The University of Birmingham is just one of a handful of universities to cite the specific clause within its mitigation policy / Birmingham University

Investigation follows a petition launched by students at the University of Birmingham, after a student who was raped on her year abroad was forced to fail the year

As few as four UK universities are believed to regard sexual assault as an extenuating circumstance that could impact on students’ work, it has been revealed, fuelling concerns over a lack of support for victims of harassment and abuse on campuses.

An investigation by babe on student news website The Tab found evidence of just a handful of institutions including the specific clause within their policies.

Out of 52 UK universities contacted through Freedom of Information requests, just 16 responded, the website reported.

Of those that did reply, all had a clause for students who have been a “victim of serious crime” or similar, which could include sexual assault. 

Just a quarter of respondents cited sexual assault specifically within their guidelines, however.

Oxford Brookes University, which does not cite sexual assault within its mitigating circumstances, told babe: "The University made the conscious decision not to list sexual assault, or any other potential example of mitigating circumstances, specifically in the regulations. 

“This is because the University believes that the regulations should reflect a very broad range of circumstances; from physical or mental illness, through family and other personal difficulties, to the impact of work on students’ studies. 

“It is felt that over prescription on regulations is unhelpful as it can never encompass all possible examples and can therefore become restrictive.”

The report follows a petition launched by students at the University of Birmingham, after a student who was raped on her year abroad failed the year and was refused extenuating circumstances.

Birmingham University officials later edited their mitigating circumstances guidelines to specifically cite sexual assault as a personal difficulty or circumstance significant enough to impact a students’ ability to complete, submit or attend an assessment.

The move has since prompted other institutions including Cardiff and Sheffield University to alter their own policies to include sexual assault. 

University College London also makes specific mention of “sexual assault” and “rape” within its guidance.

An inquiry into the University of Sussex last year found the institution had failed its duty of care towards a student victim of assault, following an investigation led by The Independent.

Earlier this month it was reported that incidences of gender violence by staff in UK universities are at “epidemic levels” in the UK, with almost 300 claims made within the past six years.

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