Student leaders demand universities create national guidelines to combat 'lad culture'

Excessive drinking and lewd behaviour on campus is widespread and universities have not done enough to tackle it, says the sector’s Ombudsman

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Student leaders are demanding universities draw up national guidelines to combat the “lad culture” of excessive drinking and lewd behaviour on the campus.

Their move comes after the sector’s Ombudsman warned in its annual report that the problem was widespread and universities had not done enough to combat it.

Rob Behrens, chief executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in Higher Education, said rising laddish behaviour had been linked to a number of cases of sexual harassment and assault.

It was not just female students who had complained about incidents of “outrageous sexism”, he said.  “Men have been harassed in equally pernicious sand homophobic ways that need to be addressed,”

He added: “Lad culture is quite prevalent in all the institutions I visit,” Sometimes this stemmed from student societies organising events which were sponsored by alcohol-related companies.

He said he believed that higher education institutions should take a “much more proactive approach” to deal with the problem.

The watchdog had received 2,040 complaints from students who claimed universities had not dealt with their grievances properly. The complaints covered a range of issues and Mr Behrens predicted they would increase next year as the number of students graduating having paid £9,000 fees rose.

During the past year his office had dealt with at least two complaints about lewd behaviour.

In one, the perpetrator appealed against being expelled for exposing himself at a formal dinner - saying he had been denied representation by the students’ union.  The hearing upheld the sanction. “Some of the perpetrators do not understand this is unacceptable even when they have been disciplined for outrageous behaviour,” said Mr Behrens.

In another, the OIA ruled it was disproportionate to bar a final year student from graduating over a drink-related incident and upheld the student’s complaint.

“The news of OIA’s focus on tackling lad culture is an important win for students,” said Susuana Antubam, women’s officer of the National Union of Students.

She added it was a “massive step forward in our aim to get the education sector to create national policy, guidance and local strategies to combat lad culture.”

Last year around 500 of the 2,040 cases brought before it were either settled or found in the student’s favour.  Financial compensation awards to 200 students totalled £400,000.