|28th February 2022||Marion Hutchins|
SUMS Wins OfS Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Evaluation Contract.
The Office for Students (OfS) has appointed SUMS Consulting to evaluate the impact of its statement of expectations for preventing and addressing harassment and sexual misconduct affecting students in higher education.
Higher Education (HE) specialists, SUMS Consulting, will evaluate the impact of the Office for Students’ (OfS) statement of expectations for preventing and addressing harassment and sexual misconduct affecting students in HE. The statement of expectations provides a set of consistent recommendations to support HE providers in England prevent and respond to incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct. It sets out clear guidance to help providers to develop and implement effective systems, policies and processes to protect students.
SUMS brings recognised expert knowledge of this field, with a team that has conducted successful large-scale evaluations and consultations in the past. SUMS’ lead on the evaluation, Principal Consultant Helen Baird, previously led the Evaluation of Safeguarding Students Catalyst Projects for OfS. She also led Universities UK’s Changing the Culture: One Year On study, which assessed the sector’s progress on driving cultural change in student safeguarding for ministers and sector leaders.
SUMS’ extensive networks and contacts across all levels of the HE sector means the evaluation for the OfS will:
- Include consultation with a wide range of HE providers
- Engage with survivors, students, students’ unions, staff, senior leaders and governors
- Focus on behaviours and measurable changes within providers
- Establish the initial impact of the statement using robust qualitative and quantitative methods
- Provide evidence-informed advice to the OfS to inform future decision-making.
Underpinning the OfS statement of expectations – and wider prevention framework – is the principle that all HE students registered at a provider should be protected from harassment and sexual misconduct from other students, staff and visitors.
“Disturbingly – and despite the extensive work undertaken across the sector in recent years – harassment and sexual misconduct within HE providers persists. All students have the right to study and live in a safe environment. This evaluation will seek to establish whether current guidance is helping providers to deliver that safe space by working extensively with victim-survivors of harassment or sexual misconduct, as well as with providers, sector bodies, student groups, and academic and other experts in this field.” – Helen Baird, Principal Consultant, SUMS
“All students should be able to study in higher education without risk of harassment or sexual misconduct, and getting the right systems, policies and processes in place to both effectively prevent and respond to incidents is what we expect universities and colleges to in response to our statement of expectations. This new work by SUMS will enable the OfS to evaluate the changes the sector has made in response to our statement and to understand the extent to which students feel safe and supported throughout their time at university.” – Amy Norton Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Office for Students
SUMS Consulting is a specialist Higher Education consultancy with over 50 years’ experience in conducting strategic and large-scale reviews and projects within the sector. We are a not-for-profit charity and membership organisation providing expert consultancy and procurement support to the FE and HE Sectors, both in the UK and globally. Through our three divisions – SUMS Consulting, Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) and the Procurement Shared Service (PSS) – we support ambitious universities and sector bodies to achieve their goals.
About the Office for Students
The OfS is the independent regulator of Higher Education in England. We aim to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of Higher Education that enriches their lives and careers. Our work covers all students whether undergraduate or postgraduate, national or international, young or mature, full-time or part-time, studying on a campus or by distance learning. For more information, visit www.officeforstudents.org.uk
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