Students polled about prevalence of sexual misconduct in higher education in a UK first

The Office for Students (OfS) has today launched a pilot survey on the prevalence of sexual misconduct within higher education providers in England – the first time a survey on these issues has been run at scale in the UK.

graphic of women's face looking worried

Independent research organisation, IFF Research, has been commissioned to deliver the survey. Thirteen higher education providers have volunteered to participate. They range in size from large multi-faculty universities to specialist providers with smaller student cohorts. All students at the participating providers will be invited to complete the survey and to answer questions about their experiences of sexual misconduct, how these experiences have affected their lives and studies, and their experiences of using the reporting mechanisms in their university.

The OfS has worked with academics and practitioners with expertise in research into sexual misconduct to develop the survey. The survey draws on international best practice in the design of prevalence surveys in higher education.

Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said:

‘We know that sexual misconduct can have a devastating impact on the lives of students and damage their education. But we don’t know enough about how often it happens, where it happens, and who it happens to. The launch of today’s pilot prevalence survey is an important step in addressing these gaps in the evidence base and improving our understanding of the experiences of students across England.

‘We’re very grateful to those institutions that have volunteered to take part in the pilot, and to their students who will be invited to share personal information about difficult issues. We will use their responses to secure further progress for all students on an issue that we know matters very much to them.’


  1. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
  2. The higher education providers taking part in the pilot survey are: Arts University Plymouth; Buckinghamshire New University; De Montfort University; Hartpury University and College; Northumbria University; Richmond American University London; SAE Institute; St Mary's University; The University of Essex; The University of Hull; The University of Roehampton; The University of Westminster; and University for the Creative Arts.
  3. The OfS’s pilot prevalence survey draws on best practice in the following surveys: the ARC3 survey, which is widely used in the United States; the Republic of Ireland’s Student Experience of Sexual Violence and Harassment Survey; and the National Student Safety Survey in Australia (NSSS). The surveys from Ireland and Australia are national surveys, with strong participation from all publicly funded universities.
  4. Read about the OfS’s consultation on harassment and sexual misconduct. The OfS is currently reviewing responses to its consultation on harassment and sexual misconduct and expects to publish the outcomes in the coming months.
Published 25 September 2023

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