The University has published the annual statistics from the 2019-20 academic year for its Student Welfare and Support Services use. The reports reveal insights into the experiences of those using Oxford’s Counselling, Disability Advisory and Sexual Violence and Harassment services, and how they were impacted by the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reports show an increase in demand for counselling from students, up 8% from the previous year, with 13% of the student population accessing the Counselling Service in the 2019-20 academic year. Waiting times were maintained across services, although patterns of demand were naturally significantly disrupted by the pandemic. For example, there was increased demand for services outside of term time when compared to previous years (from July 2020 onwards weekly out-of-term demand was up by 60-100%). Students of colour have continued to access the service, and more Black counsellors joined the Counselling Team in August 2020 as part of the University’s commitment to inclusivity.
With more students sharing details of health conditions that can be classed as a disability than ever before (21.5%), the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) also saw increased demand. The largest group identified within the student community of those declaring a disability remains those with mental health conditions, followed by those with specific learning difficulties – consistent with the wider sector.
Protecting disabled students during the pandemic has been an ongoing priority for the University. Measures were put in place to ensure that all students were able to continue their studies and access reasonable adjustments with minimal disruption during the move to remote teaching and assessment. Positive practices implemented as part of the University’s pandemic response, such as lecture capture, have been well received by students and the DAS is keen to retain them on a long-term basis.
DAS Service user ethnicity and gender details have also been published for the first time, and show that female students are over-represented amongst DAS users and Asian students are under-represented.
The University’s Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service, which launched in 2018-19, supports Oxford students who have been affected by sexual violence (on campus and off). In 2019-20 the Service increased both the support available and the number of service users coming forward. Demand for the service in its second year increased by 12% on the previous year with the majority of users found to be female undergraduates.
Of the behaviours reported, rape and sexual assault were the most frequent, representing 50% of all cases. 28% of cases were students reporting experiences involving someone external to the University, such as historic cases. Dedicated support for students includes access to an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA), who is seconded to the University. Oxford is one of a small number of Universities in the UK to offer this independent provision. The ISVA supported 62 students at Oxford University in 2019-20 and also provided expert advice on reporting experiences to the police and navigating criminal proceedings. The Service secured funding for a trial of the online consent training programme Consent Matters which is available to all students and staff.
Gillian Hamnett, Director of Student Welfare and Support Services, said:
‘The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives including those of University students. Although these statistics reflect only the first few months of lockdown, the impact of the crisis is clear to see, particularly in the increased demand for counselling support outside of term time. We are proud to have been and continue to be able to provide lifelines to our students at such a time of crisis, including 24 hour online mental health support through the Togetherall platform. Supporting the wellbeing, safety and mental health of our student-body is a responsibility that we take very seriously all year round, and not just during timetabled teaching.
‘At Oxford we are working hard to remove the barriers that disabled students face, and while we know there is more to do, the DAS approach to learning has inclusive teaching at its heart which means it is becoming easier for all students to access their teaching and learning.
‘2020 was an incredibly difficult year, and the University is mindful that the pandemic is not the only event that may have affected our students’ wellbeing, particularly the killing of George Floyd and the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. We are working to provide Student Welfare and Support Services that are both accessible and beneficial to students of all backgrounds and ethnicities, so that regardless of their experience all students are able to find the right support they need.’
Here are the links for each report:
- Disability Advisory Service: Annual Report 2019-20
- Counselling Service: Annual Report 2019-20
- Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service: Annual Report 2019-20
Please visit the welfare and wellbeing pages to find out more about our services.