Policies and Strategies
Policies and Strategies
Anti-Bribery and Fraud Prevention Policy
(1.1) Durham University has a zero tolerance policy towards bribery and fraud; actual or attempted. The University is committed to encouraging prevention, detection, and swift response to any instances of corruption; this policy seeks to clarify the protocols currently in place to facilitate the achievement of these goals. The University expects that all its partners will display the same integrity in their dealings with the University.
(1.2) The purpose of this policy is to safeguard the University, its reputation and assets, and the assets of its members, supporters, partners and subsidiary companies, as far as is practicably possible. The University is a charity and much of its income is derived from benefactions, public funds and charitable sources. As such, the University has a legal duty to ensure that its resources and income are used solely for the purposes intended. The University must safeguard its operations and reputation, and the interests of its funders, donors, and members from the adverse consequences of fraudulent activities.
(1.3) All staff have a responsibility to report any suspicions of bribery or fraud. Ultimate responsibility for prevention, detection, and investigation lies with the Chief Operating Officer, who should, according to HEFCE’s Audit Code of Practice and in consultation with other senior managers, institute adequate systems of internal control, including clear objectives, segregation of duties, and proper authorisation procedures. It is the responsibility of internal auditors to assess the adequacy of these arrangements and, on a practical level, investigate, or supervise the investigation of allegations of bribery or fraud. For further and more detailed information on responsibilities, see 4.0.
(1.4) The University takes seriously any allegations of bribery or fraud, and will investigate all such concerns. Any staff member found to be committing bribery or fraud (attempted or actual) will be subject to disciplinary proceedings which may result in dismissal. The University will reserve the right to seek compensation for any losses via civil proceedings. The police will be involved in all cases where there is prima facie evidence of a crime, and, in all such cases, the University will elect to prosecute the offender(s). Any malpractice undertaken by a student will be addressed under the University’s Student Major Offence Procedures.
(1.5) A Loss Prevention Steering Group will be established by the University Executive Committee for the monitoring and implementation of this Policy. The Group will also consider the wider implications of loss (inclusive of fraud) within the University, and the management controls in place to mitigate the risks associated with loss.
(2.1) For the purpose of this policy, fraud is defined, in accordance with the Fraud Act 2006, as dishonest acts characterised by deliberate intent to a) gain an advantage, either for personal material (or other) gain, or for the benefit of another individual/group of individuals; and/or to b) cause financial loss to the University or one of its subsidiary companies. Intent is central to the University’s understanding of fraud; whether actual gain or loss has occurred is immaterial. It should be noted that fraud may be perpetrated by individuals internal or external to the University (for example, external fraud may occur via a breach of information security i.e. hacking). Fraud can be committed by making false representations, failing to disclose information, or by abuse of position.
(2.2) This policy deems the following examples as fraudulent acts: forgery, theft of cash or property, extortion, embezzlement, misappropriation, false representation, concealment of material facts, destruction of records, knowingly retaining a salary overpayment, excessive personal use of University resources, money laundering and collusion.
(2.3) Bribery is broadly defined in the Bribery Act 2010 as occurring when a person offers, gives or promises to give a "financial or other advantage" to another individual in exchange for "improperly" performing a "relevant function or activity". The offence of being bribed is defined as requesting, accepting or agreeing to accept such an advantage, in exchange for improperly performing such a function or activity. "Financial or other advantage" is not defined in the Act and can encompass items such as contracts, non-monetary gifts and offers of employment. A bribe, therefore, does not have to involve a monetary transaction and can take many forms. The "relevant function or activity" covers "any function of a public nature; any activity connected with a business, trade or profession; any activity performed in the course of a person's employment; or any activity performed by or on behalf of a body of persons whether corporate or unincorporated". This encompasses activities performed both inside and outside the UK. The conditions attached are that the person performing the function could be expected to be performing it in good faith or with impartiality, or that an element of trust attaches to that person's role.
(2.4) This policy is applicable to all staff and student members of the University, all members of Durham Student Organisations, and other volunteer/lay members. Any fraudulent activities identified in relation to other individuals working with, on behalf of, or for the University should be reported through the same process (see 4.0 below) as used for University members.
3.0 Expected Behaviours
(3.1) Vital to facilitating fraud prevention is the maintenance of a culture in which all University members are knowledgeable about and alert to potential instances of bribery or fraud, as well as the risks involved in activities where corrupt activities may occur. In addition to being perceptive to such activity, the University expects all staff and students to behave with integrity, and to lead by example, adhering to all expected standards, policies, and protocols.
(3.2) Transparency in our financial dealings is paramount, particularly because the University, as a charitable institution, needs to demonstrate clearly the use of funds.
