Nightline (student service)

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Nightline is the name given to various confidential and anonymous overnight listening, emotional support, information, and supplies services, run by students for students at universities around the world. Individual Nightlines are autonomous organisations, but are affiliated to the Nightline Association, which is an umbrella organisation founded to facilitate cooperation between Nightlines in the UK and Ireland.

There are now Nightlines services in over 40 universities with around 2000 student volunteers in the UK,[1] all which are affiliated with the Nightline Association. In later years, other universities in Europe, Canada and the United States also started Nightline services.[2]

Their current motto is 'We'll listen, not lecture'[3]


The first Nightline was set up in 1970 at Essex University by a former director of the local Samaritans branch and the university chaplain to try to reduce the rate of student suicide.[4] The helpline was founded on the understanding that some students would be reluctant to approach outsiders for help and would find it easier to speak to another student. The idea caught on and spread first to Imperial College in London in 1971,[5] and then to many other universities around the United Kingdom.[6] During the early 1980s, individual Nightlines started to work together to share skills and ideas, such as publicity, recruitment and training concepts. The umbrella organization National Nightline was founded in 1991 as a formal structure for this work, and represents all affiliated organizations, but has no authority over them. It became a registered charity in early 2006.[7] It subsequently adopted the operating name of Nightline Association, and in 2012 changed the name at Companies House to formally become the Nightline Association.[3]

The Nightline Association hosts an annual conference of member Nightlines every year. Conferences form a primary method of communication within the Nightline Association, as a means of disseminating vital information and ideas - examples include Lancaster Nightline's conference on training issues (2006), the Oxford Nightline conferences on abusive callers (2005, 2006, 2007) and the Durham Nightline conference on changes to the suicide policy (2016).

Nightline's 40th birthday celebratory conference and awards ceremony was held at the place of its origin Essex University in March 2010.[8] The conference and awards ceremonies are held at different Nightline universities on an annual basis and are organised by an Executive Officer from the hosting university.

Philosophy and vision[edit]

All Nightlines adhere to core principles of anonymity, confidentiality, and non-directionality.[9] Most choose to formalize that as the 'Five Principles':

  • Confidentiality - calls are strictly confidential between Nightline and the caller.
  • Anonymity - callers are not required to give any identifying details to the Nightline volunteers taking their calls. Volunteers must also keep their work secret where possible, which often involves not revealing to their peers that they are Nightline volunteers.
  • Non-Judgemental - Nightline will not impose any views or prejudices on callers.
  • Non-Directive - Nightline will not push callers towards any course of action, but will try to help them come to their own decisions.
  • Non-Advisory - Nightline does not give out advice, but will pass on factual, impartial information if appropriate.

The Nightline Association also state that their vision is for every student in higher and further education to have access to the support offered by Nightline services so that:[9]

  • Every student is able to talk about their feelings in a safe, non-judgmental environment
  • Fewer students have their education compromised by emotional difficulties
  • Fewer students die by suicide.

To achieve this vision, the mission of the Nightline Association is to raise the quality, profile and number of Nightline services so that every student is aware of and has access to confidential emotional peer support.

Services and structure[edit]

All Nightlines operate a telephone listening service, some providing separate lines and telephone numbers for listening and for information. Some also offer a 'drop-in' service, where callers can talk to a Nightline volunteer in person. Many Nightlines offer e-listening (contact by email) as an additional means of support. Most recently, some Nightlines have begun offering a confidential online listening service, a confidential text-based one-to-one chat conducted via a secure internet connection. In addition to the various listening services, some Nightlines supply condoms, pregnancy testing kits, personal attack alarms and women's sanitary products. A few even offer a 'bed for a night' service where students can come to Nightline to sleep, and some offer a camp-bed/mattress hire service for those students with friends visiting. A small number of Nightlines also now offer SMS and Skype services.

Nightlines are staffed by student volunteers, who are trained to take calls in accordance with the principles and policies of their organization. Nightline volunteers are not paid for their time, however some Nightlines have paid co-ordinators.


  1. ^ About Nightline
  2. ^ "Locations | Nightline Association". Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Nightline Association". Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Nightline Essex". Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "History & Organisation | London Nightline". Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  6. ^ [1] Archived 26 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Charity Commission registration details[dead link]
  8. ^ "Nightline Association events" Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b "Mission and vision | Nightline Association". Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2011. 

External links[edit]