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How can universities help prevent sexual harassment and hate crime on campus?


A recent Stonewall poll found that nearly one in four (23%) of people aged 18-24 reported being the target of hate due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last month. Furthermore, 72% of respondents in this age group reported witnessing such abuse towards other people in this period.

With the majority of university students falling in this age group, and with a rising proportion of 18-year-olds applying to university, these issues clearly impact the UK student population. A 2016 NUS report found that 60% of students have witnessed bullying related to sexual orientation. The NUS No Place For Hate survey revealed that 18% of students have experienced at least one racial hate incident, with many describing how they alter their behaviour in an attempt to avoid being targeted.

More than half (54%) of students report experiencing sexual harassment. In some cities, concerns raised by young women have led to unwanted sexual advances and verbal abuse against women now being recorded as a hate crime.

Universities must have a plan of action when it comes to understanding and addressing issues of harassment.

Fragmented support

The Universities UK Changing the Culture report on violence against women, harassment and hate crime was published in 2016, alongside much-needed guidance on how universities can both discourage and deal with these incidents. Over a year on, while pockets of good practice are visible, standards vary widely between institutions. Universities are still criticised for a lack of urgency in addressing these problems, particularly the issue of staff-to-student sexual harassment.

The UUK report also identified the growing prevalence of hate crime and online harassment on university campuses. HEFCE have since awarded £1.8m to 45 universities and colleges to undertake work in this area, and UUK plan to work with the