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Kate Middleton shows support for university students during surprise visit - best photos

The Duchess of Cambridge visited the University of Derby

kate derby university© Photo: Alamy
Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
Updated: October 6, 2020
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The Duchess of Cambridge surprised students at the University of Derby on Tuesday, as she visited the campus to hear how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted university life.

Kate spoke to first-year students, sports societies and nursing students about the effect that COVID-19 has had on them, and the ways in which the university is supporting their mental health and wellbeing.

Wearing her Amaia Kids face mask for her arrival, Kate heard from students Husna Hanif and Laura Oliver, both 18, how they had "kept busy" during lockdown – adding that it was "hard not seeing friends".

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WATCH: Caring Kate surprises students at University of Derby

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Support for first-year students

The Duchess asked students during a socially distanced meeting if there was enough support at the university - to which Ms Oliver replied "there's so much support".

"That's great to hear," Kate said.

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kate student nurses© Photo: Getty Images

Peer support

At the University of Derby, initiatives such as peer mentoring are provided as part of a whole university response to mental health.

For example, nursing students are ‘buddied’ up with fellow students in the year above to provide them with peer support during challenging clinical placements, and the  university has given training to its sports societies that will enable students to support their teammates’ mental health. 

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Kate's next stop

During her visit to the university, Kate met with nursing students to speak about the importance of mental health. 

She chatted to the undergraduates in front of mock hospital beds with dummy patients. 

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World Mental Health Day

Kate's visit comes ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October, which she and the royal family have long supported.

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University initiatives

The Duchess also spoke with Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds, the UK's student mental health charity. Rosie spoke to Kate about the creation of Student Space, a new resource created to support students during the pandemic.

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kate student space© Photo: Getty Images

Supporting students' wellbeing and mental health

The Student Space initiative offers information and direct help by phone and text.

The 24/7 text service using trained volunteers is delivered in partnership with Shout, an initiative from William and Kate's Royal Foundation's Heads Together mental health campaign.

MORE: Charity volunteer reveals what surprised him most about meeting Prince William and Kate Middleton

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The Duchess of Cambridge's outfit

The Duchess chose a smart-casual ensemble for her visit to the University of Derby. She donned a new checked coat and grey jumper - both by Massimo Dutti - with black trousers and heels. 

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kate student space derby© Photo: Alamy

The effect of the pandemic

The Duchess' visit on Tuesday came as Universities UK, which represents 139 institutions including the University of Derby, published a new checklist to help universities support student wellbeing during the autumn term.

Universities should ensure that students have access to basic necessities during self-isolation, including food, laundry services, cleaning materials, bin bags, tissues and toilet rolls, the guide says.

An increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has led to thousands of students having to self-isolate in their halls at some universities. 

kate derby sports centre© Photo: Getty Images

Royalty on the pitch

Kate ended her visit by venturing outside to the sports centre, where she watched some of the women footballers on the university's 4G pitch.

kate mental health sport

"You're doing very well"

The students Kate met told her about the importance of sport for their mental wellbeing, with the Duchess adding: "Particularly when it's outdoors as it hasn't got any restrictions to it."

The Duchess of Cambridge asked them: "Is it really weird not being in lectures?"

One student said they were enjoying the change, but added it was "difficult not learning face-to-face".

Kate told the students: "You're doing very well".

She concluded her visit by telling the students she "loved" how mental health work had been "integrated" into university life in Derby.

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