further & higher education

3rd Annual Tackling Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education Forum

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:10

Thursday 21 November 2019

Central London


This Forum will provide participants with the opportunity to share strategies for tackling sexual violence and harassment across the higher education sector. Attendees will hear from sector leaders, including the Office for Students, on initial findings from the Catalyst Project and progress made in tackling sexual misconduct. Additionally, best practice case studies will share innovative methods for preventing sexual harassment, ensuring a zero-tolerance culture across the university and ensuring that clear and robust reporting structures are in place.


This Forum is specifically designed for Higher Education. Typical job titles will include:

  • Diversity and Inclusion Officers
  • Directors of Student Experience
  • Student Counsellors
  • Student Support Co-ordinators
  • Vice Chancellors
  • Welfare Officers and Advisors
  • Student Information Advisors
  • Student Service Managers
  • Senior Lecturers
  • Head of Legal Services
  • Head of Campus and Operational Services
  • Halls of Residents and Welfare Managers

This Forum is also open to the Police and the Voluntary Sectors to encourage networking and debate.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Jessica Trahir, Head of Student Welfare and Safeguarding, Office for Students
View the agenda and additional speakers

56% of UK students experience unwanted sexual behaviours at university but only 15% realise that these behaviours count as sexual harassment, according to research carried out by Brook in 2019. Research carried out by Revolt and the Student Room in 2018 demonstrated that 8% of student respondents had experienced rape at university – double the figure of 4% which the Office for National Statistics estimates.

In order to tackle the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence across the higher education sector, Office for Students (OfS) established the Catalyst fund in 2017, which provided £2.45 million to 63 projects to address safeguarding on campus, with a focus on sexual violence and misconduct. These projects would trial innovative approaches to tackling sexual harassment, including developing new tools to make reporting incidents easier and launching bystander campaigns to encourage staff and students to be active bystanders.

In June 2019, Advance HE published their independent evaluation of the pilots. The report demonstrated that good progress had been made in tackling sexual harassment, with an increase in the number of reporting of incident, greater evidence of partnership working with specialist services and the positive impact of hiring specialist staff. However, the OfS have acknowledged that more needs to be done to tackle the prevalent issue.

It is imperative that higher education institutions are taking active measures to tackle the significant problem of sexual harassment and violence across the sector. This will require raising awareness among students of sexual harassment, ensuring clear and robust reporting procedures are in place and ensuring a no-tolerance culture is implemented across the whole institution.


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Dr Pam Alldred, Reader in Education and Youth Studies, Brunel University London (invited)


Morning Keynote: Sharing Findings From the Catalyst Projects to Tackle Sexual Harassment

  • Discussing the progress made in the 119 projects funded by OfS and led by higher education providers to trial innovative approaches to tackle harassment, particularly the round 1 projects to tackle sexual harassment
  • Outlining the achievements of the projects in prevention, increased reporting of incidents of sexual harassment, support for students who have experienced harassment and greater partnership working between HE providers and other agencies
  • Discussing ways in which senior leadership and governance can take a more active role to protect students and ensure harassment is not tolerated, such as through hiring specialist staff to investigate sexual harassment
  • Discussing the next steps that need to be taken to ensure that higher education providers are tackling these issue proactively, and a no-tolerant culture towards sexual harassment is embedded across the sector
  • Outlining OfS’s priorities and next steps for addressing these issues across the sector

Jessica Trahir, Head of Student Welfare and Safeguarding, Office for Students (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Improving Institutional Practices to Tackle Sexual Misconduct

  • Examining the Silencing Students: Institutional responses to staff sexual misconduct in UK higher education report, 2018, which explores institutional responses to sexual misconduct carried out by staff in higher education
  • Discussing how policies examined across HEIs lacked enough detail and were not robust enough to make sure that students allegations were heard and properly responded to
  • Highlighting a common failure within institutions to efficiently investigate allegations for sexual misconduct made by students against staff
  • Emphasising the importance of ensuring that staff are effectively trained to investigate and respond to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct
  • Sharing guidance on how HEIs can work to ensure that they have efficient processes in place to prevent sexual misconduct and to respond to them effectively when they arise

Dr Anna Bull, Professor of Sociology, University of Portsmouth and Member, The 1752 Group (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Taking a Whole-Institution Approach to Tackling Sexual Harassment

  • Examining the university’s #NeverOK campaign, funded by the OfS Catalyst Fund, which encourages and supports students, staff and visitors to take action against sexual harassment
  • Creating a new Report and Support tool to make it easier to report cases of harassment and outlining how this has resulted in the number of incidents of sexual harassment being reported increasing
  • Providing a range of different training opportunities for staff and students to identify and respond effectively to cases of sexual harassment, such as bystander training
  • Engaging the students union to work in partnership between university staff and students to develop a culture of inclusivity throughout student societies, sports team and across the whole university
  • Sharing findings from how the project has developed since it initially received funding and how this has resulted in more cases of sexual harassment being reported

