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Universities introducing further initiatives to tackle harassment

Universities are continuing to introduce new initiatives and strategies to tackle harassment affecting university students, according to a new report published today (27 July).

At the end of last year, Universities UK published the results of a year-long taskforce into how universities deal with violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students.

While the evidence from the taskforce showed that many universities had already taken positive steps to address these issues, it found also that university responses were not always as joined-up as they could be. One of the report’s recommendations – circulated to all universities – was that more work needed to be done to share effective practice across the university sector.

Responding to this, Universities UK has today published a directory of case studies detailing responses from universities. The publication highlights how universities and students’ unions have been continuing to evolve thinking and best practice. It shows a wide range of innovative projects, from improving incident reporting procedures, to improving student and staff training in this area.

Examples of the initiatives include:

  • Canterbury Christ Church University’s Expect Respect Project (case study 5): a phased communications campaign encouraging open and honest conversations around sexual harassment and consent and signposting the support available.
  • University of East Anglia student union ‘Never OK’ campaign (case study 29): an anti-sexual harassment campaign aiming to encourage people to talk about sexual harassment and challenge stigmas. UEA have hired full time staff members to support the campaign and make this a whole-university approach.
  • University of Exeter’s quiz for students (case study 2): a mandatory quiz aiming to empower students to become active bystanders in situations they witness and to be self-aware.
  • Middlesex University’s sector-specific toolkit (case study 8): The Safeguarding Board is developing a toolkit and training model to implement the Pinsent Mason’s 2016 guidelines and to develop further initiatives with the students’ union and other partners.
  • University of Lancaster’s UniSafe app (case study 15): a university and students’ union collaboration encouraging students to report crime and harassment via the UniSafe app and making it quicker and easier for students to access support.
  • Goldsmith’s hate crime reporting centre (case study 11): a joint initiative with the local authority in Lewisham and Metropolitan Police. The on-campus centre provides students and staff with a private, familiar and safe space to report incidents.

Alistair Jarvis, Acting Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “The university sector has been clear that sexual violence, harassment or hate crime will not be tolerated on a university campus, nor anywhere else.

“Universities have a duty to develop an effective response to harassment, hate crime and sexual violence. Last year’s taskforce report was clear that, while many universities had good systems and initiatives in place to deal with the issues, university responses were not always as joined-up as they could be.

“It is good to see universities and students’ unions are responding to this challenge, with a wide range innovative and effective initiatives and procedures. It is important that universities continue to share examples of effective practice across the sector and more widely.

“While these issues are not isolated to universities, higher education has an important role to play in driving cultural change and preventing and dealing with this challenge.”

The new case studies directory is a developing resource bank that will continue to grow as universities share initiatives and experiences within the UK and internationally. It is available on the Universities UK website.

The taskforce was established in November 2015 with the aim of bringing together students, university experts and external organisations to consider the current evidence and what universities are doing to address these issues and what more needs to be done. The final Report of the Universities UK Taskforce examining violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students  (Oct 2016) is available to download. The additional guidance for higher education institutions on how to handle alleged student misconduct which may also constitute a criminal offence – published alongside the taskforce’s final report – is available to download here

Universities UK is hosting a national conference in November 2017 on tackling violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting students. The conference will offer practical assistance to universities on dealing with the issues and for responding to student concerns.

About Universities UK: is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 135 members and offices in London, Cardiff (Universities Wales) and Edinburgh (Universities Scotland), it promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally.

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