The Reclaim Report: An analysis of UK universities’ sexual misconduct policies
TW: Mention of rape and sexual assault
17 June marked the launch of Reclaim the Campus’ report into UK university policies for sexual misconduct. As a team of students and recent graduates, we wanted to shine a light on how systemic sexual violence has become within Higher Education. We may not be professional policy-makers or lawyers, but believe our own experiences and our research have helped us to understand this issue in depth. Throughout the report we have continually exposed the mishandling of cases of sexual misconduct, as well as the lack of policies and support that universities claim are at the heart of their institutions. Our aim in creating this report is to draw attention to issues of sexual misconduct at universities, and the handling of such cases, and push universities to take these issues seriously.
Conducted by our growing team of volunteers, our research began in August 2020. We started by looking at our own former universities, and then branched out to the universities with the largest student populations. Despite having to fit research around prior commitments such as work and education, and the COVID-19 pandemic, we began to analyse and write up our findings at the start of 2021. We identified the policies in place regarding sexual misconduct, the procedures and sanctions used alongside these policies, report and support tools available, and specialised training and consent classes offered at the biggest UK universities. Analysis also included focus on intersectionality and effective enforcement of policies.
In total, we researched and analysed the sexual misconduct policies of 41 UK universities. Shockingly, we found that only 13 of the 41 universities researched had a specific policy on sexual misconduct. 18 of the 41 classified it under other sections of policy like Bullying and Harassment or general Student Conduct. The rest made no mention at all or made mentions across different categories. 23 of the universities researched had no policy detailing sanctions for perpetrators. A quarter of the universities had no specific way to anonymously report sexual misconduct, and only 7 of the universities had compulsory consent classes. These findings, although disappointing, were not unexpected.
The online launch event took place on Thursday 17 June. ProtectED, an organisation that assesses ‘the work done by universities to look after their students' safety, security and wellbeing’ and helps students manage problems with their studies, relationships, finances, or victims of crime, co-hosted this launch with us. Other attendees included the 1752 Group, McAllister Olivarius, and many others working in the Higher Education field. As a result of the launch event, which was attended by over 60 people and organisations, our report was sent out to approximately 30 stakeholders and we have had offers of future collaborations from many too.
Our ultimate goal here at Reclaim the Campus is to improve three main issues amongst Higher Education institutions: accountability, transparency, and awareness. Therefore, this report aims to bring student experiences to light, hold those accountable for any wrongdoing, and ultimately improve safety for students at university. Without intending to ‘expose’ universities, we want to raise awareness of these issues and hope that these institutions take issues of sexual violence more seriously, including improving policies, protocol and support. We also want to encourage universities to work with student groups like us, with the eventual goal of the implementation of our recommendations and collaboration on policy reform with universities.
In order to access your full copy of the report, and to enquire about working with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.