Sexual misconduct disclosures

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AMOSSHE Insight: sexual misconduct disclosures

This project, undertaken by the University of Liverpool and partners, aims to research students’ expectations of their universities regarding their response to reports and disclosures of sexual misconduct by or against students.

Project leader: Paula Harrison Woods, Acting Director of Student Administration and Support, University of Liverpool.

Project length: 18 months, due for completion July 2018.

University of LiverpoolTotal award from AMOSSHE: £5,000.

Find out more about the project:


The higher education sector is currently focused on the issue of sexual misconduct by or against students, following the October 2016 publication of a UK government-commissioned report on harassment, hate crime and violence against women, authored by a Universities UK taskforce. The guidelines issued by the taskforce encourage universities to revise and change their approach to dealing with reports, disclosures and allegations of sexual misconduct, particularly in cases where the allegation is not referred to the police.

To date, UK universities have undertaken little work in response to this, and a therefore there is a lack of empirical research into students’ expectations from their university regarding their response to reports or disclosures of sexual misconduct. The research outcomes of this project will make a real contribution to the sector, producing guidance on responding to reports of sexual misconduct based on the perspectives of students at five universities in north west England:

  • University of Liverpool (lead institution)
  • University of Chester
  • Edge Hill University
  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University

Each institution’s students’ union will also be involved and represented on the project steering group.


Aims and objectives

This project, ‘How do students expect their university to respond to disclosures of sexual misconduct by or against students?’ aims to provide the sector with empirical research findings into students’ expectations from their universities regarding their response to reports and disclosures of sexual misconduct, based on a collaboration between several universities and their students’ unions in north west England.

The project objectives include:

  • To explore students’ preferred routes for reporting alleged sexual misconduct and identify good practice in this area.
  • To understand students’ immediate expectations upon reporting disclosure to the university.
  • To understand students’ expectations of ongoing support from their university.
  • To understand students’ perceptions of risk-mitigation activities in relation to alleged perpetrators.
  • To understand students’ expectations around sanctions for different types of offence.



The project methodology involves three phases of research:

  • The project team will undertake 15 focus groups with students based in the five partner universities, in order to gather perspectives from students based in different types of institution. There will be mixed sex, female-only and male-only focus groups at each institution. A paid postgraduate student will lead the focus groups. The project team will arrange training for this student with student support staff to ensure that the focus groups are conducted sensitively and in the same fashion across the different universities.
  • The outcomes of the focus groups will be transcribed and analysed, and the themes identified will contribute to the design of a survey to gather quantitative data to test the interim findings. This survey will be circulated to students at all five universities, and analysed.
  • The focus group and survey data will be supplemented with 15 one-to-one interviews with students who have a particular interest in this area of work: elected student officers, chairs of relevant societies, or campaigners. During these interviews the project team will ensure that minority voices are captured, particularly those of LGBT students, by working collaboratively with students’ unions to recruit these students. Transcription and analysis of the interview data will feed into the final project report.

The project will be overseen by a steering group comprising each institution’s Head of Student Services (or nominee) and one student representative from each institution. This steering group will meet four times a year to oversee the project’s progress, discuss findings and approve the final report. Appropriate expert insight will be sought when formulating recommendations, utilising the academic expertise present within the participating institutions.


Intended outputs

The project outputs will include the following:

  • A final report of the findings from all three phases of research, with recommendations for universities to adopt in response to disclosures of sexual misconduct, including guidance on:
    • Reporting / disclosure routes.
    • Immediate support for alleged victims / survivors.
    • Ongoing support for alleged victims / survivors.
    • Risk-mitigation activity around alleged perpetrators.
    • Proposed sanctions for perpetrators.
  • One article published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Presentations at AMOSSHE conferences on interim and final findings.
  • Presentation at Universities UK conferences and/or any events on sexual misconduct.


AMOSSHE, The Student Services Organisation is a UK non-profit professional association. Company registration number 4778650.
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