Money is the main obstacle to tackling gender-based violence and sexual harassment in universities, a report has concluded.
Universities UK (UUK) – which represents 137 institutions across the country – polled its members on their approach to tackling gender-based violence (GBV), harassment and hate crime two years after its Taskforce laid out tough new guidelines.
The 2015 Taskforce was set up in response to demands from then-universities minister Jo Johnson for the sector to improve its approach after damning incidents were revealed by the National Union of Students.
Tackling GBV, however, has taken priority over tackling other types of hate crime like racially motivated incidents, the report concluded.
It is clear that there is a long way to go in ending harassment and hate crime for good in higher education
– Prof Julia Buckingham, UUK
Prof Julia Buckingham, president of UUK and vice-chancellor of Brunel University, said: “We particularly welcome actions taken by universities in addressing some of the issues and steps highlighted in our Changing the Culture report. However, it is clear that there is a long way to go in ending harassment and hate crime for good in higher education.
“While it is understandable that there has been a particular focus on addressing gender-based violence, it is time for us to step up and make sure the same priority status and resourcing is given to addressing all forms of harassment and hate.”
The report’s authors noted: “The framework recognises that having policies and processes in place is not enough: policies and processes must also be underpinned by a shift in institutional culture.” Less than half of universities said someone at executive level was accountable for tackling forms of hate crime which the report said was not high enough.
UUK said active senior leadership was “critical” to delivering cultural change.
Although higher than two years ago, just 45% of senior leaders have committed long-term funding to tackling the problem and nearly half of universities reported lack of resources as the barrier to progress. Since 2016, £10m has been spent on projects to help tackle the problem, with nearly £5m in Catalyst funds from the Office for Students (OfS).
38% of survey participants without Catalyst funding had implemented a whole-institutional approach, whereas 91% of institutions that had received two rounds of Catalyst funding had.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said: “We have supported 119 projects in universities and colleges across the country with £4.7 million to tackle sexual misconduct, online harassment and hate crime. As UUK’s report makes clear, this funding has made a real impact and sparked positive change across a number of universities and colleges. It is critical that areas of effective practice are now built on and spread throughout the sector.”
The report welcomed the news that 81% of universities have updated disciplinary procedures and improved support for reporting students. Two-thirds of institutions have rolled out consent training to their students.
The report said more universities must make clear its behavioural expectations and sanctions – the report added not enough students understood what constitutes an incident of hate crime.