According to recent analysis from the Office for National Statistics, students are the occupational group most likely to have experienced sexual assault than any other. In addition to the staggering sexual misconduct figures, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry into Racial Harassment in 2019 found that nearly one in four ethnic minority students had experienced racial harassment on campus, with only one in three students reporting it to their university. This harassment and abuse that is experienced by far too many students has a devastating impact on their mental health, well-being and academic performance.
To address these significant and challenging issues, The Office for Students invested £4.7m into the Catalyst Programme, which supported 119 projects to tackle sexual misconduct, harassment and hate crime. In 2021, following the findings from those projects, the Office for Students published a statement of expectations, setting out clear recommendations to tackle all forms of harassment and abuse in further and higher education. Unfortunately, whilst some improvements have been made, a consistent level of protection for students was not delivered from self-regulation alone, prompting the Office for Students to launch their consultation earlier this year, A New Approach to Regulating Harassment and Sexual Misconduct in English Higher Education. The consultation seeks to improve how universities and colleges prevent and address incidents from occurring in their institutions, the conclusions of which are expected to be published in due course. The recent findings of The 1752 Group's Higher Education since #MeToo study, led by Dr Anna Bull, has further highlighted the need for a consistent, sector-wide framework that meets the needs of victims.
This Policy Foresight online live conference offers a timely opportunity for key stakeholders from across the further and higher education landscape to examine the proposals from the Office for Students' consultation exercise to develop a ‘whole institution approach’ that confronts harassment and sexual misconduct. Participants will also hear from university and college leaders about how to develop proactive early intervention frameworks and strengthen victim-centred reporting and disciplinary procedures that fosters a safe, healthy and inclusive environment for all students that is free from any form of harassment, intimidation or sexual misconduct.
Report - 23rd October 2019: Equality and Human Rights Commission - Tackling racial harassment: universities challenged
Consultation - 23rd February 2023: Office for Students - Consultation on a new approach to regulating harassment and sexual misconduct in English higher education
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