Incidents of harassment, sexual violence and hate crime have increased markedly on university and college campuses in recent years. The frequency and gravity of this abuse is alarming and according to a 2018 poll by Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room, of the current university students and recent graduates surveyed, 62% had experienced sexual assault during their studies. Furthermore, a recent NUS research study found that one in seven further education college students reported being raped or subjected to an attempted rape. These incidents however are not just limited to sexual violence - the national increase of 17% in hate crimes is also echoed within the educator sector across England and Wales.
To address these serious and challenging issues, the Office for Students has invested £4.7m over three years in 119 Catalyst Fund projects as it strives to take forward many of the zero-tolerance prevention, reporting and response recommendations put forward in Universities UK’s Changing the Culture report published in 2016. These funding packages aim to establish ‘what works’ in disrupting sexual harassment, bullying and hate crime as well as seeking to support effective local practice, raise awareness and identify new ways to strengthen student safeguarding.
In June 2019, Advance HE released an updated evaluation report examining the progress-to-date of the Catalyst Fund, which concluded that while substantial progress is being made, education providers needed to do much more to protect student safety and wellbeing in the areas of staffing, leadership and resources.
This special Policy Foresight symposium offers a timely opportunity to examine the findings from the latest Advance HE report into the Catalyst Fund projects and learn from themes and good practice emerging from them. The symposium will examine how to establish more proactive early intervention frameworks, strengthen victim-centred reporting and disciplinary procedures and explore how the HE/FE sector can embed a wider culture change through better joined-up working so that every student is able to study in an environment which is safe, healthy and inclusive.
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