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NUS launches action into sexual misconduct at universities

Tuesday 7 March 2017 Women

NUS Women’s Campaign is launching a ground-breaking piece of research along with The 1752 Group, who work extensively on staff-to-student sexual misconduct in higher education.

Staff-student sexual misconduct is finally being put in the spotlight.

The Guardian has written up a series of reports on the sheer scale of the issue, which Dr Ann Olivarius, senior partner at law firm McAllister Olivarious, has described as being at ‘epidemic levels’.

And now NUS Women’s Campaign and the 1752 Group have announced a pioneering new project to examine the issue and produce new guidance for the higher education sector.

The research, building on our 2011 ‘Hidden Marks’ report, will form the basis of a comprehensive public report on staff sexual misconduct next year.

It will inform a national campaign to shine light on sexual misconduct and show why universities need adequate policies in place to deal with it.

NUS Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani said: ‘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.

‘Unfortunately, the scale of the problem in the UK is not well documented. A recent study in the US, however, 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.'

Spokesperson for The 1752 Group Dr Anna Bull, who is a 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. 

'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.’

You can attend open consultations on the research on 14 March and the report will be launched at NUS Women's Conference on 28-30 March. An open consultation will also take place during Women's Conference.