(3.3) In order to make it easier to identify possible signs of fraud, the following list of behavioural indicators which should give rise to concern has been compiled. It is important to note that this list is by no means exhaustive, and that the indicators in themselves are not evidence of fraud or irregularity but of a problem which should be addressed. The indicators are:
- Frequently altered documents, (particularly financial documents);
- Incomplete or vague claim/expense forms;
- Erratic or inconsistent application of processes and procedures; particularly those relating to cash handling;
- Erratic, or noticeable changes in behaviour;
- Regular delays in the completion/submission of claims and financial reports;
- Staff seemingly living beyond their means;
- Staff seemingly under constant financial or other stress (possibly due to situational pressures);
- Reluctance to hand over work; particularly if the individual concerned is solely responsible for a risk area, including a reluctance to take annual leave to retain ownership of work;
- Avoidance of audits (internal or external);
- Refusal of promotion;
- Insistence on dealing with a particular individual;
- Management override of controls.
(4.1) If any member of the University becomes suspicious of another member of the University community (either staff, student, or volunteer/lay member), or an external partner, on account of their behaviour and participation in activities such as those highlighted in 3.4, these concerns should be reported in accordance with the University’s Financial Regulations (cf. Section 14.4 – Fraud and Corruption).
(4.2) Staff and students are actively encouraged to report suspicions of bribery or fraud relating to University business in accordance with the Financial Regulations. All staff and students should be reassured that they will be protected from any reprisals arising from reporting suspicions in good faith, as defined in the University’s Public Interest Disclosure Policy.
The Financial Regulations stipulate that:
- It is the duty of all members of staff, management, and Council to notify the Head of University Assurance immediately, whenever any matter arises which involves, or is thought to involve irregularity, including fraud, corruption, or any other impropriety.
- The Head of University Assurance shall immediately invoke the Fraud Response Plan which incorporates the following key elements:
- Hold a meeting of the Fraud Response Group (Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Human Resources, Head of University Assurance, or, in case of absence, their designated deputy) within 72 hours of the original report to determine the initial response;
- Notification of the Vice-Chancellor and the Audit Committee (through its Secretary) of the suspected irregularity within five days of the original report;
- The Head of University Assurance shall inform the police at an early stage, following notification to the Vice-Chancellor, if a criminal offence is suspected of having been committed;
- Any significant cases of fraud or irregularity shall be reported to HEFCE by the Vice-Chancellor in accordance with their requirements as set out in the Audit Code of Practice;
- An investigating officer will be appointed by the Fraud Response Group. Any investigation will focus on: action to prevent further loss; recovery of assets; potential disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution;
- The Investigating Officer shall prepare a report for the Fraud Response Group, presenting their findings and making recommendations for further action;
- The Head of University Assurance will inform Audit Committee of ongoing progress and the outcome of any investigations.
- If the suspected incident is thought to involve any member of the University Executive, the University Secretary, or the Head of University Assurance, the member of staff first aware of potential activities shall notify the Chair of the Audit Committee with their concerns regarding irregularities.
(4.3) For further, detailed information on responding to instances of bribery or fraud, please see the University’s Fraud Response Plan. The Fraud Response Plan contains information on the prevention of further losses, the establishment and securing of evidence, recovery of losses, and reporting to Council and HEFCE.
(5.1) In addition to responding to suspicions of bribery or fraud in an effective and timely fashion, staff and students should contribute to a work and study environment in which corruption is actively prevented.
(5.2) Fraud and bribery can be prevented through a number of simple means:
- Leading by Example: Senior management should ensure that they behave in a transparent manner, championing the University’s policies and procedures on fraud prevention;
- Understanding and Awareness of the University’s Policies: University members should familiarise themselves with the relevant policies and procedures, as listed below in 7.0;
- Use of Relevant Professional Channels: Relevant University staff should engage with pertinent networks to facilitate prevention. For example, the North East Fraud Forum Ltd. meets to discuss cases of fraudulent activities in the region which may be relevant to the University;
- Audit Mechanisms: The University’s Assurance Service is able to undertake internal audits of activity to highlight any areas of vulnerability which are felt to expose the University to a variety of risks, including fraud and bribery. Units more vulnerable to risks associated with fraud or bribery should consider an internal audit to a) review control mechanisms and b) propose recommendations for enhancing these;
- Risk Management: Fraud risks will be managed, in accordance with the arrangements identified in the relevant risk registers, at both a University-wide, and local level in those areas most vulnerable to fraud and bribery risks. Monitoring of current controls by defined risk owners will mitigate the risk of attempted/successful fraud or bribery;
- Relevant Policies and Procedures: These should be regularly reviewed via internal management processes to ensure they remain robust, up-to-date, and fit-for-purpose. The University reserves the right to operate more than one policy at a time where appropriate; for example, in relation to fraud, the HR Disciplinary Regulations will be upheld in conjunction with the protocol defined within this policy;
- Use of References: These may safeguard against appointing unsuitable individuals to posts involving significant financial responsibilities;
- Cash handling Procedures: These should be clearly defined and communicated, supported by mechanisms to prevent one person from receiving, recording, and banking cash. In addition, a full audit trail of cash transactions should be maintained through the documenting of receipts. These procedures should also be applied to the use and handling of cheques;
- Physical Security: All cash and assets (including valuable data) should be kept and stored securely, with clear access rights defined and implemented;
- Budgetary Control: Budget holders should be alert to the risk of fraud or loss when monitoring actual income and expenditure against budget;
- Training: The University’s Training Team will offer basic web-based training for all staff to enhance understanding and awareness of fraud, bribery and associated risks. In addition, units deemed particularly “at risk” have specific training targeted at preventing loss (accidental or unintentional) in financial transactions. Training will be developed and delivered in proportion to the assessed risk.
