All universities have been told to urgently review their sexual assault policies
Student cases are still being mishandled by universities, the Office for Students said
All universities have been told they must review their sexual harassment and misconduct policies by this summer by the Office for Students.
The universities regulator said it was getting reports from students of “worrying” cases that had not been “properly addressed” by their university.
Fears over university mishandling contribute to just seven per cent of students reporting their sexual assault to their university, The Tab revealed this month.
The Office for Students has said all universities should have processes to allow students to report incidents, and “work to minimise potential barriers to reporting.”
It also said investigations should be “fair and independent”, and that universities should tell students what is expected, and make a code of conduct clear to all students.
Nicola Dandridge, the OfS chief executive, said these were not yet consistent across all universities.
“Having the right processes is important. Students should feel confident reporting and disclosing incidents, knowing that they will be listened to and their reports will be dealt with appropriately,” Dandridge wrote in a blog.
“Staff need the right training to enable them to respond effectively and sensitively to disclosures and reports from students – if only to know to refer students on quickly to whoever is best placed to provide the right support.”
The website Everyone’s Invited last week named dozens of UK universities as being mentioned in testimonies it had received. Its founder said she had received over 1,000 reports from university students in the space of a week.
However, universities will not yet be punished for failing to act on sexual assault. The OfS said the new “expectations” were not yet being tied to “conditions of registration” – meaning conditions universities must meet to enrol students. Instead, the regulator said it was giving universities time to sort things out before the next academic year.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “We expect universities to follow these and I would urge all universities to look at this seriously and take appropriate action where necessary.
“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.”
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Featured image: Letty Maurin (@_letty.m_ )