Skip to main content

Violence Against Women on University Campuses

Volume 715: debated on Monday 23 May 2022

Violence against women is unacceptable, and we must pursue a zero-tolerance culture. I have written to the Office for Students to make clear my view that it should make tackling sexual misconduct a binding condition of universities’ registration. I have also launched a pledge that commits universities to not using non-disclosure agreements to silence victims of sexual harassment. Fifty-three providers have so far made the pledge, and we expect many more to follow.

We are far from zero tolerance at the moment. As a parent of two daughters who have attended or are attending two different universities, I have seen that universities are not safe spaces. Research shows that between two thirds and three quarters of female students, and 70% of female university and college staff, have experienced sexual violence.

The president of the University of Roehampton’s students union has been in regular contact with me about incidents there and about how the local police’s hands are tied because sexual harassment is not a crime, so they cannot take action. There are many factors. Will the Secretary of State go further and commission a review of sexual violence on campuses across our country and take more action to make our campuses safe?

Universities UK published a report a couple of years ago assessing the sector’s progress on tackling gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime. It showed some progress had been made, but only 72% of responding institutions had developed or improved the recording of data on harassment. I need them to go much further, and we will keep everything on the table. I am determined that we get to where the hon. Lady and I both want to get. I am the father of a nine-year-old girl who will one day go to college or, I hope, take a degree apprenticeship. A zero-tolerance culture must be delivered.