University Campus Suffolk

06/12/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/12/2019 03:53

University of Suffolk resource to encourage safety online is rolled out nationally

A resource developed by the University of Suffolk to encourage safety online is being rolled out to Universities across the UK.

The self-review toolkit was developed by Professor Emma Bond at the University of Suffolk in partnership with Professor Andy Phippen at the University of Plymouth. It is is being actively promoted by the independent regulator of higher education in England, the Office for Students (OfS).

It comes as the OfS has today, (12 June 2019), said more needs to be done to tackle hate crime and sexual harassment on campus, which includes online.

A new independent evaluation shows that good progress has been made in tackling sexual harassment and hate crime in English universities at those institutions awarded funding as part of a large-scale programme, which includes the University of Suffolk.

The evaluation praises those projects which have actively engaged students, with 90 per cent of those universities and other higher education providers who received funding agreeing that student involvement had helped improve the projects.

Speaking ahead of a national conference on protecting students from hate crime and harassment, Yvonne Hawkins, director of teaching excellence and student experience at the Office for Students, said 'Students should be able to concentrate on their studies and enjoy their higher education experience free from the fear of harassment or assault. Shocking statistics show that, while many students have a positive experience of higher education, others are experiencing incidents of harassment or assault. This is simply unacceptable.'

'This evaluation shows that welcome progress is being made, which must now be built upon. There are signs that students are more willing to report incidents, that specialist staff are in post to support students, and that students are being actively involved in the creation of initiatives to tackle these problems. This funding has made a real and lasting difference, and the Office for Students will continue to work with universities and colleges, student unions and others to ensure that all students from all backgrounds can be - and feel - safe on campus.'

The evaluation, carried out by Advance HE, looks at the impact of 108 projects awarded a total of £4.4 million since 2016 to tackle hate crime and sexual violence and harassment at a total of 84 universities and colleges. The evaluation reports:

  • an increase in the reporting of incidents and evidence of a reduction in tolerance of hate crime
  • the positive impact of hiring specialist staff to support students facing harassment or violence
  • greater evidence of partnership working - with both students and external organisations - to tackle these issues.

Professor Emma Bond and Professor Andy Phippen created the Higher Education Self Review Tool in response to the growing risk that online can pose and to ensure safeguarding measures. The Tool, available here, enables higher education providers to assess themselves in 23 areas, at four levels, grading themselves a score of zero to three.

Professor Emma Bond said, 'While student safeguarding is a well-established responsibility for UK higher education institutions, good practice in online safeguarding is only recently becoming recognised across the sector. In spite of a duty of care accorded to UK universities to act reasonably in students' best interests, to protect their well-being and to provide support as they continue in education, there remains a lack of guidance in relation to current practice and regulation around online safety within higher education. In response, our tool - developed by the University as part of the Office for Students Catalyst funded programme to support good practice in safeguarding students - focuses on tackling sexual violence, hate crime and online harassment, and is designed for higher education institutions to self-review their online safeguarding practice.'

To find out more about the Higher Education Self Review Tool please visit https://www.uos.ac.uk/content/digital-civility

For more on the Office for Students story please visit https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events