Staff Experience Survey FAQ


What is the University of Oxford Staff Experience Survey? 

An institution-wide, single survey being run at departmental or divisional level. This means that there is a fixed question set common to all departments, so every staff member at the University will complete the same questions; departments or divisions may also add their own questions about their local context. Staff will be sent the link to the survey either by their department/division or by the central University, depending on how the department/division has opted to administer their survey. Anonymised departmental results will be fed back to individual departments for them to analyse according to their local needs. All departments' results will be aggregated to form the institutional results over summer 2016 and analysed at University level by the Equality and Diversity Unit.

Why are you running a staff experience survey? 

We want to know about the experiences of individual members of staff so that we can identify areas where the department and the University might need to make changes in order to ensure the best possible experience for all our staff. Some of this work will be underpinned by national charter marks, which provide a driving framework to pay attention to the experiences of particular groups (e.g. Athena SWAN, the Race Equality Charter Mark, the Stonewall Good Employer's Index, and the HR Excellence in Research Award).

There are therefore a number of aims and rationales for running a single staff survey: 

  • To reduce survey fatigue amongst respondents, many of whom could potentially be surveyed four or five times on similar issues 
  • To allow departments to benchmark their own data against the institutional and divisional aggregate 
  • To provide an overview of institutional and departmental experiences to indicate areas for further work and possible areas to address
  • To enable more fine-grained analysis due to the larger numbers  
  • To remove a significant administrative burden from departments by providing a fixed question set, setting up the survey, and providing template resources and guidance
  • To provide a longitudinal overview of staff experiences to assess and evaluate interventions and strategies. 
  • To provide information to assist in gaining institutional and departmental charter marks and to benchmark against action plans associated with these. 

How often does the survey run? 

Once every two years. At the end of the two-year cycle the question set will be evaluated. Any new surveys will be added to the aggregate beginning at that point rather than added to existing responses. Some departments may wish to run the survey more frequently; if this is the case their data will only be added into the institutional aggregate once every two years.

This survey replaces many existing surveys being run by departments, divisions, and the University centrally (e.g. Careers in Research Online Survey; Athena SWAN departmental surveys; C Change survey), and so should significantly reduce the number of times you are asked to fill in a survey. 

Are college staff eligible to complete the survey? 

No. The survey is for those employed wholly or jointly by the University of Oxford. However, should a college wish to run the survey independently they are welcome to do so (please contact survey 

Who are the Survey Administrators? 

The Survey Administrator in the Equality and Diversity Unit (EDU), Dr Laura Hodsdon, is overseeing the survey administration. She has been responsible for designing and implementing the survey, and will be setting up surveys for departments and divisions other than Medical Sciences and MPLS, as well as analysis at departmental and institutional levels. In those divisions, surveys will be administrated by one member of staff in each of MPLS and MSD Divisions (in both cases the divisional Athena SWAN Co-ordinator - Daisy Hung and Brid Cronin respectively). All three will have access to a password–protected account in BOS from which surveys will be administered. A Survey Analyst may also be appointed, who will also be granted access to the same account, and will be based in the Equality and Diversity Unit. No one else will have access to the account.


Where will the data be stored? 

The survey is run using Bristol Online Surveys (BOS), and all data is stored on servers located at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom.

Who will have access to the Bristol Online Surveys (BOS) account?  

Access is limited to the Survey Administrators. The account is password protected and no one else will be granted access.

At BOS, access to sensitive data is strictly limited to BOS’s support and technical teams. This access is only permitted when it is at the request of the client concerned or necessary for the investigation of operational issues (or when required by law). The BOS servers and backups are accessible only by members of the BOS technical team and other authorised members of IT Services within the University of Bristol (such as systems administrators or those responsible for maintaining the backup service).

Does the survey use a secure connection?

All survey responses are collected over encrypted SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connections. SSL is the standard technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. It ensures that sensitive information can be transmitted securely. All communications within are also sent over SSL encrypted connections.

Will my department be able to work out who I am based on my responses?

