Michelle Donelan has said that she would “not hesitate to publicly name and shame” universities that do not pledge to end the use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment.
The minister for higher and further education made the remarks during a Westminster Hall debate about sexual harassment and NDAs on 29 June.
In July 2021, in the wake of testimonies published on the Everyone’s Invited website, Donelan said the use of NDAs in cases of sexual harassment was “wholly inappropriate“.
Donelan unveiled, in January, a pledge aimed at universities, committing them to end the use of NDAs in sexual harassment cases. To date, 67 universities in England have endorsed it. She said during the debate that it was her intention that all students in England attend a higher education provider (HEP) covered by just such a pledge. In pursuit of this, said Donelan, “I will not hesitate to publicly name and shame any provider that has not signed up.”
Action from universities would prompt other sectors and employers to follow suit, predicted the minister.
In response to concerns expressed by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who suggested the Office for Students should clamp down on universities and pursue the case with “some real regulatory bite”, Donelan said the regulator was drafting a condition of registration on the use of NDAs. Such rules “will not take years” to come into effect, Donelan reassured MPs, adding that she would pursue the commitment to the NDA pledge and “not stop pressing this case to ensure that more is done”.