National Surveys of Staff and Student Experiences of Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish HEIs

Please note: The survey reports discuss experiences related to sexual harassment and violence. Some of the language is explicit and some people may find it uncomfortable or upsetting. Information on support available to you, should you need it, can be found here.

In April 2021, at the request of the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, T.D., the Higher Education Authority (HEA) conducted national surveys 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 higher education institutions (HEIs).

The HEA established an expert Advisory Group on Ending Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in HEIs in January 2021 to support this work. In collaboration with this advisory group, the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality Diversity and Inclusion developed and ran national surveys of staff and students to monitor their experiences in April 2021.

11, 417 responses were received (7,901 students and 3,516 staff). The results of the surveys are detailed in summary and full reports. The reports provide a picture of student and staff attitudes towards and experiences of sexual violence and sexual harassment, as well as their awareness and confidence in HEI policies, processes and initiatives in the area.

Addressing the survey findings

The survey reports set out a number of recommendations for action, which are addressed by the Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education Institutions, Implementation Plan, 2022 – 2024’. The implementation plan was formally launched in October 2022.

The implementation plan was developed in close consultation with the HEA Advisory Group on Ending Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in HEIs and represents a comprehensive and ambitious response to the survey findings.

The delivery of the actions in the implementation plan are 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 published in 2019; ‘Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions’, (often referred to as the ‘Framework for Consent’) 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 actions outlined in this plan, in close collaboration with the HEA. The group will meet on a regular basis to monitor implementation, and a full review of progress will be carried out after one year.

National Disability Authority (NDA) Secondary Data Analysis

The NDA completed a secondary analysis of the data collated by the HEA through the national student survey. The findings of the NDA’s analysis can be found in this report, published by the NDA in February 2024. The report examines if students with disabilities were more likely to have experienced sexual harassment, sexual violence and particular sexual violence tactics compared to students without disabilities based on the hypothesis that people with disabilities are more at risk of harassment and violence.

The analysis finds that from the entire sample of respondents to this survey, 10% (n=780) of these students had a disability and had experienced sexual violence and 15% (n=1,185) had a disability and had experienced sexual harassment.

Although this sample is not representative of the general population this report adds to national evidence on the experiences of sexual violence and sexual harassment amongst people with disabilities. It is important to note that some of the material covered within this report may make it distressing to read.

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