Nottingham is one of the only unis in the country to ban staff-student relationships

Sexual relationships are banned between UoN staff and students where a power dynamic exists

University of Nottingham is one of the only universities in the country to explicitly ban sexual relationships between staff and students.

The move was brought about by policy that was integrated in December 2020 under a new and distinct guidance framework.

In 2021, it was found by The Tab that five unis have sacked staff for having sexual relationships with students in recent years. At least 60 relationships between staff and students have been reported to unis in the past five years, yet the vast majority of universities do not explicitly ban them.

The policy recently caught the attention of Sunday Blake, a journalist and author at Wonkhe. Wonkhe is a community of diverse voices that “provide platforms to drive the policy conversation forward because we love HE and want to make it better for everyone”.

Sunday went on to say: “Of course, the ban is framed as protecting academic integrity (the premise of these can be student welfare, you know!) but I’ll take the positive material impact on students (with wellbeing as a side effect) over premise focused solely on academic integrity (which is a fair argument)”.

Sunday argues in a policy watch article that staff-student relationships should be banned and not managed. In her analysis, she attests that the new report on staff-on-student sexual misconduct is based on three principles, but it also makes three fundamental errors.

In July 2021, The Express reported that more than 110 university staff across the UK had pursued relationships with students. Their research found that only three universities ban staff from entering relationships with students.

In February 2022, The Guardian reported on new legislation that was brought about by Universities UK (UUK) amidst concerns that universities are too slow at addressing staff-student relationships. Additionally, NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) have been too commonplace as tools to prevent perpetrators speaking out against sexual misconduct. The new legislation hopes to address these issues by outlining a framework for universities to adopt.

Michelle Donelan, the minister for higher and further education, said: “Universities have a profound responsibility to protect students from sexual misconduct, especially when perpetrated by those in positions of power such as a member of staff, so I welcome this timely guidance.” She went on to say that more than 30 universities have so far signed up to a pledge she launched in January to end the use of NDAs.

The progressive move by University of Nottingham to ban staff-student relationships ultimately protects parties across the whole institution.

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