Sexual Misconduct in Academia: Informing an Ethics of Care in the University




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Peer reviewed



This chapter provides an overview of our research that focusses on tackling sexual violence within UK universities. In this research, we consider sexual violence and misconduct as involving any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, where there is an absence of consent. For example, behaviours can include rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, coercive and controlling behaviour. This can be between students, staff and students, or between staff within universities. Our work provides an essential insight into areas such as experiences of sexual violence and harassment within UK universities, report and support- seeking behaviour, key recommendations for practice and an evaluation of how we have embedded consent conversations into university curricula. In 2016, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) released Catalyst funding for 63 projects and initiatives, to address sexual violence on UK campuses. As part of this, we conducted a mixed-method, cross-disciplinary body of research to review existing practices and policies in this area, developing student partnerships and providing an evidence base of these issues. The use of these approaches allowed us to innovatively triangulate the perceptions of sexual violence on UK campuses by university managers, staff and students, providing much-needed, in-depth and new insights into sexual violence perceptions, experiences, support-seeking knowledge and reporting preferences. In this chapter, we consider the prevalence of sexual violence within UK universities, as well as the legal implications and in-depth perceptions from students, staff and university managers, which is rarely the focus of work in this area. Based on these findings, we suggest that active, campus-wide campaigns increase awareness, but explain how changing the culture will not be possible if universities do not address barriers to disclosure or have inadequate policies and procedures in place. We also provide key recommendations for practice that should be adopted by decision makers in this area. We argue that sexual violence is a pressing, prevalent issue, but within under-resourced and changing Higher Education landscapes, this will remain a low priority without joined up, campus-wide approach, driven by university managers, to embed long-term, cultural change.



Higher Education, Sexual Violence, Consent, Policy


Hill, K. and Crofts, M. (2023) Sexual Violence: Challenges in Changing Campus Culture. In: Erin Pritchard, E. and Edwards (Eds), Sexual Misconduct in Academia: Informing an Ethics of Care in the University. Routledge


Research Institute

Centre for Law, Justice and Society