The survey collected data on the scale and nature of university student experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The survey was 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 took approximately 10–12 minutes to complete.
The National Student Safety Survey was deployed from 6 September until 3 October 2021.
Before it was deployed nationally, a pilot for the survey was conducted at two universities – the Australian National University and Charles Sturt University – during March and April 2021.
The survey was conducted by the Social Research Centre (SRC) in partnership with leading violence prevention expert Associate Professor Anastasia Powell of RMIT University.
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 national survey randomly sampled students from universities across the sector. For most universities, 10,000 students were sampled. For universities with less than 10,000 students, all eligible students were selected to participate. The selection of students took into account factors like gender, year of study, residency and level of study to make sure the sample was representative.
The national survey ran for around 4 weeks from 6 September until 3 October, 2021.
De-identified and aggregated data will be released in early 2022 once the results are collected and analysed by the Social Research Centre and Associate Professor Powell.
The survey built on and extended the foundational survey conducted in 2016. But there were 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 national survey and qualitative research have received ethics approval from a Human Research Ethics Committee.
We are very aware that the survey contains highly sensitive questions. Student and survivor wellbeing has been at the centre of the entire survey process.
Only students currently at university were randomly selected to participate in the survey. This is so we could guide further action and policies for current students.
All current students, whether or not they were selected to participate in the survey, have had 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 were able to stop and re-start the survey at any time to ensure they could take breaks if they need.
Support numbers and hyperlinks to relevant services were on screen the whole time as students participated in the survey.
Student safety and wellbeing was 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 was 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.
All universities have on campus counselling services available for students – as well as phone and online services.
Key support numbers were provided to all survey participants while they undertook the survey.
Students were able to stop and re-start the survey at any time if they needed to take a break.
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, Universities Australia 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.