No. Raw data will be prepared and summarised by the relevant Survey Administrator (at divisional level for Medical Sciences and MPLS, and by the Equality and Diversity Unit for all other departments and divisions) to remove any cells with fewer than five responses and to anonymise any potentially revealing free text comments, before being shared with departments. 

Can you trace my response back to my computer? 

No. BOS does not use cookies for survey completion and external tracking software such as Google Analytics is not supported on BOS surveys. Survey Administrators also cannot access any information about respondents’ IP addresses.

How will you use the free text? 

Free text responses are an opportunity for you to tell us what's on your mind and valuable to us in revealing more about a response than a number can. At the institutional level, we will code responses by theme using MaxQDA. In reporting, we may quote free text comments but these will be attributed only using high level demographic features not below divisional level (e.g. female, Asian, Medical Sciences Division). 

Who will see the raw data? 

Only the Survey Administrators will have access to the raw data. Before the relevant dataset is shared with a department, data will be summarised to remove any cells with fewer than five responses (for example, if only two respondents say they work 'part-time, flexible' and only three say they work 'full-time, fixed', these categories will be aggregated into a new category, 'Other' with an N of 5). Free text responses will also be checked by Survey Administrators for potentially identifying features, and these will be redacted before being shared with the relevant department.  


Why are you asking for so much demographic data? 

While we recognise that a survey is only the start of identifying areas to consider in more detail, getting a fuller sense of the different experiences of different groups will help us gain a better picture of the staff experience at Oxford. 

We also need to look at the experiences of certain groups of staff in support of particular initiatives: for example, for our work advancing race equality via the Race Equality Charter Mark, we will compare the responses of Black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in relation to non-BME staff (as well as including other variables such as gender, division, type of role etc,) so that we can start to identify if there are areas of the BME staff experience that we might address. Other specific initiatives include Athena SWAN (for gender equality), the Stonewall Good Employers Index (for LGBT staff), and the HR Excellence in Research Award (for research staff). 

Do I have to complete all of the questions?

No. All of the questions are optional, so if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about giving an answer the system will allow you to move on to the next question. 


Can I have a paper-based version of the survey?

Yes. Please email to find out if your department is administering paper surveys, and to request to be sent one if not; or to request a batch of paper versions if you are responsible for running your departmental survey. 

Do all respondents answer the same questions? 

All departments are using the same fixed question set, but some are augmenting this with their own questions specific to their local context, so some people may be asked to complete more questions than others. 

What's the difference between the survey I was sent by my department and the University of Oxford survey? 

They are the same survey, and you should only complete it once. All departments are using the same fixed question set, but some are augmenting this with their own questions specific to their local context, so some people may be asked to complete more questions than others. 

My responses

I've already filled in the survey - why am I being sent reminders? 

Since we cannot associate responses with individuals, we cannot identify whether or not you have completed the survey. We want to get the highest number of responses possible so that people's voices are heard and results are reliable, so please bear with us if you have already filled it in. Please do not complete the survey more than once.

What if I am employed by more than one department?

Please only complete the survey once. Please complete it either for the department where you are employed for the majority of your time; or if your time is equally split, please select the department with which you identify most. 

Why haven't I received an invitation to complete the survey?  

There is no set time when departments are required to run the survey, so it may be that your department has not yet launched yours. If colleagues in your department have already received their invitation, please check with your Departmental Administrator or contact the survey team by emailing

If you are not employed by the University - for example if you are college staff - then you are not eligible to complete the survey. 

When is my department running the survey?

Please ask your Departmental Administrator or email


When can I see the results? 

This will depend on your department. Surveys are being launched at different times and the time taken to run, analyse, and report on results will vary between departments. At institutional level, results are being aggregated over the Long Vacation 2016, and so initial analysis should be available from Michaelmas Term 2016. 

Are you going to make major changes or policy decisions based on the numbers? 

Not on their own, no. The survey will provide an invaluable starting point to identify areas where we would like to look more closely (especially if numbers allow us to conduct fine-grained analysis), and we plan to run focus groups and other research to look into anything flagged up by the survey as of potential interest. We will also be able to track progress over time by comparing responses year on year.