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Durham University

Respect: creating a place where we can all flourish

Findings and Recommendations

The Commission has developed a series of recommendations based on the findings of the report. These include actions which are specific and actionable immediately; as well as others which require further consideration, framing and design to deliver practical and specific changes.

The recommendations set out were agreed in 2019 by the Commission. Since this time, work has been ongoing to move much of this forward. The position statement showing where we are against each recommendation reflects activity that has been, or is currently being undertaken, to progress this work.

There is still much more to do and our approach will be a continuous process of reflection and review as we move forward. The Respect Oversight Group, once established, will oversee this process, working with the Respect Commission Working Group and report back regularly against progress. You can find out more about Next Steps here.


1. The recruitment processes for all staff should be reviewed and updated to include criteria in all job templates that require candidates to evidence interpersonal skills and behaviours clearly linked to the University values, Durham University Leadership Attributes and/or Realising Your Potential Approach, and EDI objectives.

The prioritisation of these skills and behaviours alongside qualifications, knowledge, and experience with equal weighting is essential.

Human Resources are undertaking a review of current recruitment material to ensure that expected values and behaviours are clearly outlined and accessible to all new starters and applicants. The approach taken to recruiting new members of staff is also being considered to ensure that the value placed on 'skills and behaviours' is balanced against the essential requirements of the role.

1.a. The internal promotion and progression processes for all staff at the University should be reviewed to ensure inclusion of citizenships, interpersonal skills and respectful behaviours in staff appraisals. Appointments and promotions should not be made without this evidence and should be refused on the basis of poor behaviours and disrespectful conduct.

This work is in progress. The Citizenship benchmark criteria have been revised in the last six months to ensure that the value and importance of Citizenship is recognised appropriately in the promotion and progression system. In recent years, where staff with strong research and/or education portfolios have been declined promotion on the grounds of poor citizenship, they have been advised as such in feedback from their relevant line manager to help and support future development.

2. The Vice-Chancellor’s welcome event should be reviewed to ensure that additional content includes a focus on the University’s values, expected behaviours, and support mechanisms and networks such as Women@DU, MAMS, BAME and LGBT+ Networks.

Promoting the ethos of the University, and the recommendations of this Commission, to both professional and academic staff at the point of arrival will encourage a collective sense of responsibility and accountability for creating a culture of respect.

The Vice-Chancellor’s welcome event, which is an integral part of the staff induction process, has been updated by Organisational Development to emphasise our University values which link directly to culture and behaviours within the workplace.

This new programme will be launched in the next Academic year 2020/21. In response to the current times, the Vice Chancellor will record a virtual welcome event for staff who joined the University between April and September 2020. This will ensure that new members of our community are included in this message.

3. Staff induction should also promote long-term engagement between different staff groups; this should be achieved through partnering new academic starters with new professional starters at a comparable level of expertise, promoting mutual support from the point of joining the University.

These partnerships should be separate to the existing mentoring systems in operation and should be supported through grouping partnerships into joint academic and professional action learning sets, based on the model implemented effectively by the Advance HE Aurora Network3.

Our Organisational Development Team have been working to identify further opportunities to promote staff engagement to encourage current and new members of staff to engage with opportunities that are available. The team will work to review staff induction to build on, and extend, existing mentoring services and networks.

4. Student Leader induction should be strengthened to include full inductions to the University committees they will be sitting on, including full introductions to key staff. All staff who will be working with student leaders should also receive clarification of the roles and responsibilities for the relevant student leaders to promote enhanced understanding of these roles.

Student leader representatives from the Common Rooms, the Students' Union and Experience Durham currently sit on Committees across the institution from University Council, right through to local committees within our Colleges and our academic departments.

The University will work with outgoing student leaders to look at lessons learned and areas for improvement. We will listen to their examples of good practice and consider how we can improve the Student Leader Inductions and training for future student representatives joining our committees.

