University systems across the world should follow Australia’s lead in adopting a sector-wide position on relationships between staff and students, campaigners say. Times Higher Education reports.
Earlier this week, four Australian representative bodies adopted guidance stating that relationships between academics and research students were “never appropriate” and that, when they occur, supervisory arrangements should be severed.
Tiffany Page, co-founder of The 1752 Group, which campaigns against staff-to-student sexual misconduct in British higher education, argued that the UK should follow suit.
Dr Page, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Cambridge, said that only one-third of UK universities had policies on staff-student relationships, and their provisions – including disclosure requirements and disciplinary procedures – varied greatly.
Universities Australia, a co-signatory to the Australian guidance, said that the move to reallocate research students who enter into a relationship with their supervisors was designed to benefit both parties, as well as other students overseen by the same academic. “Perceptions of bias or favourable treatment might crop up,” said chief executive Catriona Jackson.
But Dr Page said that the UK should go further, advocating the setting of professional boundaries such as those in medical and therapy settings, and suggesting that they could also apply at undergraduate level. “There is a need for a sector-wide discussion in different countries on whether an outright ban is appropriate for all staff-to-student relationships,” she said.
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