An investigation by the Guardian has found that sexual harassment at UK universities is at “epidemic levels”, with almost 300 claims being made against staff since 2011.
Of the 120 universities examined, it was found that 169 allegations were put forward by students while a further 127 cases were made by other staff members.
Despite the high numbers, experts say that they are only a glimpse into the scale of the problem. According to the newspaper, scores of victims were persuaded to not develop their claims into official complaints. Others say they never even reported the harassment, for fear of damage to their studies or careers.
Dr Ann Olivarius, senior partner at the law firm McAllister Olivarius, told the Guardian: “Young women are often terrified about the consequences if they make a complaint about a staff member. So often, when they do, the university’s chief concern is to downplay any wrongdoing and protect its own reputation by keeping the whole thing quiet.”
Of all the institutions investigated, Oxford University had the highest number of sexual harassment claims from students, with 21 cases made against staff. However, there may be duplications of claims due to the university’s college system. Oxford also had the highest number of allegations made by other members of staff.
“These numbers are shocking, but sadly, from our experience, are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Olivarius. “Sexual harassment of students by staff members has reached epidemic levels in British universities.”