A STUDENT took his life after discovering he had failed his second year at university via email, an inquest has heard.

Alex James Hayter's father Andrew said Nottingham Trent University could have saved his 21-year-old son's life if they had picked up on the signs, Winchester Coroner's Court heard. 

"Funny and clever" Alex, who had no previous mental health problems, had been studying computer science but was finding it difficult to cope with his assignments after moving home to Abbots Ann, Andover, during the pandemic, the inquest into his death was told today (Tuesday, June 1).

After not managing to complete his modules over the summer, Alex received an email from the university on September 14, 2020, to say he had failed his second year and would be required to resit it in 2021. 

He went out for a walk and never returned, prompting a missing person's appeal. Six days later, he was found dead on September 21,  near Dutch Barn, Abbotts Ann.

His father Andrew told the inquest his son's change in behaviour at university should have raised the alarm. 

After failing a number of modules, Alex opted to complete five assessments and one exam over the summer break in an attempt not to repeat the year.

Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp called the workload set by Nottingham Trent University as ‘understandable’ but ‘unrealistic’.

After the initial conversation agreeing to complete the work, Alex ceased all contact with the university.

His father Andrew Hayer said Alex's sudden failure to communicate with the university should have been a 'red flag' and questioned why his next-of-kin were not contacted. 

Alex didn't manage to submit his assignments and complete his exam on time which meant he failed the year. 

Andrew told the inquest during his statement that the university ‘missed an opportunity’ to save Alex’s life by not contacting his next of kin, adding that the university should reach out to a student’s emergency contact as a ‘duty of care’ if they have concerns.

He has called for the university to implement an opt-in suicide prevention strategy similar to that used at Bristol University.

He proposed that UNT should have a system where students could choose, or refuse, to allow the university to get in touch with a parent, or a trusted adult, if there were serious concerns about their wellbeing.

At the University of Bristol, more than 90 per cent of students have opted in.

Mary O'Neill, Executive Dean for School of Science and Technology at NTU, confirmed that policy has changed since Alex’s tragic death and that all non-progressing students will be contacted in person instead of via email.

Whilst the university has implemented changes, student’s emergency contacts are only contacted in extreme cases and professor O’Neill said a student missing an exam would not automatically be a cause for concern.

A toxicology report found small traces of alcohol, with his cause of death being ruled as hanging.

Coroner Rhodes-Kemp acknowledged the university had ‘like many others has a lot of systems in place’ but questioned what it would take for their emergency contact policy to be triggered.

Adding: “I do feel it would be helpful to ask students for permission to contact next of kin for lack of engagement.”

Coroner Rhodes-Kemp concluded stating: “I am satisfied that Alex did take his own life and intended to do so. I certainly think the problems he had at university would have been a factor.”

The coroner has not yet decided whether a prevention of future death report should be produced for NTU.

Mr Hayter thanked both Hampshire police and Hampshire Search and Rescue for their help finding Alex.

In a statement to the Advertiser, the family said: “Words cannot express how distraught and heartbroken we are that our gorgeous, funny, clever Alex, our beloved son, and brother, is no longer with us.

“He leaves a void in our family that can never be filled. The future that we had hoped for him will not happen. We would like to thank everyone who shared the Missing post and the huge police led team who worked so tirelessly.”

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