Majority of students support compulsory sexual consent tests to get into university

The majority of students think it should be compulsory for their peers to pass a sexual consent assessment before entering higher education, according to a new survey.

The findings have been released after nearly 100 British universities were named on Everyone's Invited, a social media movement where students have been anonymously sharing experiences of sexual harassment, abuse, assault and misogyny.

A number of the UK’s top institutions were mentioned more than 50 times on the website, which has highlighted allegations of rape culture in education settings.

More than half (58%) of students said young people should have to pass an assessment to show that they fully understand sexual consent before starting their degrees, according to a poll by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) think tank.

Just having these conversations is a huge step says Everyone's Invited founder Soma Sara

What else did the survey find?

  • Only around a quarter (27%) of students believe the education they received before university prepared them for the reality of sex and relationships in higher education.

  • More than half (58%) think all students should have to pass an assessment to show that they fully understand sexual consent before starting their degrees.

  • The majority (51%) also think relationships and sex education should be made compulsory during the welcome period.

  • More than one in 10 students said they are not confident on how to communicate consent clearly (11%).

  • Just 13% said they were confident in communicating what constitutes sexual assault and violence, and sexual harassment.

  • More than one in three students (35%) say they have "learned more about sex from pornography than from formal education".

  • Just 30% of students said they were very confident about navigating consent after the consumption of alcohol.

Earlier this month, England’s higher education regulator called on universities and colleges to take urgent action and do more to tackle sexual misconduct and harassment affecting students.

The Office for Students (OfS) has published its "statement of expectations" on the issue.

It outlines that training should be made available for all staff and students, which could cover bystander initiatives, consent and handling disclosures, to raise awareness of harassment and sexual misconduct.

Soma Sara, founder of the Everyone’s Invited website, said: "Everyone’s Invited welcomes the attention that this survey brings to the issue of rape culture in universities and we are encouraged that tangible actions for change are being explored."

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Nick Hillman, director of Hepi and author of the report, said: "It is vital to build a better understanding of how students live today, including during the Covid disruption, if they are to have the right support.

"Our robust polling provides the most comprehensive, accurate and useful summary of the sex lives and relationships of students in the UK that has been published for many years.

"By telling students about the experiences of their peers, we hope the results will make it easier for them to make informed decisions about their own lives."

A total of 1,035 testimonies were sent to Everyone's Invited in the space of just one week. Of those, 86 UK universities were named.

The survey also found that two in five female students say their periods may have hampered them in assignments and 35% say they have missed an academic appointment due to their period.

Mr Hillman added: "More generally, the results show students enter university with a range of different experiences and differences continue throughout their time in higher education.

"Much of our polling paints a positive picture but some elements of the results suggest – if the resources are available – that schools, universities and policymakers could all do more to help students navigate what is a key transition point in their lives."

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please take a look at Everyone's Invited 'Find Help' page here: