Here are the key facts:
What was the funding and what was it used for?
The Higher Education Funding Council for England gave £2.45 million in funding to most of the 20 universities surveyed for this report (p.7). This institution folded in 2018, and some of its duties were given to the new Office for Students. Funding was primarily used to create mostly temporary student support jobs, investigate reports of misconduct, provide student and staff training and “support awareness raising campaigns” (p.25). The report stated that most universities had not used their funding towards future budgets (p.25).
What went well:
Most providers had or were developing clearer processes for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct (p.36).
What needed improving:
The report noted that one fifth of the institutions interviewed had only had “limited progress” in tackling sexual misconduct. Reasons for this included delayed applications for funding and unrelated events such as organisational restructuring or the need for “active leadership” from senior staff (p.8). Moreover, UUK found that few universities had online reporting tools (p.38), and underdeveloped data reporting and collection systems (p.37). Hence, many universities were unable to understand the extent of the issue, which in turn would discourage students from reporting. Finally, one issue we picked up on was limited focus on intersectionality and its links to sexual misconduct (p.30). As we have seen recently, many students from racially minority backgrounds are marginalised at university due to racism. This causes them to lose faith in their institutions, further lessening reporting and the potential for supporting. Prioritising intersectionality would help institutions to better understand the diverse needs of their students and promote mutual trust.
Key report recommendations:
UUK concluded that more needed to be done on tackling “staff to-student sexual misconduct, hate crime and hate-based harassment” (p.3). It also emphasised the importance of long-term funding. This would allow institutions to hire specialist staff and train existing ones to better support students as well as pay for more counsellors. Universities could also use the money on developing online reporting tools, as well as centralised data collection, recording and storage. UUK continued to advocate for commitment from senior leaders. Finally, universities were encouraged to make information about sexual misconduct accessible on websites and social media (pp.11-13). UUK itself intended to “establish a task and finish group to develop guidance to support institutions in addressing staff-to-student sexual misconduct” (p.31). We will cover this topic in future posts. This is not an exhaustive list of recommendations, but the ones we felt to be most important. As ever, UUK’s recommendations are not mandatory (p.46). Whilst we don’t agree with them being optional, we do believe they are a very important step in the right direction.