Universities told to take action on student spikings

Every institution in England to draw up a policy, with sector response coordinated by new working group

May 24, 2022
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Every university in England will be asked to introduce a policy to tackle spikings of students by the end of the year, following a spate of attacks in late 2021.

A working group chaired by Lisa Roberts, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, will be tasked with coordinating the sector’s response. The Department for Education said the group, which is due to report back by the start of next term, would bring universities together with police, campaigners and victims “to produce plans for practical action to help keep students safe”.

The action comes after thousands of female students boycotted nightclubs and bars across the country and launched protests last October after a string of reports of women being reportedly injected with drugs.

Last month, a Home Affairs Select Committee report said the true prevalence of spiking – also including drink spiking – remained unknown, although some research has suggested that more than one in 10 young adults have been victims.

Michelle Donelan, the higher education minister, said someone close to her had been spiked when she was younger, with “devastating consequences”.

“I know first-hand what a horrific crime this is, and I am determined to stamp it out,” she said.

“Recent incidents show that perpetrators are becoming more brazen in the way they are committing this appalling crime – which is why I am tasking a new working group to look at the issue more closely and come up with practical actions to stamp out spiking at our universities.”

The events of last October provoked debate in the sector over the extent of universities’ responsibilities because, although the attacks were targeted at students, they occurred off-campus. Experts said it was likely that in some cases the perpetrators were students and that institutions needed to introduce harsher penalties and step up their preventive efforts.

Some institutions have already taken action. For example, Exeter is providing drink safety test strips, while Nottingham Trent University is offering bystander training to staff in night-time city venues.

The working group will look at these initiatives and others that are under way across the country.

Professor Roberts said universities “want to play our part in tackling social problems in our towns and cities”.

“Everybody has the right to be safe and enjoy their night out with friends without the fear of spiking or violence. As chair of the new working group, I will work with partners to look at the evidence, best practice and incidents across the UK so that we can make practical recommendations to improve the night-time economy for students.”

Ministers said that they had already taken action to reclassify GHB and closely related substances, which have been used for drink spiking, and that they would consider the case for a specific criminal offence for spiking.


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