6.0 Policy Review
(6.1) This policy will be reviewed annually by the Loss Prevention Steering Group, to ensure that it remains suitably robust. The Group will review other associated documents, such as the Fraud Response Plan, to ensure they take into account up-to-date legislation and guidance, and incorporate lessons learnt from any fraud incidents.
 The Financial Regulations are subject to periodic review and amendment. It is recognised that this policy will be updated accordingly.
 The Fraud Response Plan will be implemented in all cases, save those of low-value theft (identified at the discretion of the University) which will be progressed through the appropriate channels without requiring a formal meeting of the Fraud Response Group.
Equality and Diversity Policy
The University recognises that equality of opportunity and valuing diversity are vital to its success. We believe that our purpose , aims and values, as set out in our University Strategy, will be best achieved if we recruit students and staff at all levels of responsibility from the national, regional and international communities that we serve and which influence our University.
We are fully committed to elimination of discrimination. Through promoting an environment in which individuals can utilise their skills and talents to the full without fear of prejudice and harassment we aim to make full use of the talents and resources of everyone within our University community.
This policy applies to all colleagues who work at the University on a paid or voluntary basis, all students, external examiners, consultants, all visitors or contractors who visit our premises.
It covers equality and diversity in relation to:
- Ethnicity (including race, colour and nationality)
- Gender (including gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and, marital status, pregnancy or maternity)
- Religion and/or belief
- Sexual orientation (including civil partnership status)
The University aims to demonstrate its commitment to equality and diversity and promote equality of opportunity for all by:
- Developing and publishing diversity objectives;
- Complying with legal obligations;
- Mainstreaming equality and diversity in to the University’s planning round for all departments and colleges.
- Promoting awareness and understanding of equality and diversity matters among staff and students;
- Involving staff and students in respect of changes which may affect their employment or study;
- Encouraging suppliers and partners to follow similar good practice.
- Promotion of equality and diversity through internal and external communications
- Ensuring that existing staff and students as well as applicants to work or study are treated fairly and judged solely on merit and by reference to their skills and abilities
- Ensuring the University estate is, as far as reasonably possible, accessible to all
- Providing training and briefings for staff at all levels
- Developing mechanisms for implementation, monitoring, evaluation and review of equality related policies
- Taking positive action to redress any gender, racial or other imbalance
- Ensuring staff and students are provided with appropriate mechanisms to discuss equality and diversity issues and raise any concerns
- Dealing with potential acts of discrimination appropriately under relevant University policy
- Consult with staff, students unions etc. through existing mechanisms on equality and diversity issues.
University Council through the Vice-Chancellor has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that University Equality and Diversity Policy is fully implemented. The Associate Provost is responsible to the UEC lead (currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost) for leading the implementation of the University’s strategy in relation to equality and diversity for both staff and students.
The Director of Human Resources, has a specific and delegated responsibility for the effective development and implementation of equal opportunities in employment. The Academic Registrar, has a specific and delegated responsibility for the effective development and implementation of equal opportunities for the student body. The Equality and Diversity Manager is responsible for the co-ordination of the Equality and Diversity work.
The Director of Human Resources has responsibility for the formulation of policies and procedures in relation to staff to support the University's overall strategy and for overseeing their implementation. The Academic Registrar has responsibility for the formulation of policies and procedures in relation to students to support the University's overall strategy and for overseeing their implementation. The University's Equality and Diversity Advisory Group is responsible for co-ordinating and reviewing the University's Equality and Diversity Policy in addition to promoting greater awareness of equal opportunities and diversity within the University in its broadest sense. Equality and Diversity.
Heads of Departments, Heads of Houses, other Heads of Sections and Chairs of Appointing Committees have a duty to ensure that the University's equal opportunities policies in respect of employment are implemented within their sphere of activities and responsibility, and to nominate a staff member to have local responsibility for co-ordinating Equality and Diversity work.
Education Committee has a duty to ensure that the University's equal opportunities policies in relation to student matters are implemented.
Recognised Trade Unions have a formal responsibility to actively promote diversity.
All members of staff have a responsibility to adhere to this policy at all times in the course of their day to day activities. Staff have a personal responsibility to attend designated training sessions to keep abreast of equality legislation. Behaviour or actions contrary to this policy will be considered serious disciplinary matters and may, in some cases, lead to dismissal.
All members of the University community, external examiners, consultants, contractors and visitors to our premises have a responsibility to adhere to this policy at all times in the course of their day to day activities.
Implementation of the Equality and Diversity Policy
We will ensure that all staff, students and as far as practicable, others associated with the University are informed of the policies and their responsibilities with respect to implementation. The means of doing so include:
Nomination of a person by each department/section/college who will be responsible for promotion of Equality and Diversity
The production and distribution of information to all members of the University to raise awareness of specific equality legislation issues
A designated website for Equality and Diversity
Equality and Diversity awareness training to all employees via a cascade of information within every department and section. The training programme to be monitored to evaluate its effectiveness
Appropriate training provided for those persons responsible for the implementation of the policy, including University Council members
Specific training provided for those responsible for recruitment, selection, promotion, probation, appraisal. A list of approved selection interviewers for staff and students developed.
All staff are required to attend equality and diversity training appropriate to their role. Information on training will be made available on the Equality and Diversity area of the website.
We aim to assess the impact of our Equality and Diversity Policy by monitoring as follows:
The Human Resources Department will collect and analyse monitoring data on staff with regard to recruitment, training, promotion and re-grading, complaints etc. and report this information annually to the Equality and Diversity Advisory Group
The Academic Registry and Student Services will collect and analyse monitoring data with regard to recruitment and completion and report this information annually to the Equality and Diversity Advisory Group and Learning and Teaching Committee.
Complaints Procedures related to Equality and Equality and Diversity
All members of our University community who believe they have been discriminated against have the right to make a complaint. Normally the matter should first be raised informally in the first instance with their immediate supervisor, College Principal, Chair of Board of Studies or Head of Section using the following procedure, as appropriate:
- Respect at Work Policy
- Respect at Study Policy
- University Statutes (for academic staff)
- Grievance Procedures (for non-academic staff)
- Student Academic Appeals Procedure
- Student Complaints Procedure.
Any member of staff may seek assistance from their trade union or the Human Resources office and students may seek advice from Durham Students' Union.
If the complaint is not resolved individuals should make a formal complaint following the appropriate procedure.
Making a complaint does not prejudice an individual's right to make use of other procedures, including the Respect at work and study or Grievance procedures
We aim to protect anyone who makes a complaint, or who acts as a witness, under these procedures from victimisation.
Members of the public should address complaints to the University service in question in the first instance.
Consultation and Review
We will consult widely with the University's Equality and Diversity Advisory Group, Diversity Network, Trade Unions, Durham Students Union and other stakeholders on a regular basis.
The University's policy on Equality and Equality and Diversity, will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to reflect good practice and current legislation.
Fitness to Study Policy (NEW)
The Fitness to Study Policy is intended to apply in exceptional circumstances where there are concerns about a student’s capacity to engage in academic engagements, maintain their own safety or to reside in the College communities of Durham University without adversely impacting their peers or College staff. The Policy reiterates the University commitment to supporting students in their academic progression and lays out the framework for how concerns will be addressed in those cases where the range of supportive measures that the University may be reasonably expected to provide have been employed but have not satisfactorily resolved concerns. The Policy defines the Fitness to Study Standing Group as the group to review the operation of this policy and to provide oversight and guidance on the interpretation of medical evidence in the context of higher education and Durham University.
Appendix 1 presents a flowchart outlining the intersection of the Academic Progress Notice procedures, the Mental Health Policy and the Fitness to Study Policy for cases involving mental health. The full procedure for convening a Fitness to Study Meeting is presented in Appendix 2 with a sample invitation letter in Appendix 3. Guidance on medical evidence with sample Wellbeing Questionnaires and Return to Study Questionnaires are presented in Appendices 4-7. The Terms of Reference for the Fitness to Study Standing Group are presented in Appendix 8.
(1) Policy Statement
Durham University is committed to supporting students in their academic progression through to successful completion of their studies. The University recognises the significant investment made by students in their pursuit of Higher Education goals and its responsibility to provide appropriate support as students seek to fulfil their academic potential. A positive approach from students and University staff towards the management of physical and mental health is critical to student engagement in the academic, collegiate and wider student experience.
The University encourages all parties to engage in early intervention and to take an active, collaborative and supportive stance where possible. Students should be involved in the active management of their own wellbeing, drawing appropriately upon the support services offered by the University.
- Student Support Offices in Colleges are the centre of University pastoral support. The College Student Support Office will make reasonable efforts to work collaboratively with the student to engage with the appropriate University or external service to support their ongoing academic engagement;
- Academic Departments provide subject-specific academic support and welcome any necessary information they need in order to meet a student’s academic support needs;
- Disability Support coordinates the support needed to engage effectively with academic studies and university life when the condition has been declared as a disability, defined as any health condition that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities;
- The Counselling Service offers support and signposting to specialist external services for issues around mental health and wellbeing;
- The Durham Students’ Union, an external body, offers advice and advocacy services.
The Mental Health Policy sets out the University’s commitment to support for students with ongoing mental health conditions.
The Academic Progress Notice (APN) procedures are intended to identify students who in the reasonable opinion of the University are not fulfilling their academic commitments, to ascertain why this might be the case and to make appropriate support available where available and practicable.
This Fitness to Study policy is intended to apply in exceptional cases where there are serious concerns about a student’s wellbeing and where the range of supportive measures that the University may be reasonably expected to provide have been employed but have not satisfactorily resolved concerns.
Fitness to Study is defined by reference to three criteria, namely that the student shall normally and consistently:
- be effectively engaged in their academic studies, assessment or placement without compromising the academic progress or ordinary activities of themselves, those of their peers or their employer (or equivalent), where a work placement forms a part of their studies
- maintain an appropriate level of conduct, health and wellbeing, such that they are not a risk to themselves, their peers, University staff or others;
- be engaged, as a resident or non-resident, in College communities as non-familial independent living environments without adversely impacting their College peers or staff.
A single event does not constitute an indication of a lack of fitness to study unless that event is itself symptomatic of an underlying inability to meet the criteria normally and consistently.
Concerns for a student’s welfare are often raised by the student, their peers, their College or Academic Department/s. The procedure below sets out how the University will respond to these concerns and the actions it will take to support all students and staff. The determination of a student’s fitness to continue with their studies will be based on the collation of the perspectives of all parties and a decision will be made by a group normally representing the College, Academic Department and specialist support services. In rare cases where a student is, in the reasonable opinion of the University, unable to engage in their studies and/or take care of themselves as advised and supported, or where students do not recognise their impact upon the University community, the University may decide to suspend or to withdraw the student from their studies.
The University recognises that engaging in the process of determining fitness to study may be difficult. The student may seek support from their College Student Support Office and/or the Durham Students’ Union. If concerns about a student are being raised by their College Student Support Office the student may request access to alternative College support.
Decisions may be informed by contemporaneous medical evidence prepared by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guidance on the preparation of medical evidence for medical practitioners is available in Appendix 4. The responsibility for gathering medical evidence will rest with the student, and any personal data that they share with the University will be held securely and confidentially in line with the Data Protection Act (1998).
It will ultimately be the University’s responsibility to interpret and assess the evidence, taking into consideration the context of University life and the impact on academic progress. There may be occasions where medical evidence is not available or applicable, or it may not be provided by the student. A lack of medical evidence would not in itself prevent the University from making a decision about a student’s fitness to study.
The University recognises that securing medical evidence may involve financial costs to a student. Although the University Hardship Fund would be unable to support a direct payment for medical evidence, if the requirement for such evidence meant that the student was placed in financial hardship, that expenditure would be taken into consideration when assessing eligibility for hardship support. Advice on Hardship Funding is available online and via the College Student Support Office. Medical evidence may have already been provided to the College or Disability Support. Further requests for information on a student’s medical condition will ask for evidence that is additional to that already provided and/or to provide an update on the current impact of the condition.
(2) Policy Scope
The principles of this Policy and procedure apply to all University registered students.
The Policy will apply when the University considers that
- There are urgent concerns requiring a rapid response to ensure the wellbeing of students and staff;
- Disciplinary and Academic Progression procedures are not appropriate; or
- Reasonable supportive measures within Colleges, Academic Departments or Specialist Student Support Services have not allayed concerns, or the student has refused to engage satisfactorily or appropriately with support.
The University’s preference is not to take disciplinary action in the first instance where a student’s misconduct is known or suspected to be the result of an underlying physical or mental health issue. Disciplinary action may be put on hold where students are undergoing assessment or treatment for mental and physical health concerns.
This Policy refers to the fitness to be a member of the Durham University community and applies to all students regardless of their course of study. Students on courses that involve elements of professional training or accreditation are subject to Fitness to Practice policies of their respective department or relevant professional bodies where appropriate. For those students the department/professional bodies’ Fitness to Practice procedure may take precedence over this Policy or other University policies and are in addition to this policy as they contain profession-specific requirements for fitness and profession-specific Codes of Conduct. These procedures operate outside the scope of this Policy.
For students who are not resident in Durham, there are practical and reasonable limitations to the support that the University might be expected to provide. It may remain the case that ‘fitness’ issues need to be addressed, in the interests of the student’s wellbeing and the interests of our partner institutions.
It is expected that Colleges and Academic Departments will engage with students and with each other in informal discussions where concerns regarding fitness to study have been raised. The student should be encouraged to use one or more of the support services offered by the University and to engage with healthcare professionals. It is the University’s opinion that the majority of cases will be resolved where students engage with the internal and external support available to them.
(4) Fitness to Study Meeting
A Fitness to Study Meeting will be convened to provide clarity and transparency where there are ongoing concerns about a student’s fitness to study, and when
- Informal support measures have not allayed concerns, or require formal review
- The student is not engaging with the University around the fitness to study concerns
The intersection of the Fitness to Study Policy with the support mechanisms of the Mental Health Policy are presented in Appendix 1. The Fitness to Study Meeting will be convened by a College Principal, an academic Head of Department or their delegated representatives. The decision to convene a Fitness to Study Meeting must be made in consultation with the Deputy Academic Registrar, the relevant Deputy Head of Faculty and a senior representative from the Counselling Service or Disability Support.
