Sexual misconduct at UK universities: the figures don’t add up

Mar 28, 2018 by

New FOI surveys find ongoing problems with data collection and complaint recording process

Since the Guardian began an investigation into sexual harassment in universities, there has been growing criticism that many institutions remain complacent about the scale of the problem.

In late 2016, we sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to more than 100 UK universities asking how many allegations and complaints they had received against staff. We found widespread inconsistencies in the way these incidents were handled and recorded, which reflected claims made by victims and campaigners that universities’ figures underestimate the scope of sexual misconduct.

For our latest story we sent out two FoI surveys seeking figures on complaints against staff and students as well as staff suspensions, teaching bans, whether universities offered training on sexual consent and how they signposted access to support for victims of sexual misconduct.

Both FoIs asked for a total number of cases, though they were worded slightly differently. One asked for figures on all reported incidents, the other asked for the total number of all allegations, informal complaints and formal complaints.

The first FoI revealed that some universities hold figures on sexual misconduct reported to their counselling services as well as on formal complaints. While this data suggests the extent of sexual misconduct at universities may be higher than the number of formal complaints suggests, it is difficult to reach firm conclusions due to the way the data was recorded.

For example, the University of Derby recorded 33 complaints against staff and students over seven years. But if incidents disclosed to the counselling service are included this number rises to 196 – the second-highest number reported by the 131 universities surveyed. A spokesman said counsellors deal with current issues and historical cases. But the university was unable to specify how many of these cases had no connection to the university.

Source: Sexual misconduct at UK universities: the figures don’t add up | Education | The Guardian

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