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Universities could face fines if they fail to crack down on sexual harassment

Camilla Turner
·2-min read
The watchdog’s intervention came after more than 80 British universities were named on the Everyone’s Invited website
The watchdog’s intervention came after more than 80 British universities were named on the Everyone’s Invited website

Universities could face fines if they fail to crack down on sexual harassment of students, the higher education watchdog has said.

Vice-Chancellors have been told to take urgent action and review their sexual misconduct policies and in time for the start of the next academic year.

The Office for Students (OfS) has warned universities that they are “considering options” for linking their policies to the conditions of registration.

This means that where universities do not have sufficiently robust policies, they could face sanctions from the regulator including fines.

The watchdog’s intervention came after more than 80 British universities were named on the Everyone’s Invited website where students have been anonymously sharing experiences of sexual harassment, abuse, assault and misogyny.

A number of the UK's top institutions, including Exeter and Oxford, were mentioned more than 50 times on the site - which has highlighted allegations of a "rape culture" in education settings.

England's universities watchdog has published its "statement of expectations" - which outlines the practical steps that institutions should be taking to tackle harassment and sexual misconduct on campus.

The Education Secretary said universities should look at this “seriously” and “take appropriate action where necessary”.

He added: “No student or young person should ever have to experience abuse, and I urge anyone who feels they have been a victim of sexual harassment to speak to someone they trust, whether that be family, friends, their university or the police."

The OfS said all staff should bebe given “adequate and effective” training both to prevent sexual harassment as well as raise awareness about it.

Universities should also ensure that investigatory procedures are fair, and that those involved get effective pastoral support.

"Despite some improvements, progress has been uneven. We still see a lack of consistent and effective systems, policies and procedures across the sector,” said Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS.

"As a result, students continue to report worrying cases that have not been properly addressed by their university or college."

Universities UK, which represents vice-Chancellors, said: “Universities have accelerated efforts to address harassment and misconduct in recent years and are in no doubt of the urgent need for progress, but the evidence shows there is still a long way to go.

"We will continue supporting our members to bring about culture change and embed policies and best practice to ensure universities become safer places to live, work and study - including online.”