Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish HEIs
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is committed to ensuring a national institutional campus culture which is safe, respectful and supportive, and clear in the condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours. Preventing and remedying all forms of sexual harassment and sexual violence in Irish higher education is essential to ensuring a safe environment for all students and staff.
The Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion supports and oversees the implementation of Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions, which was published by the government in April 2019, and is often referred to as ‘the Framework for Consent in Higher Education’.
“Our vision is to ensure an institutional campus culture which is safe, respectful and supportive. Institutions have a duty of care to their students and staff, and a responsibility to foster a campus culture that is clear in the condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours. The higher education student experience is not only concerned with the pursuit of academic excellence, but also to prepare students to engage with and make positive contributions to society. Creating a positive student experience empowers individuals to foster a culture of respect, dignity and integrity.” – Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions (Government of Ireland, 2019)
In 2021, at the request of the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) submitted Action Plans aimed at ending sexual violence and harassment to the HEA. The Action Plans are published on each institution’s website.
The plans address the fifteen key outcomes set out in the Framework, which are clustered into four thematic areas focusing on: Institutional Culture, Institutional Processes, Institutional Policies and Targeted Initiatives. The HEIs are required to report on progress in implementing the Framework to the HEA on an annual basis.
In January 2022, the HEA published the reports of the National Surveys of Staff and Student Experiences of Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish HEIs. The surveys aimed to monitor the experiences of students and staff in relation to sexual violence and harassment, in order to create a robust evidence base for further policy and funding decisions in relation to tackling sexual violence and harassment in HEIs. The development of the surveys was supported by the HEA’s expert Advisory Group on Ending Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in HEIs, which was established in January 2021. A total of 11,417 survey responses were received (7,901 students and 3,516 staff).
With the support of the HEA Advisory Group on Ending Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in HEIs, the ‘Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education Institutions Implementation Plan, 2022-2024’, was developed to address the recommendations that emerged from an analysis of the survey findings. The actions outlined in the implementation plan represent a comprehensive and ambitious response to the survey findings. The plan was formally launched in October 2022.
The Implementation Plan is intended to build on and complement the broad range of initiatives ongoing across the sector towards the outcomes set out in the national policy framework and accompanying institutional action plans. The HEA Advisory Group on Ending Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in HEIs will maintain oversight of progress towards the delivery of the plan, in close collaboration with the HEA.