Oxford skyline
Oxford skyline

Credit: John Cairns

Student Welfare and Support Services reports show demand remained high in 2022-23

The University has today published its annual reports for the Student Welfare and Support Services (SWSS), detailing the use of these services in the academic year 2022/23. 

The University of Oxford has today published its annual reports for the Student Welfare and Support Services (SWSS), detailing the use of these services in the academic year 2022/23. SWSS provides specialist and professional welfare services to all students across the collegiate University working closely with college welfare teams. These include the University’s Counselling, Disability Advisory, Sexual Harassment and Violence Support and Peer Support Services, which provide information, confidential advice and support, and training.

3,228 students registered with the Counselling Service for individual counselling in 2022/23 - 12.4% of the total student population. This was down from 3,595 students in the previous academic year (13.8% of the student body). 33% of students were seen within five working days and 80% within 15 working days of registration; 827 students attended groups or workshops organised by the Counselling Service; 85% of students rated their overall experience at ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Anxiety remains the largest presenting issue for Oxford students, although down from 33.7% to 31.1% in 2022/23.

In 2022/23, more than 400 students were actively working as peer supporters and 142 students completed the SWSS Peer Support Programme training, which seeks to equip students with the skills to support and encourage their peers on a day-to-day basis, and signpost them to the more formal support available.

Demand for the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) rose again in 2022/23, with 7,350 students known to the service – 27.7% of the total Oxford student population (registrations were up 4.9% on 2021/22). Student Support Plans (SSP), which provide personalised recommendations for individual support, were in place for 3,215 students – 10% of the total Oxford student population.

A new tailored Student Support Plan model was developed for roll-out in 2023/24, enabling students with specific learning difficulties to access a range of standard reasonable adjustment recommendations in a more timely and efficient way. This is in addition to the decision to accept a wider range of disability evidence to ensure students receive essential access to common reasonable adjustments such as additional time in examinations where appropriate.

The number of students seeking support from the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service, which support students who have been affected in any way by sexual harassment or violence, no matter where or when the offence took place, remained largely consistent with the previous academic year with 170 referrals and support provided to 130 students (183 and 135 respectively in 2021/22).  All enquiries were offered an appointment within two days and the average time between requesting an appointment and meeting a specialist caseworker was 9.5 days, with the longer wait times usually at the request of the student.

40% of students supported defined their experience as sexual assault in 2022/23, 17% as sexual violence and 15% as rape. Most notably there was an increase in requests for support for relationship abuse, including coercive control (up 40% year-on-year) and childhood sexual abuse (up 85%). Almost half of all cases (49%) in 2022/23 related to a non-University context, compared with 17% the previous academic year.

In Michaelmas term 2022, the number of students completing the free online consent training offered by the University – Consent Matters – more than doubled to 5,426 (from 2,428 in MT 2021). The Service also successfully piloted an in-person training model, with student facilitators trained and supported to deliver sessions to their peers in College. This will remain a priority area in 2023/24, with online and in-person consent training being more broadly rolled out.

Jane Harris and Katherine Noren, Co-Directors of Student Welfare and Support Services, said, “Last year was another incredibly busy year for Student Welfare and Support Services and we are pleased to see the various support services are being so well utilised. SWSS staff continue to work hard to ensure that we offer the best possible provision for Oxford’s student community. We are exceptionally proud of our high-quality support offering, which is an essential component of the wider welfare eco-system. It has also been particularly encouraging to see students are increasingly engaging with the online consent training as this is a key part of building a consent culture at Oxford.”