The procedure for convening a Fitness to Study Meeting is set out in Appendix 2.
The student will be invited to attend the meeting and may be accompanied by a member of the University community. Students will normally be given 7 days notice of the date of a meeting but, in view of the severity of an individual case shorter notice may be appropriate in the circumstances. Appropriate effort will be made to allow the student to attend, but the meeting can proceed if the student is unable or unwilling to attend where in the reasonable opinion of the University it is in the best interests of the students or other students and staff members that the meeting is convened without the student. The student will be invited to submit any relevant evidence to the meeting.
Membership of the meeting will depend on the nature of the case under consideration. It will include
- A senior representative of the student's College;
- A representative of the student's Academic Department(s);
- The Deputy Academic Registrar and/or the Assistant Registrar - Student Complaints and Appeals, Academic Support Office;
At least one of;
- A senior representative from the Counselling Service;
- A senior representative from Disability Support;
And may include;
- An external health practitioner who is involved in supporting the student, if the practitioner is willing and the student agrees to them being present. The presence of an external health practitioner is not a formal requirement for the Meeting;
- External stakeholders, who may be invited on case by case basis to attend the meeting or part of the meeting or to submit evidence, with consideration to medical privacy. Any external stakeholder attending the Meeting will be subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
It is expected that professional advice should be available at the Fitness to Study Meeting from a representative of at least, the Counselling Service and/or Disability Support and a mental health professional. If the student has been supported by a University Counsellor or Mental Health Advisor, and if they have contributed to the evidence, the Fitness to Study Meeting should also include a representative of the Counselling Service who has not previously been involved in the student’s support. The meeting can proceed without medical evidence, and any outcome of the meeting should formally note and reflect the absence of medical evidence. It may, but not necessarily, include a strong recommendation that the student seek appropriate evidence as an outcome of the meeting (see Appendix 4 for Guidance on medical evidence).
The outcomes of a Fitness to Study Meeting may be:
- No further action;
- A recommendation of further specific support arrangements, formal monitoring of the student’s condition, the specification of evidence required and a date set to reconsider the situation;
- An assessment of Fitness to Study that leads to the student’s collaborative agreement to a Grace Period of up to 5 weeks, a concession to suspend studies or a withdrawal from studies.
If the assessment reached in the meeting is that the student is not fit to continue their studies at this time, and the student is not in agreement with this assessment, the meeting may recommend a suspension from the University under General Regulations.
The student, their College and their Academic Department will all be informed of the outcome of the Fitness to Study Meeting.
(5) Right of Appeal
Where they are dissatisfied, the student may appeal any decision made by the Fitness to Study Meeting. The purpose of the appeal is to ascertain whether the decision was reached:
- In accordance with the University procedures; and
- In the light of all relevant information.
The decision will be reviewed by two senior members of the University who were not involved in the Fitness to Study Meeting, and may include equivalent staff members from other Colleges or Academic Departments, or the Academic/Deputy Academic Registrar.
The appeal must be made in writing to the Academic Registrar within 14 days of the date of the decision made by the Fitness to Study Meeting.
Students may seek support in using the Appeals procedure from their College Student Support Office or the Students’ Union.
(6) Return to Study
Students who receive a concession for their studies or are suspended on the grounds of ill-health will only be allowed to resume their studies once the University is satisfied that they are fit to do so. The student will be informed of the evidence required to return to study at the start of the concession or suspension. It will be made clear to the student whether or not evidence of their engagement with any medical treatment is a requirement to return but this may not be a condition in all cases.
- The student will be required to
- Complete a personal statement, detailing their understanding of the difficulties they faced that led to the Residence concession and detailing how they feel their condition has improved such that they are confident of a successful re-engagement with their studies (Appendix 7);
- Support elements of the personal statement with medical evidence, where relevant, for example a student may have engaged with medication or psychological therapy;
- Engage in an assessment and support-planning session with a University Mental Health Advisor, either in person in Durham or over Skype, to
- Assess the quality of the personal statement and medical evidence, drawing upon the Mental Health Advisor’s knowledge and experience of mental health and the particular context of Durham University, an
- Draw up an appropriate support plan with the student to facilitate the most effective return to study and ensure appropriate pastoral, academic and medical support provisions are in place prior to return, including support for disabilities where applicable.
- The Mental Health Advisor will then produce a summary report and recommendation for the Fitness to Study Standing Group of the student’s fitness to return to study. The Mental Health Advisor may request the student to provide further information or evidence if required, and will ensure the student is ready to engage with local practitioners if necessary;
- The Fitness to Study Standing Group will meet in mid-September and at least once per term, to review the recommendations and make a decision on fitness to study;
- If the student is dissatisfied with the decision an Appeal can be made to the Academic Registrar who will review the decision to ensure that it was a reasonable assessment reached:
- In accordance with the University Policy; and
- In the light of all relevant information.
