Abigail MeadowJanuary 9th
2020

Students who have been sexually harrassed and abused are often being let down due to 'inadequate' support and 'ineffective' reporting procedures in universities.

The Office for Students (OfS) said universities could face a fine and deregistration if they do not respond or give the appropriate support to students who've faced sexual abuse or harassment.

The regulator is asking for universities to put vigorous procedures in place to ensure that students can address not only any sexual misconduct they may have faced, but that it will be dealt with properly.

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The OfS has also urged university staff to undertake training including consent workshops in the hope it will help prevent incidents from taking place on campus.

This comes after shocking research revealed that half of university students said they have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour including inappropriate touching, being followed and being forced into sex.

OfS proposals which are now up for consideration warn of 'widespread reports' of harassment and sexual misconduct being inadequatey handled by universities. It states unviersities should clearly set out how they will prevent and respond to these complaints, as well as the expectations of behaviour they have of students, staff and visitors.

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Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of the OfS, said: "Too often students say they are not getting the support they need if they suffer this unacceptable behaviour, and that reporting systems are not clear or effective.”

“We need to do more for the students who are still being let down by ineffective procedures and inadequate support. 

“Our proposed statement of expectations sets out the basis of fair, clear and robust processes that we expect all higher education providers to have in place to respond effectively to harassment and sexual misconduct. Where we see evidence of serious failings, we have the regulatory powers to intervene.”

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NUS women’s officer, Rachel Watters, said: “We need urgent responses to tackle sexual harassment and violence in colleges and on campus. Historically, efforts towards tackling issues of sexual violence on university campuses have been shouldered by the most marginalised students.”

A spokesperson for Universities UK, an organisation that represents vice-chancellors, said: “Universities are committed to ensuring students and staff have a safe university experience, free from harassment and hate crime, which allows them to thrive in their learning and work. 

“Universities welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the progress they are making on this important issue.”

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