Archive for March 6, 2017

Sexual Harassment at UK Universities

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 6, 2017 by telescoper

I only have time for a very short post today, but it seems important to point out an article about sexual harassment in UK universities which has just appeared that gives some measure of the scale of the problem. There’s also an accompanying piece that lists the number of cases in different institutions across the country over the past five years or so. If you work in UK university you might want to see how many sexual harassment cases have been reported there. In most institutions investigations into such matters are carried out confidentially, and the outcomes are generally not announced publicly. I think it is welcome that real information is starting to become available.

In most cases there are only a few reported instances per institution since 2011 – the most is 10 (at the University of Nottingham) – and very few seem to have led to persons leaving their job. These numbers represent a lower limit, of course, as not all cases are reported officially. I won’t comment on the general reliability of the figures, except to say that I doubt if all institutions have reported in the same way because their internal procedures may differ, which makes fair comparisons difficult.

Note that the report covers both harassment of students by staff and harassment of staff by other staff.

Anyway, in case you’re wondering what the legal definition of sexual harassment is, here is an excerpt from my current employer’s guidance:

Sexual Harassment has a specific definition under the Equality Act 2010. Sexual Harassment includes:

Conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of (i) violating an individual’s dignity or (ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment; or

Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or that is related to gender reassignment or sex that has the purpose or effect of (i) violating an individual’s dignity or (ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment and that the individual is treated less favourably because they have rejected or submitted to the conduct.


In deciding whether conduct has the effect referred to above each of the following must be taken into account:

the perception of the person claiming harassment and

the other circumstances of the case and

whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.[1]

Harassment which is related to a person’s sex, gender identity, race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin), disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age, can constitute unlawful discrimination for which staff and students can be held personally liable.

[1] In deciding if behaviour amounts to (unlawful) harassment, it is important to take into account all circumstances, including in particular the perception of the individual who feels that harassment has taken place and whether it can reasonably be considered that harassment has taken place. What the individual would determine to be offensive is a key issue in determining whether harassment has taken place, however there is also an element of whether a reasonable person would view the behaviour as offensive if they were in the same circumstances as the individual finding the behaviour offensive.