Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities

Summary

onEvidence acted as consultant to HARM network, University of Central Lancashire, to deliver this innovative project, Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities, funded by Research England.

About the client

HARM is a multi-disciplinary research network, based within the Centre for Criminal Justice Research & Partnerships, University of Central Lancashire.

HARM network

Background and objectives

Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities aims at raising awareness of the problem of domestic abuse at UK universities and guiding university policymakers in the development and implementation of domestic abuse policies to safeguard and support students and staff.

The objectives of the Guidance Project outputs are to prompt universities to develop new policies or update existing policies, training, and communications, based on the guidance document, and to encourage awareness and understanding of the issues facing victims of domestic abuse so that universities can provide a safer and improved response based on the needs of their diverse student-staff communities.

The Guidance Project outputs were disseminated to all UK universities in early 2021.

The Project was managed by Dr Roxanne Khan, HARM network, University of Central Lancashire, and funded by Research England (QR-SPF).

onEvidence was commissioned to manage the project, design outputs, and develop dissemination and research impact strategy.

Solution

Project research

onEvidence worked with researchers Beth Hall and Amy Roberts (HARM network, UCLan), to explore the extent of domestic abuse at UK universities.

Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities
Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities

We found that over 185,000 staff and students experience domestic abuse each year. We also found that full time female students are the most at-risk group in terms of occupation, and that disabled staff and students are twice as likely to suffer abuse as those without disabilities.

Research infographic - Domestic abuse policies and guidance across UK universities

In response to these troubling statistics, onEvidence designed a survey that was sent to 131 UK universities. The purpose of the survey was to determine the level of support offered to victims and those at risk. We found that only a handful of universities in the UK had a specific domestic abuse policy and that most had no guidance or training in place.

Project outputs

HARM network convened a multidisciplinary panel of experts to feed into a proposed guidance paper to support university policy makers and HR to develop domestic abuse policy.

onEvidence designed a survey that was sent to the panel members to gather recommendations to inform the guidance development. We then consulted throughout the life of the project, designed the final guidance paper and infographics, and worked with our client to formulate a dissemination strategy to ensure maximum impact.

Project dissemination

onEvidence designed a dissemination strategy and campaign assets which included email and social media, a newsletter, and an online event with speakers, including the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, Fiona Drouet MBE, Professor Graham Towl, and Amy Norton, Office for Students.

Impact

Domestic abuse policy guidance endorsement from Universities UK

The project was well received by UK universities as well as leading domestic abuse charities and safeguarding organisations. As of October 2023, the research and guidance papers have been downloaded more than over 8000 times.

…a valuable resource to ensure students and staff are safe & supported

Farah Nazeer, CEO Women’s Aid

Following a programme evaluation in September 2023, the project’s multifaceted dissemination strategy was found to be highly successful, with 58.2% of universities reporting that they were aware of and had read the Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities document. Among those who had read the guidance, the impact on university policy making, training, and communications, was found to be high.

  • Impact on policy: 36.5% had used the guidance to create new or update existing policy.
  • Impact on training: 29.4% had used the guidance to create new training.
  • Impact on communications: 38.8% had used the guidance to issue domestic abuse communications.

Additionally, of the universities who were not aware of the guidance prior to this evaluation, 95.9% expressed that they now intend to or may use it in the future.

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