Government orders investigation into violence against women at universities

Research has shown that sexual assault is common within universities, with many students being unaware of how to report attacks

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The Independent Online

The government has ordered an inquiry into violence against women at British universities.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has written to university vice-chancellors to tell them that they must set up ‘task-forces’ to investigate the extent of sexism on their campuses, as well as a code of practice for addressing complaints when they occur.

Mr Javid has asked this task-force to include the possibility of a kite-mark to denote universities with strong approaches to the issue, improve engagement with Crime Prevention Officers and develop better complaints procedures.

He added that he would not rule out establishing legislation on the issue in order to ensure universities comply.

The task-force is due to convene this Autumn and work over the coming 12 months.

Research by the National Union of Students last year found that 37 per cent of female students and 12 per cent of male students had faced unwelcome sexual advances. Two thirds of students said that they had heard rape jokes told in their university environment.

Sixty per cent of students said they were unaware of any code of conduct at their university or student union relating to sexual violence or harassment.

Research into sexual assault at Russell Group universities has found that one in five does not have specific guidelines on how to report such allegations.

Mr Javid said: “Nobody should be put off going to University because of fears about their safety. If my children choose that path, I would expect my daughter to be as safe as my son on any campus in this country. This task-force will ensure that universities have a plan to stamp out violence against women and provide a safe environment for all their students.

“We do not tolerate this behaviour in any part of society and I’m not prepared to let it take place on university campuses unchecked.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “Universities already take their responsibilities for the safety of all students incredibly seriously.  They have clear legal duties through the Equalities Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty.

"This task force will make sure that the universities are doing all they can to meet their legal obligations and, will see where they can go further.”