UK universities ‘teaching classes on sexual consent to new students'

·Freelance Writer
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Universities in Britain are reportedly giving classes on sexual consent (Getty/posed by model)

New students at universities across Britain are being given compulsory lessons in sexual consent, according to a report.

Universities UK says initiatives have been introduced to raise awareness of expected behaviour from students, that include developing pre-arrival online consent courses that are a condition of registration.

Other initiatives put in place include putting behavioural expectations in students' accommodation; broadening "consent quizzes" to include an "inclusivity quiz" as part of registration; setting out potential sanctions; conducting "preventative campaigns" with sports teams and rolling out "anti-hazing training" for new sports club leaders.

Despite the measures, the report states that universities still need to do more to tackle harassment and hate crime on campus.

Institutions have given priority to dealing with sexual misconduct and gender-based violence, with less given to other forms, such as those that are race-related, according to the report.

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Universities UK say initiatives have been introduced by universities to raise awareness of expected behaviour from students (Getty/file pic)

The study looks at the progress UK universities have made since a task force was set up in 2016 to look at the nature and scale of harassment and hate crime across higher education.

It finds that universities are putting in place and improving measures to address issues and prevent incidents occurring.

There has been good progress, it says, in responding to sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

But it adds: "Less priority has been afforded to tackling other forms of harassment, particularly hate incidents/crimes.”

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The report defines a hate incident as a broader term that doesn't necessarily involve a crime, adding hate incidents can also be described as "everyday harassment" or "micro-aggressions" based on a student's disability, gender identity, race, ethnicity or nationality, religion, faith or belief, or sexual orientation.

A "micro-aggression" is "a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group such as a racial or ethnic minority", the report says.

To help prevent all incidents and crimes, 81% of universities surveyed for the report said they have updated their student discipline procedures, while 53% have made major revisions to their student codes of conduct.

The report also notes that there is variation in whether or not students can report incidents anonymously.

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The report states that universities still need to do more to tackle harassment and hate crime on campus (Getty)

Half of the institutions surveyed said this option is provided - with either the reporting student remaining anonymous and providing details of the other party or both the reporting student and the other party remaining anonymous.

Some 45% said they did not currently offer an anonymity option.

Professor Julia Buckingham, UUK president and vice-chancellor of Brunel University London, said: "We are committed to ensuring we create welcoming and inclusive environments for students of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities to flourish and this research shows significant progress towards that.”

In response to the report, Universities Minister Chris Skidmore warned university chiefs that there must be a "zero-tolerance culture" to all types of harassment.

He added: "Any form of harassment, violence or hate crime is abhorrent and unacceptable anywhere in society, and this includes our world-leading universities, which should be safe and inclusive environments.”

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