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In a week when the government reshuffled its cabinet, HE issues that made headlines gave the newly-appointed universities minister a taste of things to come, says Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers .
The past week’s events and news are a sign of turbulent times for UK universities, warns Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University.
Mike Ratcliffe, academic registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reflects on issues emerging from a packed week of higher education news.
Two thirds of freshers are not aware of procedures at their university for reporting sexual harassment, a survey conducted by the National Union of Students has found.
Almost the same proportion (61 per cent) of students who responded to the poll said they were not aware of any codes of conduct on sexual harassment introduced by their institution.
This was despite moves by several universities to take action against "lad's culture" and sexual harassment and violence on campus, following concerns raised by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator over a growing number of complaints from students.
The NUS survey found 17 per cent of freshers reported having been victims of some form of sexual harassment during their first week of term, with a further 29 per cent having witnessed it directed at somebody else.
The most significant forms of harassment were unwanted sexual comments about people’s bodies - including wolf whistling when students walk into lectures – heckling in nightclub queues and jokes about rape. Some 59 per cent of these incidents happened during social events or at night clubs, and a further 33 per cent took place in halls of residence.
Susuana Amoah, NUS Women’s Officer, said: "It’s extremely worrying, but not surprising, that so many students in their first term of university have experienced sexual harassment or seen it happen to somebody else. NUS has been working over the last five years to bring sexual harassment on campus to the forefront of the national conversation, and make sure institutions are taking it seriously.
"Reporting systems for sexual harassment are either lacking or not visible to students in a lot of cases, and this needs to change. We are working with nine students’ unions who have audited their own processes and those of their institutions, and we will be supporting many more to carry on this work until students feel aware of how to report sexual harassment, and safe and confident that their concerns will be taken seriously."
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