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RTC Reviews ‘Changing the Culture’ - Part Three

The 2019 UUK report covered a survey of 95 institutions from October-December 2018, encompassing 68% of UUK’s members. It noted more positive changes, but again emphasised the need for long-term funding. Key areas for improvement included more involvement from governing bodies, clearer guidelines for universities on data protection and language to describe sexual misconduct, more work needed on evaluating the effectiveness of changes, guidance on conducting investigations, and the legalities of imposing sanctions. What went well: 34% of institutions surveyed had fully implemented the 2016 UUK Pinsent Masons guidelines. 42% had done so partially and 19% hadn’t yet started (p.55). 81% of institutions had updated their disciplinary procedures, with 71% delivering preventative campaigns (p.35). Moreover, many universities had adopted the 2016 suggestion of a risk-based approach (p.9). These statistics indicate a change in mindset. Many institutions seem to have turned their attention towards sexual misconduct, and started to implement concrete strategies to tackle it. Catalyst funding: UUK believed that the OfS Catalyst funding has been essential in tackling sexual misconduct, but long-term investment was essential (p.8). 91% of institutions with two rounds of Catalyst funding had implemented institution-wide changes, and 31% of institutions stated that not having adopted this approach was a barrier (p.30). Furthermore, there was a link between senior leaders committing to securing long-term funding and creating resources (p.26). Leadership: Speaking of leadership, around half of institutions reported that “someone at executive level was accountable for the delivery of activities.” Over a third of institutions designated responsibility to the pro-vice-chancellor (p.24). 88% of survey participants noted that their institution had embedded changes into its existing governance (examples of this included interdisciplinary working groups (p.29). To further promote accountability among senior leaders, UUK emphasised the importance of regular updates to university governing bodies - 52% of those surveyed currently do so, 80% regularly review their progress (p.31). This appears to be a vast improvement from 2016, where few university leaders appeared to tackle sexual misconduct at all. Data storage and reporting: 41% of universities did not store data centrally (p.51), despite the fact that data had been a key issue in the 2018 report. Furthermore, 49% of institutions stated that ‘measuring impact is an urgent area requiring further guidance’ (p.54). So, not as much improvement as hoped for. In terms of reporting, that tended to be done either in person and over the phone (p.45). UUK acknowledged the importance of a ‘student-centred’ approach to reporting, to encourage more students to come forward (p.48). This means recognising how traumatic the process can be. Staff need to approach the subject with empathy and compassion, rather than victim-blaming. Institutions should also offer different ways to report. Over half of institutions had anonymous reporting tools (p.46). We believe students should also be able to report face-to-face to staff, or over email, so they have as many opportunities as possible. Support given to students: Awareness training appeared to be the most prevalent theme, but also “the greatest challenge,” due to lack of resources and expertise (p.43). 37% of participating institutions had recruited new staff for dealing with sexual misconduct (p.28), which is fantastic. There is also a need to train staff on every-day harassment (p.41). If staff know to recognise and combat sexual misconduct, it makes the issue more socially unacceptable and shows affected students that they will be believed and supported. The report also discussed student training in detail. 65% of universities surveyed provided consent training for students (p.39), with 59% delivering bystander training (p.36). Again, this raises awareness and empowers individuals. If students or staff don’t know the right language or actions to take, then they fall silent, allowing the perpetrator to go unpunished. Nevertheless, communication remained an issue. Although 89% of institutions had made their policies available online or in print, only 43% included them on social media and 34% included them in pre-arrival information (p.37). The earlier students know what to do and who to talk to, the better. Another suggestion made in 2016 was that of universities working with external partners. Many seem to have taken that on board. 76% of participating institutions reported working with third sector specialists (p.33), and UUK was engaging with the Police Association for Higher Education Liaison Officers (p.35). However, one issue was with schools. Only 6% engaged with local schools for a “joined-up approach” (p.36). Like I said, the earlier the better. Intersectionality:

Again, not much information on this. UUK created an advisory group to tackle racial discrimination (p.7), so we will keep our eyes peeled for signs of concrete action.

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In June 2020, we successfully launched our report into UK universities’ sexual misconduct policies. The response was widespread and solidarity appreicated but we have always emphasised that the issue

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