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EXCLUSIVE: Dozens of students in Dundee and Fife report sexual misconduct at university

st andrews sexual misconduct
Universities have handled dozens of complaints.

Dozens of students and staff in Dundee and Fife have made reports of sexual misconduct against fellow students or staff in the last four years.

Data obtained by The Courier shows 64 reports have been made against students and staff at St Andrews University alone since 2017.

That includes eight so far this year.

The academic year ending 2021 saw the highest number in that period, with 18 allegations put forward.

Meanwhile 13 allegations were recorded against students at Dundee University between 2017 and 2021 – and six more have been logged this year.

Dundee University.
Dundee University.

Seven reports have been made against staff and students at Abertay University since 2017 – however Abertay defines these as sexual assault allegations, rather than sexual misconduct.

While the St Andrews numbers are significantly higher, the universities have stressed that they operate separate reporting systems – so cases may be logged differently.

Student rolls also differ at each location – with more than 16,000 at Dundee, 10,000 at St Andrews and 4,500 at Abertay.

But one campaigner has suggested that high numbers could show a reporting system which encourages students to come forward.

Six claims of sexual misconduct were made against staff at St Andrews from 2017 to 2021 and three against staff at Abertay – with none at Dundee.

The Courier asked each university for the outcome of the investigations into the allegations.

Dundee University refused to reveal this data, saying it could identify the small number of people involved.

However, St Andrews and Abertay outlined the details in a freedom of information response.

What was the outcome of the St Andrews allegations?

University of St Andrews.
University of St Andrews.

St Andrews says more than one outcome can apply in a single case, but its investigations resulted in the following:

  • Two students were suspended.
  • Four had their studies terminated.
  • Three were either referred to residential and business services or had to move their accommodation.
  • 16 people were referred to student services or a similar facility.
  • 14 students were given a warning.
  • Six apologised.
  • Four were given advice.
  • Six students completed reflective reports.
  • 40 students faced precautionary action.
  • 32 were required to attend a consent/diversity workshop.
  • Only one report was “unfounded” and required no action.

Staff faced different outcomes:

  • Four cases were unfounded and required no action.
  • One received a final written warning.
  • Two employees resigned.

Outcome of Abertay allegations

Abertay University says its complaint-handling procedure changed in 2020/21.

The outcome of investigations are as follows:

  • One student had their studies temporarily suspended.
  • One was excluded from campus.
  • One was suspended from a sports society.
  • Two voluntarily agreed to move accommodation.
  • Three cautions were issued.
  • One student received a written reprimand.

Of the three cases involving staff members:

  • Two were dismissed.
  • One hearing was not concluded as the staff member chose to leave their job.

Additional measures were also put in place to remove any contact between parties on campus where possible.

Support offered to rape victim at St Andrews

One former student, known only as Miss M, dealt with St Andrews University’s reporting system after being raped on a night out in Fife in September 2013.

She said: “The student services provided a safe space for me to decide what to do after I had been raped.

“They provided me support and discussed through the options available.

“When I made the decision to come forward to the police, they supported me every step of the way – from the initial reporting, Viper parade, toxicology testing, criminal trial and even as a staff member continuing on to proceed in a civil case.

St Andrews has been praised for the way it supports students.
St Andrews has been praised for the way it supports students.

“At times they supported me financially, when I moved out of the flat I was raped in. In addition they provided emergency accommodation when I was being intimidated in my own home.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today, supporting rape victims in my career, if it wasn’t for St Andrews University.

High figures should reflect a supportive and welcoming university, rather than instilling fear into the community”

Miss M

“Recently I took part in some training with another Scottish university. This training was to share the positive and great support I had received in an attempt for other universities to learn from this.”

She added: “Regarding the figures in this report, I think it is a positive that so many students have felt confident to come forward and get support.

“High figures should reflect a supportive and welcoming university rather than instilling fear into the community.”

How have the universities responded?

A spokesperson for St Andrews University – which has come under scrutiny for how it handles such cases in recent years – said: “We continue to work with our students to create an environment in which they can come forward to disclose sexual misconduct, and trust that they will be listened to, supported, and looked after.

There are various routes for students and staff to report any sexual misconduct or harassment”

Dundee University

“Universities cannot change the world by themselves. But St Andrews and its students are leading the way in tackling issues of gender-based violence.

“We were the first university in Scotland to introduce a compulsory consent module for all students.

“We were an early adopter of the Scottish Government’s Equally Safe Toolkit and we successfully applied to be one of four Scottish institutions working with the charity EmilyTest on a gender-based violence charter.

“Our frontline staff are trained by Rape Crisis Scotland, and we have introduced a reporting tool – ‘report and support’ – including content co-designed with our students.”

Dundee University says it has a “zero-tolerance policy” on sexual misconduct.

A spokesperson said: “There are various routes for students and staff to report any sexual misconduct or harassment, including anonymously through our safeguarding protocol, and we look to provide whatever support is needed.”

The University of Abertay has the smallest student population of the three Dundee and Fife universities.
The University of Abertay has the smallest student population of the three Dundee and Fife universities.

Meanwhile Abertay says it also takes a zero-tolerance approach.

A spokesperson said: “When any instance of sexual misconduct is reported to the university we offer advice and support to the person affected, including liaising with the police as required, and always act with sensitivity and in accordance with the student or staff member’s wishes.

“Our team of professional student advisors, counsellors and mental health advisors are trained by Rape Crisis Scotland and other partner agencies in how to support people who have reported an incident.”

The uni says other initiatives include taking part in the Equally Safe in Higher Education campaign, while it runs awareness campaigns on gender-based violence linked to an anonymous online reporting tool.

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