UCL ban on staff-student relationships

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University College London (UCL) has been believed to be the third university in the UK to ban staff-student relationships. They are also the first from the Russel Group of the 24 leading universities. Although many universities have codes of conduct against student-staff relationships, many only discourage them.

The UCL human resources website states that while the university “recognises that socialising on a friendship basis between colleagues and staff and students is often a positive aspect of being an active member of the University community… UCL prohibits close personal and intimate relationships between staff and students where the staff member has a direct responsibility for, or involvement in that student’s academic studies and/or personal welfare.” The new policy also obliges staff from having a close intimate relationship with students that they are not directly responsible for.

Kelsey Paske, the behaviour and culture change manager at UCL, stetted the ban was due to the need to recognise a position of power between staff and students. She stated that the ban was also inspired by Ivy League universities in the US. It was also highlighted that the ban was to protect students from an abuse of power as it “may have adverse effects on the working and learning environment.”

The new ban has sparked multiple conversations between students, while some agree with the new policy, others differ from it. A student website, The Student Room, where students posts feedback and opinions highlighted the new ban. “I don’t think it’s *right* for old men to be hitting on women young enough to be their (grand-) daughters, but as a society we’ve decided 16 is old enough to consent, and university students are only very rarely under 18 and those that are are typically given special protection.” ThomH97 posted while username5188110 argues, “who are we to stop two consenting individuals from entering a relationship? In most cases, the relationship could harm the student, but is that true for every single one? I just think we can’t have so many rules restricting our choices in life. There could be another solution to try and *prevent* these relationships from developing….a ban is a little excessive.”

The NUS staff-student sexual misconduct report from 2018 brought to light that 80% of students highlighted that they felt staff-student relationships were uncomfortable. The report also held that participants felt that universities have a responsibility to protect students and the onus should be on the institution to create a safe environment.

Last modified: 15th April 2020

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