5. Student induction should include additional discussion of the behaviours expected from all students at the University, in relation to the behaviours expected for student-to-student, and student-to-staff treatment, and should include both reference to the Student Pledge, and the overarching University Respect Statement (see recommendation 10).

Messages focused on consent and the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy are provided to students during induction through a mandatory course (Consent Matters) available during pre-arrival. These messages are then reinforced by College Officers and Student Leaders throughout the induction week.

The content for the student induction week will be edited to ensure that information on the Student Pledge and University Respect Statement is included as a core message.

Additionally, it has been proposed that a pilot be developed for the induction of 2020 in relation to educating and informing students about racism. The pilot would likely focus on a single College, but may be extended to a partner College and would help inform the University on how best to work with students on these issue as they join the community.

6. All members of the University community should undertake required University Values, Attributes and Behaviours training. This training would reinforce the messages provided at the Vice-Chancellor’s Welcome Event for staff and the Student Induction sessions for new staff and students.

A programme of roll-out to existing staff and students would also be required. The Respect Commission OversightGroup should explore training methods and options including online delivery to achieve scale and reach and should also consider the time implications for staff to complete the suite of e-learning packages that are now expected of them. The Group should also consider staff who don’t have easy access to online materials.

Our Organisational Development team have created a new series of 'Meet the Executive: Values Sessions'. These events see our Executive members offer staff an opportunity to engage in, and understand the importance of, open discussions about values to the University. To complement this approach our OD website will align training courses with the University values and behaviours to help guide staff to the correct training when signing up to an event.

6.a. Any training developed must complement the existing suite of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training and the Oversight Group may wish to consider recommendations for a refresh of that suite of training materials.

The Oversight Group once established will review existing training opportunities and activities to ensure that they meet required learning needs across all areas of EDI.

7. Bystander intervention training should be developed and rolled out to all staff and students focusing on how to challenge disrespectful behaviours at the point they arise, with an emphasis not only on how to intervene but on how to receive an intervention, should one’s own behaviour be challenged.

Bystander intervention training should include recognising and challenging all types of disrespectful behaviours, with a particular emphasis on harassment relating to all protected characteristics.

The establishment of bystander intervention training should also promote a culture which enables behaviours to be challenged and difficult conversations to be had without fear of repercussions.

Online Bystander training from Skillsboosters is available for staff to undertake on Duo under 'Job Family Core Skill - Collaboration'. A course on effective interventions in cases of Bullying & Harassment is also available on duo under 'Job Family Core Skills - Collaboration'.

A Durham University bespoke peer-facilitated student-facing Active Bystander Course was developed and implemented for the start of the 2019/20 academic year. This covers issues of consent, coercion and control focused on the areas of misconduct covered by the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy.

Work is planned to look at how this course can be further developed to incorporate all types of bulling and harassment and discrimination. This would be co-created with students from different groups, particularly those representing people of colour at Durham University.

8. The recently developed Report and Support tool should be promoted widely through a targeted communications campaign. This online resource currently brings together a central hub for reporting routes, relevant policies, training packages, and guidance, and should be promoted to enhance understanding of the University’s approach to maintaining respectful behaviours.

In addition, it is recommended that the anonymous reporting pathway should be revised to include a free text box to give greater freedom to the reporting individual.

A communications plan to raise awareness of the Report and Support Tool has been developed and is currently being adapted to ensure efficacy within the context of C19 impacted teaching and learning. A range of materials has been developed for use in this plan. These include a video for users, digital and physical posters, coasters, post cards and roll-up banners. It is planned that the video and digital posters will be shared with new students through induction and with the whole staff and student community through internal and external communication channels.

The EDI Team will be working with relevant stakeholders to pursue the possibility of the inclusion of open text boxes in anonymous reporting pathways.

