Research perspectives

Universities “complacent and inadequate” on issues of sexual misconduct, Guardian investigation finds

UK universities have been accused by sexual violence campaigners and the National Union of Students of a “complacent and inadequate response” to sexual harassment and gender violence following a Guardian investigation. 104 Universities responded to a FoI request, Their replies revealed that many do not provide training for staff on sexual misconduct, lack designated experts to deal with student victims, and in cases of staff harassment of students do not hold independent investigations.

39% said they provide no training to staff on sexual misconduct, including harassment, assault, rape, stalking, domestic violence and other forms of gender violence, although a number reported that the issue was mentioned in general equality and diversity training, or in relation to their internal policies or legal responsibilities. Just over a quarter reported that training on sexual misconduct was mandatory.

23% reported that they had no clearly designated point of contact for victims of sexual misconduct despite last year’s Universities UK inquiry recommending a centralised reporting system for sexual violence and harassment, supported by well-trained staff.

21% did say they had a designated point of contact with training on sexual misconduct, and over a half said there was a member of staff whom students could approach, although they may not have had any specialist training. Just under a quarter (24%) of the universities said their student advisers, had no training on sexual misconduct.

The findings also raised concerns about the fairness of investigations into student complaints of sexual misconduct by staff. Almost half of the respondents stated that they allowed staff to investigate colleagues from the same department. Whilst the majority said they would consider a student’s concerns about the impartiality of an investigator, 20% said students had no right to request an investigator be replaced if there were concerns about a potential conflict of interest. Only 10% require staff who investigate complaints of sexual misconduct to have had training on how to handle such cases.


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