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Sexual harassment by university staff ‘at epidemic levels’ in UK universities

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Recorded incidents of sexual harassment, gender violence and misconduct conducted by university staff are at “epidemic levels within the UK”, a recent investigation by the Guardian has revealed.

Evidence collected by Freedom of Information (FoI) requests from 120 UK universities found that “students made at least 169 allegations against academic and non-academic staff from 2011-12 to 2016-17”. Around 127 other allegations about staff were also made by colleagues during this time.

The Guardian
reports however, that many more people are likely to have been affected, but that victims feel “dissuaded from making official complaints, and either withdrew their allegations or settled for an informal resolution.”

Oxford University reported the highest number of allegations against staff by students, with 11 received by its central administration and 10 by colleges. The University of Nottingham came in second place with 10 reports, followed by Edinburgh with nine, the University of the Arts London (UAL) and Essex with seven and Cambridge with at least six.

Oxford also had the most staff-on-staff allegations, with 17 recorded centrally and three by colleges. Other Universities to report such claims were: Cambridge (at least seven claims), Portsmouth (six), and Exeter, York and LSE (all of which had five claims).

Only five universities were reported to have compensated students who were affected by sexual harassment or abuse. The two universities that paid out the most, at around £192,146, Goldsmiths and the University of London, were criticised for using non-disclosure agreements in settlements.

The Guardian reported that: “of the cases disclosed in response to FoI requests, only 136 staff-on-student cases were investigated by universities.” The report also indicated that: “only a small number were investigated by the police.”

Results from the survey also highlighted that 38 members of staff left their university or changed jobs following the allegations that they had sexually harassed students. LSE and The University of Edinburgh had the highest number of staff reporting to leave or change jobs following allegations.

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