9. The existing Respect at Work, Respect at Study, and Grievance policies are scheduled for a refresh in early 2020.

The refresh should ensure that the recommendations of this Commission are reflected, in redrafted, accessible and approachable policies. They should be updated to include principles and values underpinning the processes, a clear code of conduct based on these principles, and clear processes for managing infringement detailing the consequences of such behaviour which respect the rights of both the complainant and the accused.

Initial work reviewing the Respect at Study Procedure was carried out during 2019/20 but was impacted by C-19. Next steps include:

  • Consultation with students
  • Review of the relationship between the Respect at Study and Respect at Work processes, where allegations involve staff.

This work will be reviewed to ensure that the recommendations of the Commission are all reflected appropriately.

Our Code of Conduct is outlined in the Student Pledge and the implications of poor conduct are outlined in the Non-Academic Misconduct Disciplinary procedure.

A review of our Respect at Work policy is planned within the new academic term.

9.a. Procedures for responding to reports of behaviour that contravene these policies are currently too slow. In particular, processes addressing grievances are under-resourced and can be very protracted and appear to be waiting for the problem to resolve itself. As such, it is recommended that a dedicated group of senior staff should be allocated to deal with grievance procedures and given appropriate time and training to address these in a prompt manner.

The imminent refresh of the Mediation Service should also include consideration of support, to ensure it is appropriately resourced to facilitate an effective and rapid service.

Work is ongoing to review how we respond to reports, with two new posts having being created to support investigations.

The Mediation Service has recently been refreshed and have recruited an additional 10 members of staff who are trained as ‘UK Mediation Accredited Mediators’. Now with a team of 17 colleagues who each have varying roles from across the organisation, the service is resourced to facilitate an effective and rapid service.

The Service staff are committed to carrying out at least one mediation case per year, the Mediators are currently allocated cases within 10 working days of a request being received.

10. A clear statement, or pledge, such as that produced by Liverpool John Moores or Edinburgh Universities, setting out what the University understands a respectful community to look like, based on the conditions for respect set out in this Commission report, and the expectations on all members, should be developed.

This should be prefixed to relevant policies, and also shared at induction for both students and staff as a standalone statement.

This statement should clarify expectations, enabling individual behaviours to be assessed against this standard.

Statements on respect have been trialled in individual contexts at DU with positive feedback. For example, the Respect and Inclusivity statement has been used for visiting speakers and a note about respect (developed by the Institute of Medical Humanities) is introduced at all events held through the Institute. These statements will be used as reference points in the development of a DU University Respect Statement. The revision of the Respect at Study and Respect at Work policies offers an opportunity to integrate respect statements into these policies and establish a means through which individual behaviours can be assessed. The statement will be subject to shaping through wider engagement in the policy development process.

11. The University values statement should be updated to include Respect as a core value, signifying a fundamental commitment to promoting an environment which recognises the central importance of respect.

Values are either aspirational or a standard to which members are held to account, and at present it is not clear which is true at Durham.

It is recommended that the values statement is promoted as a standard to which all University members will be held to account. This will be monitored through the addition to the recruitment activities suggested in recommendation 1, and, for existing members of the University, through formal inclusion in staff appraisals and the student code of conduct and pledge.

In 2019 Durham University launched a new set of brand values; Inspiring, Innovative, Enabling, Challenging and Responsible. Click here to view the University Values.

These were developed by the Marketing and Communications Team, led by Executive Sponsor Claire O’Malley (PVC Global) and working directly with the staff, student and alumni community.

Whilst ‘Respectful’ was originally included as one of the new values, feedback was received from staff, that being respectful should feed through all of the University’s values and that members of our community, and the University as a body, must be responsible for thier actions. Therefore, the “Respectful” value was changed to “Responsible”.

Introducing a new value “Respectful” as part of the Respect Commission outcomes would provide an excellent opportunity to ensure that all of the University’s values are embedded fully into University life, as a standard to which all members are held to account.

As such, the original “Respectful” value and narrative will revisited and be reflected as one of our core values.

