The UK government plans to set up a task force to tackle the problem of violence against women on university campuses across the country, it was announced on Monday (7).
University chiefs will be expected to draw up a code of practice after a National Union of Students (NUS) survey found that a quarter of female students had been groped or subjected to inappropriate touching.
Two-thirds of the 2,000 students polled said they had seen that others had to put up with unwanted sexual comments.
Business secretary Sajid Javid has now written to Universities UK, which represents the country’s university vice-chancellors, to investigate and spearhead a new task force.
“This task force will ensure that universities have a plan to stamp out violence against women and provide a safe environment for all their students. We do not tolerate this behaviour in any part of society and I’m not prepared to let it take place on university campuses unchecked,” Javid said.
“Nobody should be put off going to university because of fears about their safety. If my children choose that path, I would expect my daughter to be as safe as my son on any campus in this country,” he added.
The taskforce will also look at how complaints can be better handled, and will work with crime prevention officers to tackle the problem. Universities could be rated on how well they perform, using a certification scheme that would give the stamp of approval to institutions which do most to tackle sexism and violence against women.
Undergraduates at some of Britain’s most prestigious universities have been embroiled in accusations of sexism and joking about violence against women.
It comes as the students union expressed concerns that male undergraduates are subjecting women to harassment and unwanted sexual advances.
Male students are known to engage in sexist banter, harassment and even sexual assault particularly during the first week of term, known as freshers’ week.