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Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.
Universities awarded funding as part of a large-scale programme to tackle hate crime and sexual harassmenton campus have made good progress, an evaluation of the scheme has concluded.
The evaluation, carried out by Advance HE, looked 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 programme was launched after surveys found a high proportion of students had experienced harassment or threats. Data from the National Union of Student's No Place for Hate report showed that 18 per cent of black, Asian, Chinese and mixed-raced students had experience of at least one racial hate incident during their studies; while a poll of over 5,000 students for the sexual health charity Brook and the Dig-In database published earlier this year found that 56 per cent of students experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at university.
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. It also showed:
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."
Alison Johns, Chief Executive at Advance HE said: "All students deserve to feel safe on or off campus, which is why we are pleased to be involved with Catalyst-funded projects as the independent evaluator. "We welcome the findings of the report which help to address sexual misconduct, hate crime and online harassment. There is a clear need for continued senior leadership and governance to protect students and tackle this unacceptable anti-social behaviour both within higher education institutions and the sector as a whole."
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