Universities making progress tackling student sexual misconduct, but more must be done

​Universities UK has today published a report looking at progress made in tackling sexual misconduct and harassment affecting university students.​

The new report Changing the Culture: One Year On – based on research carried out by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) – assesses the sector's progress in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in implementing recommendations from the UUK Taskforce's report Changing the Culture.

The study was based on in-depth research with a sample of 20 institutions, designed to reflect the different types of universities.​

Key findings:

  1. Significant but variable progress appears to have been made across the sector

  2. Active senior leadership in this area seems to be vital in how far institutions can meet the Taskforce's recommendations

  3. Many participants point to an increase in the number of disclosures in the past year and consider this a positive indication of cultural change

  4. Progress has been driven by the UUK Taskforce's recommendations and UUK has been active in facilitating the sharing of good practice

  5. Tackling hate crime and hate-based harassment tends to have a lower priority status compared with efforts to address student sexual misconduct

  6. There is less evidence of new prevention and responsive strategies being developed to address staff-to-student sexual misconduct in the same way as those addressing student-to-student misconduct

  7. Centralised systems and processes for collecting and recording data on sexual misconduct, hate crime and hate based harassment remain underdeveloped areas across this sample

  8. The scale of HEFCE's Catalyst safeguarding funding of £2.45m has accelerated and supported change across England's higher education sector

  9. Institutions report barriers to progress in areas including sustainable funding for resources, training for students and staff across larger institutions and maintaining a consistent approach across the sector

  10. Issues considered by the Taskforce continue to have a high profile due to extensive reports over the past year across multiple sectors  


Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said:

"It's encouraging to see that significant progress has been made at many universities. Despite this, clearly more needs to be done. There should be a greater focus on tackling staff to student sexual misconduct, hate crime and hate-based harassment.

"Ultimately, a long-term commitment by senior leaders will be vital to ensuring further progress in making our universities safe places to live, work and study. We owe it to our staff and students to accelerate the pace of cultural change."

Universities Minister for England, Sam Gyimah, said:

"All students should be able to pursue their studies without fear of harassment. Whilst​ I am pleased to see the strides that have been taken by our universities to ensure this, there is clearly more to be done.

"Students must feel safe and able to report incidents, and policies and procedures must be in place to address all forms of harassment, whether they are perpetrated by students or staff.

"Going forward, I have requested that the OfS work with universities to tackle harassment and hate-crime in higher education, including the implementation of UUK Taskforce's recommendations."


  1. This is a Universities UK (UUK) report which presents the research independently carried out by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) on our behalf, with the acknowledged support of HEFCE, HEFCW and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.

  2. The work of the LFHE's study team which conducted the research and produced this report for UUK was overseen by a steering group with membership drawn from the Department for Education, HEFCE, HEFCW and UUK.

  3. A cross-institutional approach funded by the Scottish Government is being pursued through the Equally Safe in Higher Education project based at the University of Strathclyde.

  4. In April 2018 UUK will be launching a quantitative survey for all UUK members across the UK, assessing progress.

  5. Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 136 members in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Universities UK promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally. Visit: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk


Key Contacts

Steven Jefferies

Steven Jefferies

Head of Media
Universities UK

Eloise Phillips

Eloise Phillips

Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Media Officer
Universities UK


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