mental health problems. They are collaborative, strengths-based, person- centred, inclusive (i.e. available to all) and community-focused. A Recovery College provides support to students (mainly mental health service users but also family members, staff and other stakeholders) through adult education rather than through medical treatments. Service users are not referred by clinicians but enrol themselves, develop an Individual Learning Plan and then choose courses relevant to their learning goals. Professional experts and people with personal experience of mental health problems co-produce the curriculum and co-deliver the courses. The first Recovery Colleges opened in 2010, and there are now 32 across England, each working with up to 1,000 students at any time. But there has been little work studying the impact of Recovery Colleges.


The study has three aims.

1. What are the defining characteristics of a Recovery College, and how does it differ from other medical and adult education approaches? We will interview 10 Recovery College managers to develop a tool to assess the presence of each necessary characteristic (a fidelity measure). This measure will be piloted with 3 Recovery Colleges then evaluated with all Recovery Colleges.

2. How do Recovery Colleges benefit service users? For example, self-referral may promote empowerment, jointly-delivered training may role model partnership working, and hearing a trainer talk about their own mental health problems may make the service user less pessimistic about their own recovery. We will interview up to 45 opinion leaders (e.g. service user students, Recovery College managers) to develop a list of possible mechanisms of action.

3. Who uses Recovery Colleges? About two thirds of students also use secondary mental health services, but there has been no detailed analysis of their service use, such as diagnosis, level of disability and how often they are hospitalised. We will study all available national reports and use the clinical information systems in three Recovery Colleges to understand who uses the college, and how they differ from service users who do not use the college.

page updated 18 January 2017