English universities to be told to work harder to stop sexual misconduct
Office for Students will publish new guidance requiring robust reporting procedures
Universities in England will be asked to step up their efforts to tackle sexual harassment and violence on campus or face sanctions, amid accusations that they have ignored repeated warnings to tackle rape culture.
The higher education regulator, the Office for Students, will publish new guidance next week asking institutions to take responsibility for protecting their students with “robust” reporting procedures and increased mental health support, as well as bystander and consent training for staff and students.
In a statement, the OfS said: “We could use our enforcement powers where universities and colleges do not have robust, fair and effective complaints procedures in relation to harassment and sexual misconduct.”
Whitehall sources said that Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is backing the OfS’s move, and that he is concerned that sexual abuse should “not be swept under the carpet”.
The government wants to see universities involving the police when serious crimes such as revenge porn and harassment may have been committed, rather than dealing with such cases internally.
The guidance, which has been in development since last year, follows the publication of data shedding light on the scale of sexual misconduct at universities by the campaign website Everyone’s Invited, which was set up to expose sexism and violence against women in educational institutions.
Within a week, more than 1,000 testimonies of sexual harassment, abuse, misogyny and assault were shared by students at more than 80 UK universities. Seventeen UK universities – including 15 in the Russell Group of research-intensive institutions – have more than five mentions, while 12 universities garnered more than 30 disclosures.
The initial focus of Everyone’s Invited was on schools, prompting the government to announce a review of sexual abuse in schools by Ofsted in early April.
As universities are independent organisations, the Department for Education is unable to intervene directly beyond the regulatory guidance, which asks that they make a “visible commitment” to tackling sexual misconduct.
Campaigners in universities have argued that leaders have long been aware of an epidemic of sexual harassment on campus, which has left them exposed to reputational damage and lawsuits. Support for students is patchy while reporting procedures vary by institution, they said.
In 2010, a National Union of Students report, Hidden Marks, found that 68% of students had experienced verbal or physical sexual harassment. A recent Guardian investigation uncovered more than 160 accounts of staff-to-student sexual harassment, while, in 2016, Universities UK’s Changing the Culture report told institutions to embed a zero-tolerance attitude to sexual violence into their policies and create better reporting systems.
Critics warn older, disabled and homeless people risk being unfairly denied democratic say
The UK’s financial regulator has announced the launch of a formal investigation into the collapse of Greensill Capital, the financial...
Police have reportedly arrested protesters outside AstraZeneca's UK office where activists demanded pharmaceutical firms waive...
Exclusive: Costs of War study looked losses suffered by Nato allies over 2001-17, finding UK lost 455 lives
2020’s heavily male ceremony reversed with wins for Arlo Parks, Haim and Billie Eilish, as Little Mix become first all-woman winner...
The UK health secretary has warned that proof of vaccination will be “necessary” for travel as the National Health Service app...
PM leaves out landmark reforms to zero-hours contracts and gig economy from Queen’s speech
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has been handed an eight-month prison sentence after losing a contempt of...
PM announces full inquiry into UK’s handling of crisis will be ‘within this session’ – expected to be a year
Brexit minister says UK would ‘consider all our options’ after meeting with business leaders
Joke in Australian version at expense of Queen’s scandal-hit son deemed not suitable for British audiences
UK government’s to-do list includes planning reforms, voter ID and limits on right to protest, but sidesteps social care and rental reform
PayPal aims to be world’s next super app, akin to China’s Alipay and Tencent. ‘I think we have a chance,’ CEO Dan Schulman says in interview.
Local WhatsApp groups have been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, creating community ties and support networks. Yet loan...
Boris Johnson has said the government "won't settle for going back to the way things were", as the UK emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
Although Hong Kong has long prized laissez-faire policies, when the market is dysfunctional, the government should consider moderate intervention.
People will be able to hug and meet in each other's homes from Monday as Scotland's Covid rules are relaxed.
The migrant-smuggling business in Western Balkan countries is worth at least 50 million euros a year, the Global Initiative Against...
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a U-turn on plans to force coronavirus vaccines on foreign domestic workers on Tuesday, but...
If you're among the many folks who have had to cancel travel plans in the last year, thinking about new destinations can feel like a fantasy.
Protests are taking place at AstraZeneca sites to demand the pharmaceutical firm shares its Covid-19 vaccine technology.
The ransomware attack that shut down the nation’s biggest fuel pipeline prompted an all-too familiar question in the corridors...
Genting Hong Kong's creditors have agreed to a holistic US$2.6bn recapitalization that will make the company solvent and provide...
The Queen has outlined the government's priorities for the year ahead, as she officially reopened Parliament.