A new report says sexual harassment at our universities is now at ‘epidemic levels’


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A new report says sexual harassment at our universities is now at ‘epidemic levels’

‘These numbers are shocking, but sadly, from our experience, are just the tip of the iceberg’

Sexual violence, harassment and misconduct are now at “epidemic levels” at UK universities according to a new investigation by The Guardian.

The shocking report included 120 British universities and found a massive 169 allegations had been made by students against staff in the past five academic years.  Another 127 allegations against staff were made by other colleagues. But even more victims told the study they’d been dissuaded from making official complaints and withdrew their allegations or settled for an informal resolution, suggesting the true scale of the problem is even bigger.

Oxford University had the highest number of allegations made against staff by students, with 11 received centrally and 10 by colleges. Nottingham were second worst with 10 allegations followed by Edinburgh with nine, University of the Arts London and Essex with seven and Cambridge with six.

Oxford also had the most staff on staff allegations (20 overall), followed by Cambridge with seven, Portsmouth with six, and Exeter, York and LSE with six each. Only five unis had compensated students with settlements. These included Goldsmiths, who paid out a massive £192, 146, followed by UAL which gave £64,000 to two students.

Of the hundreds of claims made by students, only 38 resulted in staff leaving their university, and only a tiny number were investigated by the police. The report claims 136 of the casses were investigated internally by the universities. A further 48 members of staff left their university after allegations of sexual harassment by other colleagues. Edinburgh and LSE had the highest number of staff who left or changed jobs after allegations (five each).

Speaking to The Guardian about the figures, Dr Ann Olivarius of the law firm McAllister Olivarius said:  “These numbers are shocking, but sadly, from our experience, are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Sexual harassment of students by staff members has reached epidemic levels in British universities. Most universities have no effective mechanism to stop staff from pressuring students into sexual relationships, and when it happens, any sort of disciplinary action is pretty much nonexistent. Those in charge are often colleagues who have many incentives not to intervene.

“Young women are often terrified about the consequences if they make a complaint about a staff member. So often, when they do, the university’s chief concern is to downplay any wrongdoing and protect its own reputation by keeping the whole thing quiet.”


“There must be a ban on any sexual contact between university staff and all undergraduates, and between staff and graduates in the same field. The penalty for violating the no-contact rule should be swift termination with a public statement and a mandated report to a central UK registry.”



Earlier this year a babe special report found that half of female students say they’ve experienced sexual assault, with 51 per cent reporting that it happened while at university. As with The Guardian’s study, the problem was widespread but still, many women told us they felt dissuaded from reporting it to staff or police.