12. Improved communications of the policies, processes, training packages, and other tools currently available to all members of the University community is vital to effective implementation of these policy recommendations.

As such, a detailed communications plan should be worked up by the Respect Commission Oversight Group in conjunction with communications staff, to raise visibility of respect related initiatives including those already used by the University and to show progress against implementation of these recommendations.

The plan must consider a mixed media approach to information-sharing so that all members, including those who don’t regularly use email, receive this vital information.

Once established the Respect Commission Oversight Group will work with the Marketing and Communications Team alongside other key stakeholders to develop a detailed communications plan.

13. A strong, well-resourced and diverse EDI team, providing guidance, training, and policy development, will be essential for the effective delivery of the intended respectful university culture.

The University should invest in additional staff resource in this area, developing a diverse team which itself would reflect a commitment to implementing the recommendations of this Commission and addressing the EDI issues raised during its work.

A review of the EDI structure is currently being undertaken to ensure that appropriate resources are in place to support identified and future activity.

13.a. Alongside additional staff resource, a sizeable sub-fund should be established within the EDI unit specifically for the purpose of supporting collaborative work between staff and students to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion across the University.

This fund should be issued upon formal application, with applicants demonstrating purpose, intended impact and outcomes to promote initiatives driving inclusivity between all members of the University.

A sector review and benchmarking exercise is currently being undertaken to support the development of a sub-fund. We hope to have this established and in place early into Michaelmas term.

13.b. Enhanced EDI representation on major committees should also be progressed, with a senior EDI representative to sit on all new policy-making groups, ensuring that good practice is built into the fabric of the policy and fully integrated into agreed processes and practices.

Similarly, EDI representation on UEC would ensure that EDI is integral to all strategic decision-making so a senior member of staff with responsibility for EDI should sit on UEC, and it is suggested that a Vice-Provost with specific responsibilities for equality and diversity should be introduced.

A review of Committee Structures and representation is currently ongoing. We hope to report to UEC in Michaelmas Term 2020, on composition and recommendations to support wider representation. A new PVC post will be created to lead on and inform EDI strategic direction that will report directly into the VC and sit on UEC.

14. The Respect Commission Working Group should explore training options in consultation with DCAD and Organisational Development for staff with people management responsibilities (from Heads of Section to PIs and Directors of Research, etc.), particularly in relation to: performance management, dispute resolution/conflict management, professional development support (particularly for more junior colleagues), wellbeing, understanding of the policies and procedures for addressing behavioural misconduct and the mechanisms for their implementation.

Consideration should be given to the scaling and embedding of such training across the University, and its impact on professional development routes. Qualitative KPIs for managers to measure their performance against implementation of training in practice, and their ability to manage behavioural issues effectively, should also be considered in the development of management training by the Working Group.

This work will be taken forward by the Respect Commission Oversight Group once established.

15. Student leaders should have space to raise their concerns and escalate issues, for both their own concerns and for the concerns of those they represent. In relation to the former, it is recognised that routes for student leaders to raise their own concerns are unclear and would benefit from improved visibility and communication.

As such, it is recommended that clarification of reporting routes should be established and communicated to all student leaders.

Termly formal and informal meetings with senior leadership (PVC Colleges and Student Experience) should also be re-instated to facilitate genuine discussion of student issues with an agreed system for responding to concerns, including indicative timelines.

Extensive routes are in place into the University for Student Leaders to raise their concerns and escalate issues. The PVC Colleges and WSE meets on a fortnightly basis with all the SU Sabbatical Officers. This gives the SU a direct, regular and scheduled time with the PVC at which concerns can be raised. Additionally, the PVC meets on a regular basis with the Common Room Presidents, providing an opportunity for concerns to be raised in a direct, regularised way. Directors who report to the PVC also meet with the SU and members of the Common Room in a regular, diarised way. For example, the Director of Student Support and Wellbeing has a regular, planned meeting with the SU Welfare and Liberation Officer.

