Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for addressing sexual misconduct in Higher Education - effective complaints procedures, duty of care, collaborative approaches, and workforce priorities

Morning, Tuesday, 27th April 2021

Online Conference

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the next steps for tackling sexual misconduct in HE settings - and improving the sector’s approach to sexual harassment.

It will be an opportunity to consider the Office for Students Consultation on harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education which looks at the processes, policies and systems that institutions are expected to have in place.

The discussion at a glance:

  • campus culture and protecting individual student and staff groups - raising awareness, prevention, and priorities for staff training
  • putting in place effective complaints procedures - investigation and decision-making procedures, trauma informed responses, and data recording
  • developing a collaborative approach to tackling sexual misconduct - multi-agency coordination, aligning policy across the sector, and the use of self-assessment frameworks
  • HEI responsibilities and examples of best practice - with discussion expected on:
    • communication - ensuring its effectiveness in universities across the whole organisation
    • action - implementing effective systems and approaches to prevention and dealing with cases of harassment, and fostering a climate that encourages reporting
    • support - making sure appropriate structures are in place for students and staff engaged in the process, and looking at the effectiveness of current support for universities themselves
    • training - for staff and others involved in safeguarding and complaint handling, as well as the way forward for improving university performance in this area

The discussion in detail:

Improving the prevention of sexual harassment on campus:

  • best practice - how it can be built upon and further rolled out:
    • Changing the culture -  the Universities UK update to their report finding progress at many universities, including in tackling gender-based violence, following recommendations including:
      • increased training for staff
      • introduction of campaigns to raise awareness and improve the culture around campuses
      • development of partnerships with the third sector and others
  • tailoring support - focussing on specific groups within universities, including effective bystander training for groups such as early career academics to challenge poor behaviour
  • messaging - strategies for reinforcing awareness of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour
  • online harassment - how it can be addressed, especially in the context of COVID-19, with courses and interaction increasingly taking place online, looking at:
    • Tackling online harassment and promoting online welfare - implementation of UUK recommendations such as clearly setting out expectations for conduct, including in chat groups
    • Reporting and redress - online harassment in disciplinary policies and procedures

Developing effective complaints procedures

Reporting processes at universities, ensuring fairness in dealing with complaints and allegations, and creating an environment that supports those who have suffered harassment in coming forward:

  • fairness and transparency - effective approaches to ensuring a means of evaluating cases and enabling universities to increase the speed in dealing with incidents
  • assessing varying approaches - with some institutions establishing separate disciplinary procedures for sexual misconduct, whilst others placing incidents within their general complaints framework
  • effective responses - looking at reporting, disciplinary hearing processes, record and data management, and legal recourse
  • assessing advice on addressing staff sexual misconduct in UK universities
    • such as the Sector Guidance recommendations from the 1752 group and McAlistair Olivarius, on fairness to complainants and giving equal rights to complainants and respondents
  • the legal context - how institutional frameworks align with Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, which outlines the common law duty of care that HEIs are required to consider under the Public Sector Equality Duty - including eliminating discrimination and harassment of women and fostering good relations between different groups

Developing a collaborative approach

Priorities for creating a joined-up approach toward tackling sexual violence and harassment:

  • how police, universities, specialist organisations, third sector groups, and other stakeholders can develop partnerships and ensure investigations are coordinated to support successful outcomes
  • how trusted organisations such as the police can promote university security, and work with local authorities in ensuring safe transport to and from campuses
  • universities developing close relationships with Sexual Assault Referral Clinics and the NHS to act quickly when incidents occur

The agenda:

  • Outcomes of consultation on harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education and policy priorities going forward
  • An overview of gender-based violence on campuses
  • Campus culture and protecting all student and staff groups - raising awareness, prevention, and priorities for staff training
  • Duty of care - the legal, moral and ethical responsibilities of higher education institutions
  • Best practice in handling student complaints
  • Developing effective complaints procedures - investigation and decision-making procedures, trauma informed responses, and data recording
  • Developing a collaborative approach to tackling sexual misconduct - multi-agency coordination, aligning policy across the sector, and the use of self-assessment frameworks

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior officials from DfE, and other Government departments and agencies, university and college leaders; academics and other higher education professionals; representatives from students’ unions; the health sector; local authorities; the police; interest groups and the voluntary sector; along with commentators and reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Senior speaker confirmed from Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education

Poppy Gerrard-Abbott

Researcher, The Emily Test

Amy Norton

Head of Equality and Diversity, Office for Students


Jess Phillips MP

Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding


Professor Peter Lambert

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching, University of Bath

Fay Maxted

Chief Executive Officer, The Survivors Trust

Sandra Paul

Partner, Criminal Litigation, Kingsley Napley

Professor Graham Towl

Professor of Psychology, Durham University

Alan Percy

Head of Counselling, University of Oxford

Detective Chief Inspector Patrick Goodrich

City of Manchester Division, Greater Manchester Police

Melissa Reilly

Sexual Violence and Harassment Response Manager, The University of Manchester

Senior speaker confirmed from LimeCulture

Sara Khan

Vice President, Liberation and Equality, National Union of Students