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Investigation reveals universities failed to tackle sexual misconduct

UK universities are facing growing criticism about their inability to tackle sexual misconduct as an investigation by The Guardian suggests institutions remain complacent about the scale of the problem.

In 2016, a Universities UK (UUK) taskforce made recommendations for improvement, and since claims that there has been “significant but variable” progress within institutions dealing with student-on-student misconduct.

Though this was considered a success, an investigation by the Guardian found that major discrepancies remain in the ways that universities record sexual misconduct incidents.

“The FoI survey found at least 732 investigations into sexual misconduct by both students and staff”

In 2016,  Freedom of Information (FoI) request results from universities there are widespread inconsistencies in the way incidents were handled and recorded, reflecting claims that universities’ figures underestimate the scale of sexual misconduct.

FoI requests sent again this year to over 100 UK universities aimed to reveal how many allegations and complaints they had received against staff and students as well as staff suspensions and teaching bans.

The FoI survey found at least 732 investigations into sexual misconduct by both students and staff. As a result, 54 members of staff were suspended, although usually only on a temporary basis. 20 were banned from teaching which was also temporary.

“Only 62 of the surveyed universities offered training on sexual consent of students”

Only 62 of the surveyed universities offered training on sexual consent of students, and this measure was mandatory at only six institutions.

Cross-checking results of both FoI surveys showed that several institutions disclosed lower numbers of complaints than they had previously, or omitted cases completely. When universities were challenged, a number of them raised their figures, with the remainder claiming to investigate the anomaly.

“Most institutions do not have distinct policies to deal with sexual violent or harassment explicitly”

The inefficiency of data recording suggests that the extent of sexual misconduct at universities may be higher than the number of formal complaints recorded. As many universities only record figures on formal complaints.

Most institutions do not have distinct policies to deal with sexual violence or harassment explicitly. Since the recommendations from the UUK taskforce, only some institutions reported that they had developed distinct policies and taken innovative steps to enhance reporting mechanisms.

Abbie Davies

Featured image courtesy of ‘Allen Allen. License here.

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