In addition, all College Principals regularly and routinely meet with the student representatives of the Common Rooms within their Colleges. This covers both formal and informal meetings. College communities rely on this extensive interaction with Student Leaders and it facilitates the ability for concerns to be raised directly with Senior Officers.

16. The Respect Commission Working Group should review the introduction of an Exit Interview process for all staff, to incorporate the capture of respect-related contributory factors for resignation. Pathways for undertaking such interviews should be explored to ensure that there are options beyond HR-led interviews which some staff may not be comfortable undertaking.

Disclosures during these interviews relating to disrespectful behaviours should be logged and addressed to mitigate the risk of future incidents. Best practice identification regarding the methods and options for the exit interview process should be undertaken as part of this review.

This would be complementary to, as opposed to a replacement of, the well-used online system currently in place collecting exit information.

The established online resignation form collects exit information relating to being treated with fairness, dignity and respect and whether a member of staff has personally experience bullying or harassment. Disclosures are shared with HR Business Partners if there is cause for concern or if a member of staff has requested a meeting as previous practice suggests mandatory interviews will often stop employees from disclosing information.

The Oversight Group, once established, will work closely with HR to review current procedures and information to inform and identify next steps.

17. A new policy or code of conduct should be introduced for visitors to the University, setting out expected behaviours for engaging with our staff, student, and local community, signifying a commitment to a zero-tolerance stance to disrespect within the University community. This should be aligned to the conduct agreement for visiting academics currently being piloted.

EDI Leads will work with GES and key stakeholders to develop a code of conduct. This work will align with and complete other statements set out in the Student Pledge and the Respect and Inclusivity Statements currently being trialled across the University.

18. A formal process should be established for providing post-incident care to staff in colleges, particularly housekeeping and porter staff, ensuring that all staff impacted by incidents such as suicide or other significant events that have the potential to be emotionally distressing can receive appropriate levels of support.

The Student Support and Wellbeing Directorate have introduced a new 'Complex Case Review' methodology. This has been developed from the learning identified from dealing with major incidents and the impact these have had on staff. This will help determine the most appropriate actions to take in the future. In addition to this, a 'Critical Learning Review' process is being created to provide guidance for staff following a particular student tragedy, such as a student death or other serious incident.

Whilst experience shows that the College communities are adept in providing care and support for individuals following incidents, it has been noted that formal guidance and support should be put in place.

The Counselling Service will work alongside localised care established by the College teams to provide additional support to staff. The University will also revise the approach to responding to student deaths to ensure that College staff are considered in the Major incident plan, drawing on good practice that already exists.

19. Provision should be made to support BAME staff and students to access Counselling services with specialist knowledge of issues relating to ethnicity including, but not limited to, racial harassment.

The Counselling service have been aware of importance of providing specialist knowledge of issues relating to ethnicity and have already taken steps to ensure this is provided for BAME staff and Students. During the recent recruitment campaign, the department successfully hired a BAME member of staff after changing the advertising approach to encourage BAME applicants. This practise will be continued going forward.

Furthermore, the Service ensures that all staff within the department regularly attend EDI training and have organised a full day of training regarding Race and Discrimination.

The Service has also considered looking at other peer-support networks such as the Bullying and Harassment Network, College Student Support Offices and the Student Conduct Office that could be developed as non-therapeutic means of advocacy and understanding for students of colour.

20. The University should undertake a recruitment drive to enhance representation of BAME staff and students on key committees and in key leadership roles. If there are individuals making key decisions who can identify with the BAME community, staff may start to feel that they can report behaviour and that the University is a safe space for them. Data which shows BAME representation across the University should be ascertained to inform recruitment to committees, ensuring that improvements can be targeted in the areas of most need.

The EDI Unit will work with key stakeholders across the University and representatives from the BAME Staff Network and Durham Students of Colour Association, to review committee structures and develop pathways to support participation and engagement.