Frequently asked questions
2021 National Student Safety Survey
- The pilot survey will run in late March 2021
- The national survey will run in September 2021
- The national results will be delivered in 2022
The survey will collect data on the scale and nature of university student experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The survey is funded by the university sector’s world-leading Respect. Now. Always. initiative – a sector-wide program that aims to prevent sexual violence in university communities and better support those who have been affected.
The survey will take 10–12 minutes to complete.
Before it is deployed nationally, a pilot for the survey will be conducted at two universities – the Australian National University and Charles Sturt University – during March and April 2021.
The national student safety will run in September 2021.
The survey will be conducted by the Social Research Centre (SRC) in partnership with leading violence prevention expert Associate Professor Anastasia Powell of RMIT.
The tender process to conduct the follow-up survey was competitive. The Social Research Centre in partnership with Associate Professor Powell presented the strongest proposal.
The pilot will be limited to a small number of students from the Australian National University and Charles Sturt University. The pilot is designed to test the survey instrument and processes. It is not designed to measure prevalence of violence at those universities. Results from the pilot will not be included in the full national survey results because the pilot data will not be representative of the student population.
The full national survey will randomly sample 10,000 students from each university. For universities with less than 10,000 students, all eligible students will be selected. The selection of students will take into account factors like gender, year of study, residency and level of study to make sure the sample is representative.
The national survey will run for around 4 weeks in September 2021.
De-identified and aggregated data will be released in 2022 once the results are collected and analysed by the Social Research Centre and Associate Professor Powell.
The survey builds on and extends the foundational survey conducted in 2016. But there will be key differences, including behavioural questions on sexual assault.
Comparability between the prevalence rate of the 2016 survey and the 2021 survey will be limited.
The National Student Safety Survey will ask students about their experience of violence since starting university, regardless of where it occurred. If students have experienced violence, students will also be asked whether this occurred at university, including at any kind of university event, place, or occasion, whether on or off campus. Universities are concerned about these behaviours happening in student communities, whether they are on campus, off campus, on public transport, a student’s home or online.
There are concerns worldwide that COVID-19 may have led to an increase in gender-based violence and online abuse.
Yes – both the pilot and the national survey have received ethics approval from a Human Research Ethics Committee.
We are very aware that the survey will contain highly sensitive questions. Student and survivor wellbeing will be at the centre of the entire survey process.
Only students currently at university will be randomly selected to participate in the survey. This is so we can guide further action and policies for current students.
All current students, whether or not they have been selected to participate in the survey, will have the opportunity to share their story anonymously online. In depth accounts of student experiences, and students’ suggestions for how universities can continue to improve, provides vital context for the SRC’s final analysis.
Yes – students will be able to stop and re-start the survey at any time to ensure they can take breaks if they need.
Support numbers and hyperlinks to relevant services will be on screen the whole time as students participate in the survey.
Student safety and wellbeing will be at the centre of the entire survey process.
Rigorous testing conducted by the SRC in partnership Associate Professor Anastasia Powell showed that translation into other languages is not necessary.
No – the survey results will be confidential, de-identified and aggregated.
Yes – the Social Research Centre and Associate Professor Powell engaged students, survivors, experts and key organisations in the design of the survey.
Yes – they were engaged as part of the survey development process.
Key support numbers will be provided to all survey participants while they do the survey.
Students will be able to stop and re-start the survey at any time if they need to take a break.
All universities have on campus counselling services available for students – as well as phone and online services.
Since the survey results were released in late 2017, universities have implemented 800 major actions to prevent and respond to sexual violence in their institutions.
This includes first responder training for student leaders, consent and bystander training for staff and students, and working with students to co-design prevention programs.
Since 2017, Universities Australia has:
In early 2019, UA partnered with Our Watch and the Victorian Government to develop a whole-of-institution approach to stop violence before it starts. Called Educating for Equality, this project examines all aspects of how a university operates, including research, teaching, student life and community activities. The model has been piloted and refined with four universities (Monash, La Trobe, Southern Cross and Western Sydney). A comprehensive set of resources and tools developed as part of the project – including an implementation guide, key messages and training – will be provided to the sector in March 2021.