Revealed: The unis offering compulsory consent classes this year

Out of 36 major UK universities, only five are making the workshops mandatory

Sexual assault is still a big issue at universities in the UK. Despite the number of investigations going on in this area, a BBC report published in late 2019 suggested that sexual harassment and assault at UK Universities has trebled in three years.

Another report published in 2020 states that nearly a third of UK universities have used NDAs (non-disclosure agreements – a legal contract stating how you can share information) for student grievances such as sexual assault, bullying and poor teaching since 2016. A student even faced expulsion if she made a fuss after reporting a sexual assault by another student.

We checked 36 UK universities to see whether they are offering consent classes to students in the next academic year in order to see how they are combating this issue.

The unis offering compulsory consent classes:

Of the 36 unis, five are offering compulsory consent classes for all students, 26 are offering classes but have not made them compulsory and two unis are making the classes compulsory for some (people in leadership/enhanced responsibility positions).

We requested comment from all 36 universities to understand why they chose to make the consent workshops mandatory or not. 21 Universities didn’t respond, the other 15 confirmed they would be offering consent workshops and guidance in some form.

Coventry University, who are not doing mandatory consent classes, told The Tab they “can’t compel students to complete training or attend any of the events” and as such all workshops are voluntary. Loughborough University also echoed this saying “we believe it is more effective to mainstream this important content into the experience for students as they join the University”, therefore they make consent training compulsory for particular groups of people.

The University of Aberdeen explained they are running consent training for the first time this year, saying “it is part of a trial” and that it will be assessed throughout the year to determine if it should be mandatory.

The University of Hull said they will be working with external partners to develop a “package of training which includes consent”. Key members of the Students’ Union are also currently working on a campaign for online consent training but it is still in the process of development so whether the training is mandatory is yet to be decided.

The University of Portsmouth told The Tab “our focus for both new and returning students is to encourage them to do our new online Learning Well course” which includes “considering the nature of the principle of respect – noticing and respecting your own and others’ needs, choices and values”. Those who complete this course are also “encouraged to build on this by completing the Leadership 1 course ‘Giving and Getting Respect’, which covers consent in more detail”.

The University of Edinburgh told The Tab they are holding events in conjunction with experienced practitioners primarily for Residence Assistants and committee members of all student societies although they “hope as many people as possible will attend them”. They are working with Cultivating Minds and the Consent Collective in order to “provide additional expertise and knowledge” on issues around sexual violence and harassment.

Five universities are making consent classes compulsory this year: St Andrews, Liverpool, Reading, Durham and Cambridge. Of these five, three told The Tab why they have made the classes mandatory.

The University of Liverpool told The Tab that they are “working to ensure that messages around sexual consent and acceptable sexual behaviour are disseminated to students from as soon as they accept the offer of a place”. Students are expected to undertake a new Citizenship module which contains information about consent and reporting harassment. The topic is also “embedded within induction, including talks from Hall Wardens in University accommodation.”

The University of St Andrews has a compulsory online consent module this year, developed by a student-led Got Consent? committee which “will require all students to learn more about consent and bystander intervention” before enrolling. “All entrants and returners will be required  to complete this online course.”

At the University of Reading, consent is a compulsory part of halls inductions and all sports clubs and societies have consent workshops too. Extra training has also been given to bar and club staff at the Students Union so they can spot signs of sexual harassment.

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