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National Union of Students and The 1752 Group announce action into staff-student sexual misconduct in higher education
The Women’s Campaign at the National Union of Students together with lobby and research organisation The 1752 Group are partnering on a ground-breaking piece of research into sexual misconduct by university staff towards students.
This pioneering project will draw on expertise from The 1752 Group to carry out a national survey of staff and students with an anticipated 3,000 responses from students and staff, as well as qualitative research examining how institutions respond to this issue.
This will draw on the model of the NUS Women’s Campaign ‘Hidden Marks’ campaign and research carried out in 2011 focusing on student-student sexual harassment which has led to a sea-change in universities’ approaches to this issue. This research will form the basis for a comprehensive public report on staff sexual misconduct to be released next year. NUS wants to provide legal advice and support for students who decide to disclose and is currently looking into how best to do this.
The research will investigate the scale of the problem in the UK and inform policy in the HE sector regarding harassment. It is expected that this 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. This 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 to illustrate why universities need adequate policies, procedures and support for students who experience sexual misconduct from university staff.
Spokesperson for The 1752 Group Dr Anna Bull, who is also 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. 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 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.
‘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.’
For interviews or further comments please call Dr Anna Bull (The 1752 Group/The University of Portsmouth) on 07960911827
Dr Tiffany Page (The 1752 Group) 07762800832
NUS Press office email@example.com 07866 695 010
This press release follows coverage from The Guardian over the last two days on this issue with a series of stories reporting on Freedom of Information requests to UK universities about recorded complaints relating to sexual harassment by university staff (including stories on ‘epidemic levels’ of sexual harassment in UK universities, on why the reported figures are likely to be an underestimate, reporting sexual harassment in higher education, and on universities’ responses to their coverage).
- Open consultations on the research will be held on 14 March and the research will be launched at NUS Women's Conference on 28-30 March
· The 1752 Group is a lobby group and consultancy set up in 2016 to tackle the issue of staff-student sexual misconduct in higher education www.1752group.com
· The National Union of Students is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions. We are a confederation of 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through our member students' unions, we represent the interests of more than seven million students. We promote, defend and extend the rights of students and develop and champion strong students’ unions.
· We use the phrase ‘sexual misconduct’ rather than sexual harassment to highlight the fact that sexual behaviours between staff and students that do not constitute harassment may still be harmful to students, or may affect their ability to access teaching and support.
· The Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey reported that 15.8% of female postgraduate students and 4.9% of female undergraduate students reported sexual harassment from a teacher or advisor (p. xvii):
Cantor, D., Fisher, B., Chibnall, S., Townsend, R., Lee, H., Bruce, C., Thomas, G., 2015. Report on the AAU campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Association of American Universities. https://www.aau.edu/Climate-Survey.aspx?id=16525