University reports welfare and support services face “increased demand”

The University of Oxford has released its 2021-2022 report on Student Welfare and Support Services reflecting “increased demand” upon a return to in-person services.

As face-to-face therapeutic support returned in September 2021, demand for the service observed a marked increase. Use of university counselling has risen to 3,595 pupils in the 2021-2022 academic year from 3,440 pupils in the previous period. Like past reports, anxiety has been shown to be the prevailing issue, with 33.7% of students presenting the condition compared to 30.9% previously.

Higher need for counselling was reported to match up with “increased anxiety in the general population” since the pandemic. However, increasing demand has not led to increasing wait times, with 42% of students being seen in less than 5 working days. In comparison to 35.2% receiving this quick access in 2020-2021, there is certainly progress to appreciate.

The Disability Advisory Service also reported a rise in demand, from a previous 24.3% to 26.5% of the Oxford student population. The majority of this is those with long-term mental health conditions, making up 5% of the university’s pupils.

In response to these needs, Student Support Plans were made for 64.7% of those using the service. These consist of individual recommendations for these pupils, benefitting users with specialised support. Teaching has also become more adaptable, with the new Educational Recordings Policy introduced in Michaelmas 2022 expanding inclusivity by recording teaching.

As people returned to consistent in-person learning, the issue of sexual harassment and violence has risen. This is evidenced by increasing use of the support service, which was up 17.9% on the previous year. 75% of casework pertains to serious sexual crimes like sexual assault and stalking, indicating that the University may be facing a serious situation.

Michaelmas 2022 saw a 60% increase in Sexual Violence and Harassment Support Service referrals in comparison to that term the previous year, exemplifying the increased demand. This need has led to pupils receiving online consent training alongside a broader review of different colleges’ strategies.

Rotimi Akinsete, the Director of Student Welfare and Support Services, has acknowledged the “impact of the pandemic” leading to increased use of support by services. In spite of this challenge, he has also welcomed the “return to in-person services” as a better way to “play a key role” in supporting the student community.