Sexual harassment in Higher Education | Education Support Partnership

Sexual harassment in Higher Education

Sexual harassment and misconduct has been highlighted as an issue for the higher education sector and we have been making sure that we are connecting with the people and organisations tackling it, so that we can offer appropriate support.

The 1752 Group was set up as a research and lobby organisation to end sexual misconduct in higher education.  Although the group has a focus on staff-on-student misconduct, it acknowledges that this behaviour also takes place between staff.  With the National Union of Students (NUS), the 1752 Group launched the first national survey looking at staff sexual misconduct in the UK. The survey closed in January 2018 and outcomes are due to be published, along with other much-needed research, in May.

Some universities are taking proactive steps to tackle the issue. At Goldsmiths, University of London, a member of staff has been appointed to review the processes relating to sexual harassment and make a series of recommendations.

Vicki Baars, the Strategy and Review Manager – Sexual Harassment, said:

“This role was created to have an impact at a strategic level as well as operationally. We’re very proud of the number of muchneeded changes that we’ve managed to achieve in a little under a year. Sexual Violence, Harassment and Misconduct are pervasive throughout society and universities are facing up to the specifics of how these issues are perpetrated in our context.”

“We are exploring the best ways to respond to, as well as prevent them, from happening. At Goldsmiths, with the proactive involvement of our campus trade unions and students’ union, we have written a specific policy and procedure which is generating new and improved ways of working.”

“We are rolling out an essential training programme for staff, piloting a bystander intervention programme for students and have developed an online reporting system which allows the reporter to do so anonymously, or with contact details, that is integrated with an abundance of support information.” 

Education Support Partnership has been working with the Universities & Colleges Union (UCU) to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. We have launched a dedicated support line for members wanting to discuss experiences or issues outside the branch or institutional setting.

At UCU, there is a priority campaign to tackle the issue. Charlotte Nielsen, Equality Support Official, said:

“UCU is determined to make a difference to working cultures by challenging sexual harassment through implementing robust workplace policies as well as ensuring our reps feel confident and supported in changing workplace cultures, which includes through our reps training programme.”

We recently attended one of UCU’s training sessions on dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. We gave a short presentation on how we work to complement the support Union representation provides to members and we updated delegates on the additional support we have developed for UCU members and Reps around this issue. We have been proud to work with UCU on their campaign against sexual harassment in the workplace and look forward to joining branches as we raise awareness of the campaign.  

Find out more about the UCU workplace campaign at www.UCU.org.uk/equality