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Oxford to ban ‘intimate’ staff-student relationships

The University of Oxford is to ban “intimate or close personal relationships” between members of staff and students.

The new policy, which will come into force from 17 April, prohibits staff from forming intimate relationships with any student they have any responsibility for, including applicants, and “strongly discourage[s]” any “other close personal relationship with them which transgresses the boundaries of professional conduct”.

Staff who fail to comply with the policy may face disciplinary action.

This comes after the Office for Students (OfS) suggested that relationships between staff and students should be documented or banned, although Oxford has stated that its own ban is unrelated.

A spokeswoman added: “This policy has been developed over the course of many months – to allow for time to consult across the university – and is not in response to the recent OfS consultation in this area or recent media reports.”

Previously, relationships between a staff member and a student at the institution were allowed if heavily discouraged, and they had to be declared to a line manager.

When the new policy comes into force, the university will focus on “avoiding conflicts of interest” in the case of any staff members who are already in a relationship with a student, by ensuring the staff member will not teach or work with the student.

Oxford chiefs said that the policy had been developed over many months and consultation across the institution.

It comes after calls from It Happens Here, an Oxford University Student Union group which campaigns against sexual violence, for a ban on “inappropriate relationships”.

The group said in 2021 that relationships between staff and students “raise issues relating to inequalities of power in a relationship, or perceived favouritism, or the undermining of trust in the academic process”.

Oxford follows a number of other universities that have banned relationships between staff and students, including University College London and the University of Nottingham.

According to the Telegraph, a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that five student complaints of staff sexual misconduct at Oxford have been upheld in the past five years. However, only one staff member was suspended and subsequently dismissed.

A spokesperson for the university told the paper that Oxford “is working hard to build a culture where our students can feel safe and where sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated”.


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