Rose Stephenson, Project Manager, University of Bath (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Working in Partnership to Tackle Sexual Harrassment on Campus

  • Working with Consent Collective to provide a range of initiatives within universities to raise awareness of sexual harassment and misconduct and ensure that students understand the specifics of consent and the circumstances within which it can be provided
  • Carrying out workshops for survivors of sexual assault and providing training for staff to enable them to deal effectively with reports of sexual misconduct
  • Collaborating with other universities in the region, the NHS, the council and Rape Crisis to create the campaign ‘fearless Edinburgh’, an innovative working group which aims to tackle gender-based violence, including through the creation of a toolkit to address sexual harassment on campus
  • Running a ‘No Excuses’ Campaign to raise understanding of sexual harassment across campus, which included training the captains of sports clubs and societies to prevent inappropriate behaviour

Gavin Douglas, Deputy Secretary of Student Experience, Edinburgh University (invited)


Case Study: Sharing Student and Survivor Experiences of Sexual Harassment and Violence

  • Examining the #itsrevolting campaign, which aims to raise awareness of sexual violence and harassment experienced by students, including encouraging students to use snapchat to share experiences anonymously
  • Sharing an insight into the reasons students gave during the campaign for not reporting incidents of sexual harassment or violence, such as understanding how living in a student community makes it more difficult for students to report a perpetrator they know
  • Discussing how universities can look to overcome these challenges and encourage students to speak up
  • Sharing survivor perspectives of sexual violence, including what universities need to do better to tackle sexual violence
  • Highlighting the impact that experiencing sexual harassment can have on a student, including a negative effect on wellbeing, education and social life

Hannah Price, Chief Executive, Revolt Sexual Assault (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Special Keynote: Sharing Recommendations for Improving the Response to Sexual Harassment and Violence

  • Examining the main findings of the evaluation of the Catalyst projects and sharing progress made
  • Highlighting the importance of student involvement in initiatives tackling sexual harassment, with 90% of those who received funding agreeing that student involvement helped to improve the project
  • Discussing how awareness work carried out in the projects resulted in students’ being more likely to report incidents and sharing best practice on awareness campaigns
  • Sharing the main recommendations from the evaluation, including for all HEIs to hire specialist staff to investigate cases of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct and the importance of holding senior leadership and governance to account

Helen Baird, Co-Author, Evaluation of Safeguarding Students Catalyst Fund
Projects (invited)


Case Study: Raising Awareness of Sexual Violence Among Students

  • Sharing an insight into research carried out by Brook, 2019, which shows that more than half of UK university students are subject to unwanted sexual behaviours but only 8% reported an offence
  • Discussing how this demonstrates a significant disparity between understanding what consent means and sexual harassment and violence and the vital need for better education to raise awareness
  • Understanding the factors that cause student’s confusion over consent, including how 52% of students understand that it is not possible to give consent if you are drunk, and discussing how universities can ensure that students have a thorough understanding of consent and sexual violence
  • Sharing an insight into Brook’s online consent course which will be launched soon and aims to help students to understand the law, the gender norms, stereotypes and cultural factors which may affect their ability to consent and how to communicate consent
  • Signposting to support offered to universities to tackle sexual harassment and violence

Senior Representative, Brook (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Effectively Training Staff to Support Survivors of Sexual Harassment

  • Understanding the barriers to disclosure such as concerns about confidentiality, consequences and fear of not being believed, and outlining the principles of handling such reports
  • Creating the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Team, compromising of Sexual Violence Liaison Officers, which ensures that survivors are aware of and able to access support
  • Raising awareness of sexual violence through providing a number of education and training opportunities throughout campus to both staff and students
  • Working in partnership with external specialist services, such as the police, sexual assault referral centre and independent sexual violence advisors, to ensure that survivors have an effective package of support available to them
  • Outlining the importance of commitment and engagement from a university’s senior leadership team to ensure an effective whole institution strategy to tackling sexual harassment

Claire Slater, Head of Student Support, Keele University (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Panel Discussion: Working in Partnership Across Sectors to Tackle Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education

  • Discussing how higher education institutions can work in partnership with the police, voluntary organisations and further education institutions to ensure that there is effective policy in place for HEIs to tackle sexual violence and harassment
  • How can HEIs ensure that there is an effective and efficient accountability framework in place to prevent cases of sexual violence?
  • How can HEIs work together with students to prevent lad culture and ensure there is a zero tolerance culture embedded across the higher education sector?
  • Working collaboratively across sectors to ensure that there are robust support systems in places for students or staff whom experience sexual violence and harassment

Sarah Lasoye, Women’s Officer, National Union of Students (invited)

Gavin Douglas, Deputy Secretary of Student Experience, Edinburgh University (invited)

Hannah Price, Founder, Revolt Sexual Assault (invited)


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change

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