Universities ‘must do more to tackle harassment’

Universities must do more to tackle harassment and hate crimes on campus, a report says.

Universities UK (UUK) found since a taskforce was set up in 2016 they had made good progress to combat sexual misconduct and gender-based violence.

But less attention was given to other forms of harassment and hate crimes, such as those related to race or faith.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said there must be a “zero-tolerance culture” to all types of harassment.

As well as hate crimes, the report looked at “everyday harassment” or “micro-aggressions” based on a student’s disability, gender identity, race, ethnicity or nationality, religion, faith or belief, or sexual orientation.

Of the 92 of the UK’s 136 universities that responded to the UUK survey:

  • 81% have updated their discipline procedures, with 53% introducing or making additions to their student code of conduct
  • 78% have provided students clear information on how to report an incident
  • 72% have developed or improved recording of data on incidents, with a more centralised approach
  • 65% have rolled out consent training to their students
  • 50% said students could report incidents anonymously

UUK president Prof Julia Buckingham, the vice-chancellor of Brunel University London, said: “The higher education sector recognises its shared responsibility to eliminating hate crime, which is unacceptable in our society, and in our universities.

“We are committed to ensuring we create welcoming and inclusive environments for students of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities to flourish and this research shows significant progress towards that.

“While it is understandable that there has been a particular focus on addressing gender-based violence, it is time for us to step up and make sure the same priority status and resourcing is given to addressing all forms of harassment and hate.”

Mr Skidmore said: “Any form of harassment, violence or hate crime is abhorrent and unacceptable anywhere in society and this includes our world-leading universities, which should be safe and inclusive environments.

“The impact of these offences can be devastating on victims and while this report shows the progress which has been made, it also highlights the sad truth that there is much further to go to combat the culture of harassment, support those affected and take serious action where needed.

“I am urging all leaders to prioritise a zero-tolerance culture to all harassment and hate crime and do all they can to follow these recommendations.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: “The findings from UUK show progress is being made by universities to develop systems and policies to address these issues but more must be done.

“These improvements need to be taking place across all universities.

“The OFS will continue to work with universities and colleges, and other organisations to ensure that all students from all backgrounds can be – and feel – safe on campus.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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