sexual assault Russell Group Universities

New investigation exposes universities that spend the least on staff who support sexual assault victims

The difference between spending on support staff between each institution is huge, according to Tab data


Students are three times more likely to experience sexual assault than anyone else. Yet, the amount spent on staff who provide support to survivors on campus varies dramatically between Russell Group universities.

We’re just one month into term and already a Cardiff student has revealed she was “chased for fees'” rather than given support from the uni after she was raped. Meanwhile in Edinburgh, students have claimed they’ve been “discouraged from reporting sexual misconduct to the police.”

In the first report of its kind, The Tab obtained FOI data from Russell Group universities about their spending on staff whose job it is to support student sexual assault survivors. This data was collected as part of our Do Better campaign, which investigates how universities handle incidents of sexual assault.

Over months we’ve been able to create a true picture of which universities are really investing in the welfare of their students who have experienced assault. The results are wildly different, with Manchester spending more than £2million over the past five years and Nottingham spending £32,105 during the same period.

What Russell Group universities are spending on staff who support sexual assault victims (£):

Staff who provide support to sexual assault survivors on campus are trained to listen without judgement, discuss options with victims and offer practical and emotional support depending on their situation. Sessions are confidential and don’t trigger any form of investigation. But support offered to survivors on campus is far from standardised— and many universities are trailing behind others in the amount spent on specialised survivor support staff.

Exeter’s spending was between £460,186 – £587,348 over the past five years based on their minimum and maximum pay scale for sexual violence leads and managers. But they would not provide an exact figure. Similarly, Durham’s spending on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Managers was between £185,495 and £241,750 but they would not give an exact amount.

University of Oxford told The Tab they’d spent £288,964 in the past five years on record. But, inexplicably, had no record of what they’d spent on Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service staff in 2019 or 2020. So, couldn’t be included in the table.

Birmingham and Warwick both refused to provide how much they’d spent on staff who support survivors of sexual assault over the past five years. And Leeds did not hold a record of the salaries for this type of staff member before 2022.

How long survivors of sexual assault are waiting for support from Russell Group universities:

The Tab also asked Russell Group universities how long students had to wait for appointments with survivor support staff. Most do not log this information and instead referred to their “standard practise”, which ranged from a “few days” to a “week or two”.

Of those who held or were able to share the wait time data, Oxford’s average wait time for an appointment was eight days. Meanwhile, Cambridge’s average wait time was nine days.

sexual assault universities

Credit: Unsplash

In 2021, England’s higher education regulator said universities needed to do more to tackle rape culture. The year prior, the Office for Students claimed students who’d been sexually assaulted were being let down by “inadequate” support on campus.

Barrister Georgina Calvert‑Lee​, who represented victims of the Warwick rape group chat in May 2018, told The Tab: “With the new ruling that higher education institutions owe their students a duty of care after they complain of sexual assault, all universities need to consider whether their support services (or those they point to) are adequate. This is especially important since complainants often say their mental health was impacted more by the lack of support they felt when they reported the assault than by the actual assault itself.”

Linda Lewis, training consultant for The Survivors Trust added: “Some universities take their responsibility very seriously and have sent staff on training and other’s haven’t. We believe trauma informed practitioners are what’s necessary so they [staff] respond empathetically to [survivor’s] needs.

“One of the biggest complaints from survivors we’ve had is when they first told a professional their story, the response was negative. That can be a barrier to them ever opening up and coming forward to get help. They’ll shut down and not want to revisit that experience…When you’re trained, you can recognise we are very much a society of victim blaming.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story contact Refuge on their free 24/7 helpline 0808 2000 247 or contact Rape Crisis online for a free confidential chat helpline.

The Tab’s Do Better campaign puts a focus on the rising student sexual assault problem. Universities need to do more to support students and the culture around sexual assault needs to change. If you have a story you think we should know about, please email [email protected]

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• We asked 4,000 students about sexual assault on campus. These are the shocking results

• Everyone’s Invited founder: ‘Students need to challenge rape culture in real time’

• Students are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than anyone else, new stats reveal