Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (Monday) welcomed the publication of the THEA PROPEL Project report, towards tackling sexual harassment and violence in third level institutions.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “The preparation of the report was funded by my Department. In August 2020, I wrote to the Presidents of all publicly funded higher education institutions requesting that they develop and publish specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment.
“These action plans will involve the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion has oversight of the Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and these statistics will be reported annually to the HEA once the action plans in each institution are in place. I understand that a number of institutions have submitted their plans to the HEA, and the remainder are to be finalised and submitted by the end of March. I look forward to considering these institutional action plans, and the plans that institutions have for addressing this critical issue”.
The PROPEL Report details key components and options for inclusion in THEA institute institutional action plans, and outlines best practice and guidelines for emerging policies and procedures in this area.
The Minister said “Our third level institutions have an opportunity to be leaders in this field. I am committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all staff and students in our higher education institutions.
“I would like to commend THEA for their work in identifying best practices and developing guidelines to assist higher education institutions in their preparation of institutional action plans that are comprehensive, with SMART objectives and clear lines of responsibility”.
Other initiatives the Department is actively engaged in supporting include the national, sectoral and local roll out of online consent training and online bystander intervention training for students in the academic year 2020/21 and the development of a national Anonymous Reporting Tool for issues of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment.
The Department also supports the work of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) in convening and chairing the National Advisory Committee, established to support the implementation of the framework, and which provides a space where practitioners can discuss developments, challenges, share knowledge and make connections across the sector.
In order to create a robust evidence base for further policy decisions in relation to tackling sexual violence and harassment in HEIs, the HEA is working with stakeholders to develop and commission standardised national surveys of staff and students to monitor the experiences of students and staff. The HEA has established an expert advisory group to support this work and the surveys are expected to launch this April.