A specially-trained team of students will play a key role in a £100,000 research project at the University of Huddersfield that aims to ensure hate crime cannot take root on UK campuses.
Although the University currently has no actual reports of hate crimes – in common with many universities across the UK – research has shown that victims often fail to report it.
The goal of the project is to investigate and dismantle any barriers that might hinder the reporting of crimes or incidents motivated by factors such as race, gender or disability. One of the outcomes is expected to be the establishment of a single recording and reporting point. The work will also be disseminated across the university sector.
“One of the motivations for our project is to better understand the reasons behind the lack of reporting,” said Matt Mills, the project’s manager and Director of Student Services at the University. “We will introduce measures and mitigations to better support our students, because the consequences of hate crime against an individual are awful.”
The Higher Education Funding Council for England established a catalyst fund for projects to tackle hate crime and online harassment on campuses.
The University of Huddersfield was awarded almost £50,000 for proposed research, titled Enhancing a Safe and Secure Learning Community. This money has been matched by the University and its partners – West Yorkshire Police, Kirklees Council and the Huddersfield Students’ Union – so that the 12-month project, now underway, is funded to the tune of £100,000.
“The project will illuminate the reasons for under-reporting and as a result we will understand the situation much better.”
One important element will be the recruitment of some 20 students who will act as peer educators on campus and online.
“They will speak with fellow students, possibly run some training programmes and also be active in the digital space,” said Matt. “We want to develop some positive messages encouraging reporting and we know these will be widely shared with current students.”
It is possible that an online hate crime reporting tool will be developed, but this will be discussed during the planning phase at the start of the project. Measures that have been discussed will then be put into practice and the student team recruited and trained.
There will then be a final evaluation stage, so that the lessons learned can be analysed and disseminated throughout the higher education sector. The University of Huddersfield’s Secure Societies Institute will play a key role in this.
“The project will illuminate the reasons for under-reporting and as a result we will understand the situation much better,” said Matt.