Westminster Higher Education Forum

Tackling sexual violence and harassment in higher education - safeguarding and campus culture, improving disciplinary processes, and developing collaborative approaches

Morning, Wednesday, 1st April 2020

Central London


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

The agenda looks at:

  • Campus culture - and how universities can develop effective prevention strategies;
  • Disciplinary and reporting process - where they can be improved to support victims; and
  • Creating partnerships - the opportunities for putting in place coordinated, effective approaches to removing sexual harassment from universities.

It comes with the Office for Students consulting on its expectations for universities in tackling sexual misconduct and harassment -  encompassing the policies, systems and processes that HEIs have in place.

There will be keynote contributions from: Amy Norton, Head of Equality and Diversity, Office for Students ; Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator, Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education; and Gabrielle Henderson, End Violence Against Women Specialist and Campus Violence Portfolio Manager, UN Women.

Further speakers include: Anne Bentley, University of Plymouth; Professor Emma Bond, University of Suffolk; Georgina Calvert-Lee, McAllister Olivarius; Laura Dent, Epigeum; Kim Doyle, LimeCulture; Dr Rachel Fenton, University of Exeter; Hannah Jones, The University of Surrey Students' Union; Fay Maxted, The Survivors Trust; Julie Norris, Kingsley Napley; Professor Graham Virgo, University of Cambridge and a senior speaker confirmed from the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

Delegates will consider HEI responsibilities and examples of best practice  - with discussion expected on:

  • effective communication by universities, which is embed across the whole organisation,
  • the approach to preventing and dealing with cases of harassment,
  • ensuring that students engaged in the process have effective support, and
  • putting in place adequate training of staff.

Sessions also look at the effectiveness of current support for universities and students to tackle sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as the way forward for improving university performance in fostering a climate that encourages the reporting of harassment and systems that effectively dealing with it.

The agenda

  • Policy priorities for safeguarding students in HE;
  • Campus culture and strategies for prevention - awareness campaigns, training and specialist staff, and tackling online harassment;
  • Reviewing the disciplinary process - interactions between victims and alleged perpetrators, increasing reporting rates, and speed and transparency in dealing with incidents;
  • Responding to student complaints;
  • A collaborative approach to tackling sexual violence and harassment - developing partnerships, coordinating investigations, and consistent self-assessment frameworks; and
  • Next steps for improving the HE sector’s approach to sexual harassment.

Further for discussion

  • Analysis suggesting that reports of sexual assault in universities continue to rise;
  • Advance HE’s Catalyst for change report finding progress, but suggesting more action from HEIs on staffing, leadership, and the allocation of resources to safeguard students;
  • The OfS call to action on training and involving students;
  • Universities UK’s evaluation of progress two years on from its Changing the Culture report on gender-based violence (GBV) and how universities are addressing challenges through preventative campaigns, training, and partnerships with specialist organisations and the third sector; and
  • UN Women’s outline of the guiding principles on the prevention and response of HE providers in cases of campus violence including recommending a list of 10 ‘essential’ actions - create a policy of zero tolerance, introduce a dedicated university coordinator, a dedicated budget in order to create a positive environment with a focus on prevention and access to services.

Keynote Speakers

Felicity Mitchell

Independent Adjudicator, Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education

Amy Norton

Head of Equality and Diversity, Office for Students

Gabrielle Henderson

End Violence Against Women Specialist and Campus Violence Portfolio Manager, UN Women


Dr Rachel Fenton

Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Exeter

Kim Doyle

Joint Chief Executive, LimeCulture

Professor Graham Virgo

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor of English Private Law, University of Cambridge

Georgina Calvert-Lee

Head of UK Practice and Senior Counsel, McAllister Olivarius

Fay Maxted

Chief Executive Officer, The Survivors Trust

Julie Norris

Partner, Regulatory Team, Kingsley Napley

Professor Emma Bond

Director of Research and Head of Graduate School, University of Suffolk

Laura Dent

Publishing and Learning Design, Epigeum

Anne Bentley

Student Counselling Team Leader, University of Plymouth

Senior speaker confirmed from

End Violence Against Women Coalition

Hannah Jones

Course Rep & Student Insight Coordinator, The University of Surrey Students' Union