Is there a culture of under-reporting in our universities? MM investigates student-on-student crime

Edge Hill University has recorded significantly more incidents of student-on-student crime than any other university with a presence in Greater Manchester.

Through requests made under the Freedom of Information Act, Mancunian Matters learnt that Edge Hill recorded 79 aggressive or violent incidents in the last academic year alone.

Five years ago the university recorded just 22 cases, meaning there has been an increase of over 250% since the 2013-14 academic year.

Of the 79 incidents last year, 19 were classed as cases of sexual violence.

In second place was Manchester Metropolitan with 30 recorded incidents in the 2017/18 year, seven of which were categorised as either sexual assault or harassment.

Manchester University only had 12 cases in the last three academic years, half of which were incidents of sexual violence or assault.

The University of Bolton has had fewer than five cases reported in total over the last five years, so was unable to provide any further breakdowns of statistics for data protection purposes.

Salford University, who only had three recorded cases of assault in the last year, does not distinguish incidents based on perpetrators or victims, only noting what has happened on campus.

Despite Edge Hill’s comparatively high figures, students from Manchester Met and Manchester University suggested that lower numbers of recorded incidents does not mean that fewer crimes are committed.

Rose*, 20, a humanities student at Manchester University, said that there was a culture of under-reporting crime perpetrated by other students.

“When I was assaulted, I didn’t think about telling the uni,” said Rose, “I didn’t want to get dragged into an investigation with people that have no official, legal power.

“The worst they could do would be to kick him out. I didn’t feel I had enough evidence to go to the police, let alone to people who aren’t professional investigators.

“I’ve heard too many horror stories of academics and administrative staff trying to play detective, not knowing how to treat the victim, and just making it all worse. No thanks, not for me.”

Another student at Manchester Metropolitan echoed Rose’s sentiments, saying that she lacked the conviction in the staff to handle her situation properly.

“The university always seems so disorganised,” said Charlie*, 25.

“I don’t trust them to get my timetable right, let alone conduct an investigation into my rape.”

Charlie felt in her case there was the added difficulty that her assailant was a well-known, popular figure in the university.

“He was a big name among staff and students. I am relatively quiet, I keep to myself. He seemed to be on every committee for every society all the time.

“How could I come forward when he could instantly have respected staff and students backing up his character? I couldn’t! No one would ever believe me!”

Both Manchester Metropolitan and Manchester University did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Edge Hill said that they had made improvements to the reporting systems for incidents like this.

The spokesperson said: “As a campus university we are very aware of what happens within our boundaries and all issues brought to our attention are investigated thoroughly.

“We have implemented robust systems and procedures which have led to increased logging of incidents relating to student wellbeing such as encouraging all our student facing staff, including housekeeping staff, to report incidents they have become aware of.”

Edge Hill University was ranked by the Times Higher Education ranking as the seventh safest university in the country.

Image courtesy of CMY Kane via Flickr, with thanks.

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