Consideration will be given to the need for the student to maintain a connection to their existing external care-providers. Full guidance on medical evidence for a return to study is presented in Appendix 4.
University Core Regulation 23 states that students are limited to a maximum of two consecutive concessions to withdraw from the academic year and return to University to begin the year again at the start of the next academic year. At this point a student would be eligible to re-apply to the University and apply for Accreditation of Prior Learning if they wish to re-enter their studies. (https://www.dur.ac.uk/university.calendar/volumeii/ )
A key period of assessing the evidence for return to study is August and September, before the beginning of the academic year. The Fitness to Study Standing Group (see below) will meet by mid- September to review evidence. All relevant dates will be communicated to students at the time of their concession or suspension.
(7) Fitness to Study Standing Group
The Standing Group comprises members of staff from Specialist Student Support Services, the Colleges and Academic Departments, and representatives from the Students’ Union. The Standing Group will meet in mid-September and at the end of Michaelmas and Epiphany terms, and on an exceptional basis if required to review an individual student case. It will review the operation of the Fitness to Study Policy and will review any medical evidence relevant to the case involving a student who wishes to return to study following a Fitness to Study Meeting. It will also serve as a specialist panel to review the evidence for any student returning to study after a concession if:
- Specified as part of the Concession; or
- At the request of a College or Academic Department, in the event of their receipt of partial or ambiguous evidence of fitness to return.
The Standing Group will include members of staff from the Counselling Service, Disability Support and Occupational Health Service. In the event that those staff members do not have sufficient knowledge and experience to understand the evidence presented, external expertise may be sought at the discretion of the University. In such cases
- Consent will be sought from the student to share the evidence presented with an external expert
- Where prior consent is not obtained, the evidence will be anonymised to remove any personal identifying data before it is shared.
The Fitness to Study Standing Group will report to the University Committee overseeing the wider student experience. The Terms of Reference for the Fitness to Study Standing Group are presented in Appendix 8.
Fraud Response Plan
(1) All actual or suspected incidents of fraud or irregularity should be reported without delay to the Head of University Assurance. The Head of University Assurance should, within 72 hours, hold a meeting of the following Fraud Response Group (FRG) to decide on the initial response:
- Chief Operating Officer (in the Chair)
- Chief Financial Officer
- Director of Human Resources
- Head of University Assurance
It is intended that this core group remains small to facilitate timely decisions and to ensure that confidentiality (and the reputation of the University) is maintained. Other co-opted members may be called upon at later stages in the investigative process to assist in specific cases where their expertise is required. It is expected that such individuals may come from Communications, Legal Support, Computing and Information Services and the University’s Security Office.
(2) The FRG will decide on the action to be taken. This will normally be an investigation, and FRG will appoint an Investigating Officer with clear terms of reference and guidance for the investigation. The investigation will consider: the nature and extent of any loss; action required to prevent further loss; recovery action; and the appropriateness of additional sanctions (including disciplinary action or criminal prosecution). The investigation will take place without regard to position, length of service, or relationships.
(3) All special investigations involving senior colleagues, potentially requiring a report to HEFCE or likely to attract significant public interest, shall normally be led by the Head of University Assurance. The members of the FRG will ensure that other staff co-operate with requests for assistance by the Investigating Officer and will approve the appointment of external specialists if required to assist with the investigation.
Prevention of Further Loss
(4) Where the initial investigation provides reasonable grounds for suspecting a member or members of the University of fraud, the FRG will decide how to prevent further loss. This may require suspension, with or without pay, of the suspect(s), in accordance with the Disciplinary Regulations. It may be necessary to plan the timing of suspension to prevent the suspect from destroying or removing evidence that may be needed to support disciplinary or criminal action.
(5) In these circumstances the suspect should be approached unannounced. They should be supervised at all times before leaving the University's premises. They should be allowed to collect personal property under supervision, but should not be able to remove any property belonging to the University. Any security passes, keys to premises, offices and furniture should be returned.
(6) The Director of Estates and Buildings should advise on the best means of denying access to University premises while the suspect remains suspended. The CIO should be instructed to withdraw, without delay, access permissions to the University's IT facilities.
(7) The Head of University Assurance shall consider whether it is necessary to investigate systems other than that which has given rise to suspicion, through which the suspect may have had opportunities to misappropriate the University's assets.
Establishing and Securing Evidence
(8) The University will follow its own internal disciplinary procedures against any member of the University who has committed fraud. The University will normally pursue the prosecution of any such individual. Where the police are not notified of a suspected or actual fraud, the Audit Committee must be advised of the reason.
(9) The Fraud Response Group will:
- Maintain familiarity with the University's disciplinary procedures and regulations, to ensure that evidence requirements will be met during any fraud investigation;
- Ensure that Investigating Officers are familiar with and follow rules on the admissibility of documentary and other evidence in criminal proceedings (including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Human Rights Act (1998), and the Equality Act (2010);
The Head of University Assurance will establish and maintain contact with the police.
