A report has found that universities need to do more to tackle hate crimes related to race and faith

News Editor | Third-year English student
Images by Gavin Williams

‘Changing the Culture,’ a report released on the 9th October by Universities UK, has found that universities need to do more to tackle hate crimes related to race and faith.

The UUK report states that evidence of hate incidents ‘being addressed is emerging, although this remains relatively underdeveloped.’ It has also recommended that universities should enhance their methods of communication, particularly by developing a common approach to language and terminology. This would help to dispel misconceptions about what constitutes everyday harassment, microaggressions and hate incidents.

An investigation into racism in universities, conducted by The Independent, found that racist incidents rose by over 60% between 2015 and 2017. 

Any form of harassment, violence or hate crime is abhorrent

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore has urged universities to ‘prioritise a zero-tolerance culture to all harassment and hate crime,’ saying: ‘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.’

‘The impact of these offences can be devastating to victims, and while this report shows the progress which has been made, it also highlights the sad truth that there is much further to go to combat the culture of harassment, support those affected and take serious action where needed.’

UUK president, Professor Julia Buckingham, said: ‘The higher education sector recognises its shared responsibility to eliminating hate crime, which is unacceptable in our society, and in our universities.

‘We are committed to ensuring we create a welcoming and inclusive environment for students of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities to flourish and this research shows significant progress towards that.’

The UUK report acknowledges that greater progress has been made in the reduction of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in universities since a task force was set up in 2016, and urges universities to make the same progress in tackling racial harassment and discrimination.

These improvements need to be taking place across all universities

Since 2016, 81% of the 92 UK universities that responded to the UUK survey have updated their disciplinary procedures. 78% of universities have provided clear information to students about how to report incidents such as gender-based or racial harassment, whilst 72% have improved their recording of data related to these incidents.

Furthermore, 65% of UK universities are now providing ‘consent training’ for their students, with some universities making these consent workshops compulsory during freshers’ week to educate students about consensual sex.

However, a recent BBC investigation revealed that reports of sexual assault and harassment at UK universities have trebled in three years despite these improvements. 1,436 allegations of sexual harassment or assault were recorded by universities in 2018-2019, in comparison to 476 in 2016-2017.

It is also believed that this significant increase may be due to universities making it easier for students to report incidents in the past few years.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: ‘The findings from UUK show progress is being made by universities to develop systems and policies to address these issues but more must be done.’

‘These improvements need to be taking place across all universities. The OFS will continue to work with universities and colleges, and other organisations to ensure that all students from all backgrounds can be – and feel – safe on campus.’

The University and the Guild of Students believe that sexual harassment is unacceptable

A statement on equality and diversity on the University of Birmingham’s Intranet website says: ‘We value our diversity and provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of the University community, from developing support for students who are carers to our interfaith events, we also offer dedicated disability services, a wide range of support groups and a multi-faith chaplaincy. We are working to promote race equality in our Schools through a student-led project and to support a more inclusive curricula. The University holds a Bronze Athena SWAN Charter award and is actively seeking to improve the number of women in STEM subjects and at senior levels throughout our institution. We are proud to be members of Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index and Global Champions.’

UoB also provides a statement on sexual harassment on its Intranet website, saying: ‘The University and the Guild of Students believe that sexual harassment is unacceptable. Together, we are committed to tackling sexual harassment and providing a safe and supportive environment in which to live and study.’

Students can learn more about ‘Not On’, the university’s campaign against sexual harassment under the Student Experience Projects section of the university’s website.