Prevent and address harassment and sexual misconduct

Our universities are places in which diversity – of people, opinions, and beliefs – can and does thrive. But we know that too many students experience harassment or sexual misconduct during their time in higher education.

Too often, students suffer prejudice, discrimination, harassment and violence on account of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, faith or disability, or are victims of hate crime.

Key facts

  1. Students are more likely to have experienced sexual assault than any other group (Office for National Statistics, 2021). 
  2. Nearly one in three black and Asian students have experienced racial harassment on campus (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2019).
  3. Only one in three students who had experienced racial harassment during the 2018-19 academic year reported it to their university (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2019).
  4. In the past two years there has been a 22 per cent increase of antisemitic incidents reported on campus (Community Security Trust, 2023).
  5. In a 2018 survey, seven per cent of trans students reported being physically attacked by another student or a member of university staff in the last year because of being trans (Stonewall and YouGov, 2018).
  6. In 2018, one in three Muslim students experienced some form of crime or abuse at their place of study in because of their beliefs (National Union of Students, 2018).

Our role

Our work to date to tackle harassment and sexual misconduct has broadly focused on the following areas:

  1. Providing a consistent set of standards through our statement of expectations to support universities and colleges to develop and implement effective systems, policies and processes to prevent and respond to incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct.
  2. Working with a range of partners to develop and share sector-wide effective practice, guidance and resources.
  3. Providing funding for higher education providers to develop practical and innovative approaches and solutions.

Our current work includes:

  1. A consultation on a new approach to regulating harassment and sexual misconduct in English higher education.
  2. A pilot survey to understand students' experiences of sexual misconduct while at university or college.

We cannot intervene in individual student cases. These should be dealt with through a provider's internal complaints processes. If a student feels that an issue is not resolved after their internal complaint has been concluded, they can refer their concerns to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA).

Read more about what we're doing
Published 09 January 2020
Last updated 23 February 2023
09 November 2023
fixed broken link to Equality and Human Rights Commission site
23 February 2023
Key facts updated, and information about our role added to the page.
11 March 2022
Updated antisemitic incidents with 2021 figures.
19 April 2021
Statement of expectations published
09 February 2021
Updated to reflect closure on consultation
18 March 2020
Consultation paused
16 March 2020
Deadline extended to 5 June 2020

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