Taskforce publishes recommendations to universities on dealing with violence against women and harassment

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The recommendations are the result of a taskforce set up by Universities UK last year to examine these issues. The taskforce consisted of university leaders, student representatives and academic experts. The group considered harassment in all its forms but focused particularly on issues of sexual violence and harassment.

The taskforce looked also at the guidance available to universities on managing situations where a student's behaviour may constitute a criminal offence. The Taskforce concluded that the existing guidance dating back to 1994 (known as the Zellick guidelines) required review. This review has been carried out and new guidelines are published alongside today’s report.

The taskforce also received evidence relating to staff-to-student sexual harassment. This issue needs to be addressed, along with on-line harassment and hate crimes on the grounds of race. Universities UK will consult with universities, students and interested groups to assess what more can be done in these areas and what further action is necessary.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK and chair of the taskforce, said: “The university sector has been clear that there is no place for sexual violence, harassment or hate crime on a university campus, nor anywhere else. 
“The impact of any such incident on a student is so potentially serious that universities must be ready to respond effectively and proactively engage in prevention initiatives.
“The evidence showed that while many universities have already taken positive steps to address these issues, university responses are not always as joined-up as they could be. There is more work that can be done to share effective practice across the sector.

“The taskforce agreed that there are several steps that universities can take to promote and reinforce positive behaviour among students.

“It is clear that these issues are not isolated to universities and reflect behaviours in society generally, including in schools and local communities. UK universities, however, have a significant role to play, and are in a position to lead the way in preventing and responding to violence against women, harassment and hate crime, beyond the boundaries of the university campus.”


The taskforce report recommends that:

  • Universities, working with students’ unions, should take an institution-wide approach to tackling violence against women, harassment and hate crime and carry out a regular impact assessment of their approach

  • Universities should embed a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence, harassment and hate crime, highlighting up-front the behaviours that are expected from all students, as well as ensuring staff understand the importance of fostering a zero-tolerance culture

  • Universities should develop a clear and accessible response procedure and centralised reporting system for dealing with incidents of violence, harassment or hate crime, working with relevant external agencies where appropriate

  • Existing guidance available to universities on managing situations where a student's disciplinary offence may constitute a criminal offence should be reviewed. Such guidance can be critical in assisting universities to manage cases and provide appropriate support to students. This review has been carried out and new guidelines are published alongside today’s report

  • Universities develop and maintain partnership working as a fundamental component of preventing and responding to violence against women, harassment and hate crime. Partners – including the police, community leaders and specialist services – can be vital in supporting students, ensuring staff are well-trained and assessing the nature and scale of the issues affecting students at a given time

  • Universities UK should hold an annual national conference for the next three years to facilitate the sharing of good practice on matters related to the work of the taskforce

  • Universities UK should work with relevant bodies such as the NUS, JISC and Reclaim the Internet to assess what further support may be needed to tackle the growing prevalence of online harassment and hate crime


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