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Changing the culture in universities: One year on

Changing the culture in universities: One year on

Universities UK have published a report, based on research by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, on the way gender-based violence and harassment is dealt with on UK university campuses. Though the research, which surveyed twenty institutions, suggests progress has been made in the last year, practice and process are still highly variable in quality between institutions. Specific ‘Catalyst safeguarding funding’ has made an impact with universities using this to create campaigns, raise awareness, update and develop policies and procedures, and provide support, as have the UUK taskforce recommendations from 2016.

Key findings include:

  • ​​​​​​​Success in the sector is significant, but variable
  • Active senior leadership is vital in how far institutions can progress
  • There has been an increase in disclosures in the past year, a positive indication of cultural change
  • Institutions report barriers to progress in areas including sustainable funding for resources, training for students and staff across larger institutions and maintaining a consistent approach across the sector​.

More widely The Guardian has published a series of articles as part of its investigation into sexual harassment at UK universities. Freedom of Information requests sent to 132 universities found there were at least 1,953 reports of sexual misconduct by staff and students in the last seven years. There is a report on the results of FOIs on allegations of sexual harassment, an analysis of some disparity in the figures, and an article in which a student shares her experience of being sexually harassed at university.

This shows that there is still a long way to go although increasingly organisations such as ProtectED are providing resources and systems that universities can adopt in terms of protecting and supporting their students. More universities across the UK are also engaging with this issue and are willing to address and tackle it as a widespread experience and a key impact on student’s lives.

We are pleased to be working with both the University of Bristol and UWE as part of the Joint Forum Against Sexual Violence and Harassment to address this locally. However, recent research from Revolt Sexual Assault, which was started by a University of Bristol student, shows a stark picture of the reality of the scale of sexual harassment and assault at UK universities:

Of the 4,500 students from 153 different institutions who took part in the survey, 62% had experienced sexual violence at UK universities. Only 1 in 10 reported their experiences to the university or police; only 6% of respondents reported their experience of sexual violence to the university. While only 2% of those experiencing sexual violence felt both able to report it to their university and were satisfied with the reporting process.


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