Image Credit: Robert Sones

University Welfare support returns to pre-pandemic levels

The University of Oxford has released its 2022-2023 report on Student Welfare and Support Services. The number of students that registered with the service was 3,228, down from 3,595 last year. The added pressure on the service from both the pandemic and its aftermath appears to be gradually dissolving.

Many of the statistics and sentiments of the report echoed previous years. Anxiety remained the biggest issue for students, with 31.1% of students accessing the service because of it. The demand for the Disability Advisory Service (DAS)  continued to rise, with 27.7% of the student population now ‘known to the service’. Female and White students remained slightly overrepresented in the statistics.

Increased wait times were noted in both the Counselling Service and the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service reports, with overall wait times increasing from 9.4 to 10 days. Despite this, the report stressed that 83% of students found their wait times ‘easy to manage’ or ‘manageable’. 

Students had an average of 3.35 sessions, with a large proportion having in-person sessions at Worcester Street. Around 25% of students had just one session.

Of students reporting incidents to the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service, 76% had a single session. However, the report highlighted that this included ‘detailed and tailored follow-up information’. 24% of students accessing the Welfare Service reported the number of sessions as too low. 

Nevertheless, the report celebrated positive Clinical Outcomes. Whilst 48% of students rated their level of emotional difficulty as very severe or severe before utilising the service, only 7% still did after receiving support. 88% of students rated their counsellor as good or very good. 

Jane Harris and Katherine Noren, the Co-Directors of Student Welfare and Support Services, stated that “It has also been particularly encouraging to see students increasingly engaging with the online consent training”. 

Compared to the 949 students who completed this training between 2021-2022, 1778 students completed it between 2022-2023. However, this was still almost half the number of students that completed it when the training was first launched in 2020-2021. 

Whilst the number ‘seeking support’ from Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service was in line with last year, there was a wider range of requests. More students received support for coercive control and childhood sexual abuse. 49% of these requests were related to a ‘non-University context’.

There was a reduction in the number of reported incidents that involved staff members. The report pondered over whether this was related to the introduction of the student-staff relationship policy that was introduced in Hilary 2023. 

In their statement, Harris and Noren stated that they are “pleased to see the various support services are being so well utilised”. This is evident from the 827 students that attended groups or workshops hosted by the Welfare Services on topics including Perfectionism and Finding Your Voice. In collaboration with the University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM), these were held all over Oxford from the Ashmolean to the Botanical Gardens.

Looking to 2023-2024, the Disability Advisory Service Report highlighted the implementation of a new tailored Student Support Plan, which will enable students ‘with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) to access a range of standard adjustment recommendations in a more timely, efficient way’. 

The Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service has secured funding to ‘employ another full-time Specialist Caseworker’ which will help relieve staff pressure and increase the capacity of casework teams to work more efficiently.  

Finally, the Counselling Service has identified accessibility as ‘a priority area for review’ in 2023/24.

Image Credit: Robin Sones

Image Description: Worcester street