UCL is the first Russell Group university to ban intimate staff-student relationships
The ban has been called ‘a wake up call’ by campaigners
UCL is the first Russell Group University to introduce a ban on romantic and sexual relationships between lecturers and their students. UCL is believed to be the third UK university to introduce a ban after Greenwich and Roehampton.
The new personal relationships policy for employees prohibits "close personal and intimate relationships between staff and students where there is direct supervision." Any intimate relationship between a staff member and a student who they do not directly supervise must be declared by staff too.
The policy says staff should "maintain appropriate physical and emotional distance from students" and "avoid creating special friendships with students, as this may be seen as grooming."
Staff should also only contact students via official university channels and should try to avoid giving their personal mobile phone number or meeting students outside of the university.
It prohibits intimate relationships with staff or students who are under the age of 18 or adults who are "at risk", such as those in care. Any breach of policy will be investigated by UCL’s disciplinary procedure, including action ranging from formal warning to dismissal.
Kelsey Pasake, behaviour and culture change manager at UCL, said the policy aimed to prevent abuses of power and sexual misconduct. It's also meant to address real or perceived conflict of interest arising from relationships "that may have adverse effects on the working and learning environment."
A Guardian investigation, in which freedom of information requests were issued to 122 universities, found only seven members of staff had been disciplined by universities for staff- student relationships in the last five years. Although 97 universities have policies on intimate relationships between staff and students, many only discourage them.
A 2018 survey by the National Union of Students and the 1752 Group, which campaigns against sexual misconduct by university staff, found that four-fifths of students said they were uncomfortable with staff having relationships with students, which they have described as ‘predatory’
A UCL spokesperson said: "We wanted to address real or perceived conflict of interest that may exist with close personal or intimate relationships between staff and students that may have adverse effects on the working and learning environment, and can negatively impact an individual, team or departmental culture.
“The safety and welfare of all our staff and students is our highest priority and we believe this policy will help protect and guide all members of our community.”