Cambridge has a ‘serious problem’ with sexual misconduct

The University of Cambridge reported the highest number of sexual misconduct cases, but initiatives are in place to support staff and students

Information revealed by the Guardian highlights UK universities' failures to protect students against sexual misconduct. This follows the UUK's 2016 review of sexual miscondent within the University sector, and its subsequent review for the reduction of sexual assault cases.

The University of Cambridge saw the highest number of incidents reported between 2011-12 and 2017-18, with at least 215 linked to staff and students. The system of reporting was transformed in October 2017, when Pro Vice Chancellor Graham Virgo oversaw the development of a new, anonymous recording scheme, as part of the 'Breaking the Silence' campaign. Since then, 173 anonymous reports have been made, with 119 accounts reporting student against student misconduct, and seven between colleagues, and 2 against staff, by students.

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This number was dubbed a 'metric of success', as the University claims it demonstrates growing trust amongst students to report anonymously, rather than making formal allegations. Figures attest to this judgement: in Michaelmas term, only 6 formal allegations were made.

Durham University had the second highest number of reports, at 88. In total, at least 1,953 reports of sexual misconduct were made in 132 universities; however, informal complaints were often not included in institutions' official data, as well as 14 universities withholding information on cases specific to particular departments. Data on actual number of reports made was also obscured by Universities' non-disclosure of complaints made against staff, and by universities' limited access to records for the past decade. Although the University of Cambridge, amongst other institutions, categorised the allegations, many other Universities did not separate reports based on the victim and assailants' roles within the institution.

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According to the Guardian's investigation, only 62 Universities provided training for sexual consent courses, and this was only mandatory at 6 Univeristies. Last year, the Tab reported that attendance at consent workshops was only compulsory at Oxford and Bristol; at Cambridge, half the colleges have made freshers' participation a requirement. In addition, a sexual health counseller has recently been appointed.

UUK described progess made by universities as 'significant but variable', and Cambridge has noted there is a 'significant problem' with sexual misconduct. As part of the Breaking the Silence campaign, the University will commit to improved reporting processes, and running initiatives such as the Good Lad, consent, and bystander training workshops. The University has not yet supported initiatives specifically focused on sexual violence against male, transgender, or disabled students.

If you have been affected by any of the above issues, the University's anonymous reporting tool and other services are available here.

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