Universities UK [UUK] has today published new guidance to help universities prevent and respond to all forms of online harassment. UUK, working together with the University of Bedfordshire, has developed Changing the Culture: Tackling online harassment and promoting online welfare as an extension of UUK’s work to help universities tackle harassment, hate crime and gender-based violence.

Social media has a near-universal reach among 16-24 year olds in the UK, with 99% claiming to use it at least weekly (OfCom). According to Ditch the Label’s annual bullying survey*, 69% of all respondents said they had been abusive towards another person online.

While carrying out research for this guidance many universities highlighted the inherent complexity of addressing online harassment as various social media platforms are used extensively by students as part of everyday life.

The guidance includes principles and recommendations for universities including:

  • moving accountability for tackling online harassment to the senior leadership team
  • meaningfully and consistently involving students in the development, execution and assessment of initiatives to tackle online harassment, as well involving students’ unions, academics and all staff
  • updating partnership agreements, such as the student contract or code of conduct, to include expected behaviours in the online sphere
  • adopting the term ‘online harassment’ in policies and making clear to staff and students that what can be referred to as ‘cyberbullying’ can constitute harassment or a hate crime
  • implementing accessible reporting mechanisms for students to make a disclosure or report
  • collecting data on how online harassment is experienced within the student cohort and providing governing bodies with regular reports on online harassment
  • working with partners , including schools and colleges, to provide early information to students on arrangements to tackle harassment and consequences of inappropriate behaviour online
  • regularly reviewing policies and using tools, such as the University of Suffolk’s higher education online safeguarding self-review tool, to support this
  • encouraging staff as role models in championing appropriate online behaviour
  • considering adopting the questions on the National Student Survey (NSS) relating to student safety

Professor Debra Humphris, Chair of Universities UK’s Student Policy Network and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton, said:

“Misuse of social media and other online platforms can leave students exposed to abuse, affecting their mental health and wellbeing, disrupting their education and potentially impacting on their future employability and career prospects.

“In order to tackle online harassment and cyberbullying, we must consider the specific threats it poses as part of our duty of care to all students. This needs to be acknowledged across institutions as part of strategic work to tackle violence, harassment and hate crime.

“Ultimately, a sustained commitment to cultural change by university leaders is vital if we want to ensure that our universities are safe and positive places to live, work and study.”

Dr Emma Short, Director, National Centre for Cyberstalking Research at the University of Bedfordshire and a contributor to the guidance, said:

“Universities should not assume that students always recognise abusive online behaviour or feel equipped to respond to it, there is a clear responsibility to safeguard students both from abuse, and the perpetration of abuse through a lack of awareness.

“The Bedfordshire Cyber Awareness Programme was designed to create a positive culture change, aiming to achieve an increase in understanding about what constitutes unacceptable online behaviour and promote a greater preparedness to seek help when encountering it. Our initial findings did indicate a general tolerance of negative behaviours and a minimisation of possible risks, but changes in attitudes following the training were achieved. Most people indicated the course had increased  their readiness and willingness to take action if they witnessed harmful online interactions.”

Eva Crossan Jory, NUS Vice President (Welfare), said:

“The National Union of Students (NUS) supports moves to update and improve the guidelines and approaches that universities take to combat violence and harassment. While the 2016 Changing the Culture was a key step forward, providing universities with a clearer understanding of how they must improve their practice in both dealing with complaints effectively and supporting students affected by violence and harassment, more must be done.

“NUS has taken steps since 2016 to move forward the discussion, including publishing with the 1752 Group Power in the academy: staff sexual misconduct in UK higher education; that report examines harassment in the context of power and gender, and can inform how to make change in cultures within universities that enable harassment. NUS will continue working with UUK, and welcome further moves to clarify areas universities struggle to address, including harassment in new contexts online such as via social media platforms.”

This research included a survey of institutional policies, processes and systems to support online welfare; a literature review based on an analysis of published research and grey literature; and a roundtable event to explore current practice within the sector.

For the purpose of this work, specific actions/behaviours which can constitute online harassment include cyberstalking, flaming/trolling, exclusion, blackmail, image-based sexual abuse, extortion, identity fraud/theft and hacking/phishing

Although universities do not have the same statutory duty for safeguarding their students as schools and colleges since more higher education students are over 18 years old and legally adults, universities have a duty of care to ensure students can live, work and study safely. This extends to activities outside campus, including the virtual world.

*Ditch the Label holds one of the largest datasets on online bullying and young people.

UUK’s 2016 report 'Changing the Culture' report set out a strong direction for universities to address violence, hate crime and harassment affecting university students. 

Report findings one year on from Changing the Culture showed that while progress has been made, more must be done. UUK’s work in this area is ongoing and this guidance is an extension of this work.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page