The University of Oxford today published an annual review of its Student Welfare and Support Services.

The set of reports shines a light on an increase in demand for the University’s Counselling Service and Disability Advisory Service, as well as the Sexual Violence and Harassment Service, which began in 2018.

The report concerning the Counselling Service, which can be accessed in full here, show that 95% of students rated the service as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, with over 12% of students now reaching out to the service for support – a significant rise for the academic year 2018-19. By contrast, just 5.7% of Oxford students sought counselling from the university ten years previously, in the academic year 2008-9.

Almost 30% of those accessing the service in 2018-19 did so because of anxiety. Requests for counselling peaked in 0th week of Michaelmas Term 2018, and waiting times across the academic year increased slightly from 8.8 to 8.9 working days.

Although individual counselling remains the largest pillar of the Counselling Service’s provision, 11 colleges also participated in the ‘on-site counsellor’ scheme.

However, the report expresses concern that many students are only receiving one or two counselling sessions, rather than sustained support.

The figures also reveal that 18% of Oxford’s student population declared a disability in 2018-19, with mental health problems the most commonly declared disability across the university. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of students registering as disabled doubled.

The report for the Disability Advisory Service, which can be read in full here, describes the service as “bespoke” and “individual”. It also reveals that 1,266 students received the Disabled Students’ Allowance in 2018-19 and 1,105 students had alternative exam arrangements, such as extra time.

The Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service was launched in October 2018 with 3 specialist advisors. 65 students sought support in the first term alone, and 167 had reached out to the service by August 2019. 21 male students accessed the service in the first year.

The report on the service, which can be read in full here, notes that the rate of reported sexual violence in Oxford is higher than the national average and the Thames Valley Police area. The service also works with local police and a range of agencies, like the Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC).

In a press release, the University’s Director of Student Welfare and Support Services, Gillian Hamnett, said that the three services were “pleased and heartened” by the positive feedback received, noting that waiting times for counselling services remained “significantly below” the average of 52 days across the sector.

Speaking about the Disability Advisory Service, Hamnett said, “in keeping inclusive teaching and learning at the heart of our strategy moving forward, it will eventually become unnecessary to make special arrangements for most disabled students. Instead, their needs will have been anticipated and largely met, and they can be treated like any other student, which we know many would prefer.”

Hamnett added that “student feedback continues to be vital to the effectiveness of our services and the support that we provide”.

Information about the university’s Student Welfare and Support Services – currently operating online – is available here.

Oliver Shaw

Oliver (he/him) is one of the Editors-in-Chief of The Oxford Blue for the winter vacation and Hilary 2021. Oliver is from Warwickshire and is in his final year studying History at Merton College.