Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Sexual Misconduct by University Staff Involving Students Under Investigation

The National Union of Students has joined forces with The 1752 Group to carry out new research into sexual misconduct between staff and students in UK universities. Researchers will be looking at its prevalence, impact on staff and students and university policies and procedures.

A national survey of staff and students will be conducted and qualitative research will examine how institutions currently respond to this issue. The results will form the basis of a comprehensive public report on staff sexual misconduct to be released next year.

It is hoped that the research will be used by national organisations such as the Universities UK and the Equality Challenge Unit to propose changes in the sector.

The research will also lead to a national campaign, led by NUS’ Women’s Campaign and Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani in partnership with The 1752 Group. The campaign will be shaped by the issues coming out of the research as well as consultations with students, and will aim to shine a light on staff-student sexual misconduct and illustrate why universities need adequate policies, procedures and support for students who experience sexual misconduct from university staff.

Dr Anna Bull, spokesperson for The 1752 Group and lecturer at The University of Portsmouth, said “Sexual misconduct by university staff highlights the difference in power between students and staff. When university staff engage in sexual behaviours towards students, there is often a high cost for students.

Despite this, problems around sexual misconduct by staff have been silenced for too long, and this is evident in the lack of research in this area. One of the central functions of universities is to research – and yet they have failed to carry out research into what is going on in their own back yard. The Guardian’s coverage over the last six months has revealed that universities are failing in their duty of care to students, and protecting staff over students. This research will allow us to start to understand the prevalence of sexual misconduct by university staff, as well as where the gaps are in universities’ responses.’

NUS Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani added: ‘Student-staff misconduct is all too common across Higher Education institutions in the UK. Universities are currently ill equipped to deal with instances of student-staff harassment and lack basic guidelines on the issue itself. On occasions when students do report incidents of abuse, they are often left vulnerable by university procedures.

‘A recent study in the US found that 1 in 6 women postgraduate students and 1 in 20 women undergraduate students had experienced sexual harassment from a lecturer or a university adviser. If figures in the UK are anywhere near as close to the US, we have a national crisis on our hands.

‘The NUS Women's Campaign is immensely proud to be leading on such an urgent initiative. We hope that our research alongside The 1752 Group will help map the scale of the problem and enable us to provide better support to students.’

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