Power in the academy: staff sexual misconduct in UK higher education

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National Union of Students

Publication date: 

15th Apr 2018

This study collates responses from an online survey of 1839 current and former students in UK higher education, and data from four focus groups with a total of 15 students discussing professional boundaries between staff and students in higher education. 

This is not a prevalence study but a descriptive one, and the report does not make claims about the general level of staff sexual misconduct across students in the UK in general. Instead, this study captures the patterns of experiences of students who responded. This report uses the term ‘sexual misconduct’ to define a continuum of sexualised and predatory behaviours of staff towards students. The concept of misconduct moves beyond sexual harassment as ‘unwanted behaviour’ to address the specific nature of the power imbalance between staff and students in higher education. As well as highlighting more complex notions of consent, the term ‘sexual misconduct’ enables this study to draw attention to seemingly lower level, boundary-blurring behaviours by staff. 

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