Recovery of Losses
(10) The FRG shall ensure that in all fraud investigations, the amount of any loss will be quantified. Repayment of losses should be sought in all cases.
(11) Where the loss is substantial, legal advice should be obtained without delay about the need to freeze the suspect's assets through the court, pending conclusion of the investigation. Legal advice should also be obtained about prospects for recovering losses through the civil court, where the perpetrator refuses repayment, and from existing pension funds. The University would normally expect to recover costs in addition to losses.
(12) Any request for a reference for a member of staff or a student who has been disciplined or prosecuted for fraud shall be referred to the Director of HR or the Academic Registrar, who shall approve any response to a request for reference.
Reporting to University Council
(13) The Vice-Chancellor shall report any incident of actual or suspected fraud to the Chair of Council and the Chair of the Audit Committee if any of the following circumstances apply:
- The sum of money involved is, or potentially could be, in excess of £25,000;
- The particulars of the fraud are novel, unusual or complex;
- There is likely to be public interest because of the nature of fraud or the individuals involved.
(14) The Vice-Chancellor shall ensure that any departure from the approved Fraud Response Plan shall be reported and explained promptly to the Chair of Council and the Chair of the Audit Committee.
Notifying the HEFCE
(15) The circumstances in which the University must inform the HEFCE about actual or suspected frauds are detailed in the HEFCE Audit Code of Practice. This stipulates that any loss, theft, or fraud of charity assets or other irregularity where money involved is, or is potentially in excess of £25k; or where a case reveals systemic weaknesses of concern beyond the institution; or, are novel, complex, or of public interest, must be reported to the Chair of the University’s Audit Committee, the Head of University Assurance, the Chair of Council, an external auditor, and HEFCE’s CEO. The Vice-Chancellor is responsible for informing the HEFCE of any such incidents.
(16) The Investigating Officer shall provide the FRG with reports on the progress of ongoing special investigations no less frequently than monthly. The FRG, in turn, will provide updates to the Vice-Chancellor. Reports should include quantification of losses; progress with recovery action; progress with disciplinary action; progress with criminal action; estimate of resources required and timescales to conclude the investigation; actions taken to prevent and detect similar incidents. On completion of a special investigation, a written report shall be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor and the Audit Committee by the Head of University Assurance containing:
- A description of the incident, including the value of any loss, the people involved and the means of perpetrating the fraud;
- The measures taken to prevent a recurrence;
- Any actions needed to strengthen future responses to fraud, with a follow-up report on whether the actions have been taken.
Mental Health Policy
The aims of the Mental Health Policy are:
- To set out the framework in which the University provides students with mental health difficulties the opportunity to reach their full academic potential;
- To provide practical advice and guidance to those staff responding to students with mental health difficulties.
The majority of students with mental health difficulties are able to navigate their University careers successfully through a combination of self-care, pastoral support in Colleges, adjustments within their academic Departments, specialist support services and the support offered by external services. A minority of students experience difficulty in acknowledging the impact of their mental health upon their safety, wellbeing, their academic progression and their capacity to engage in the wider student experience.
The Mental Health Policy Statement below contains the University’s statement of its commitment to support. Appendix 3 contains guidance for staff supporting students with mental health difficulties and sets out the framework in which staff will address student support needs, specifically the mechanisms of informal and formal Support Meetings. A full procedure for a formal Support Meeting is set out in Appendix 4. Appendices 5-8 contain information and guidance on medical evidence that may need to be considered in Support Meetings or upon a return to study following a concession on mental health grounds, along with pro-forma examples of requests for evidence. A separate student-facing Guidance note with advice for students on support provision and academic concessions on mental health grounds is available on the Counselling Service website.
In exceptional circumstances, where there are concerns about a student’s welfare and where the range of supportive measures that the University may be reasonably expected to provide have been employed but have not satisfactorily resolved concerns, the appropriate policy and procedure is Fitness to Study. The policy applies for all conditions where there are concerns about a student’s capacity to engage in academic engagements, maintain their own safety or to reside in College communities without adversely impacting their peers or College staff. A flowchart outlining the intersection of the Mental Health Policy and the Fitness to Study Policy is presented in Appendix 2.
This Policy uses the broad term mental health difficulties to describe the issues that fall within its scope. A useful framework to describe the continuum of mental health is presented in Appendix 1.
Mental wellbeing is a dynamic state that describes our current capacity to enjoy life and to work productively and creatively, our ability to build and sustain positive relationships with ourselves and with others.
Mental illness can be acute or chronic, and may arise from organic, genetic, psychological, relational or behavioural factors (or any combination of these). The illness may fall within the definition of a ‘disability’ as set out in the Equality Act 2010, but not all mental health illnesses constitute a ‘disability’. A mental illness may be, but is not limited to, a condition diagnosed by a medical professional. An individual with a long-term mental illness may nevertheless experience good mental wellbeing if they are adequately resourced and supported in managing their condition.
(2) Policy Statement
The University aims to provide a challenging, stimulating and purposeful academic environment with the greatest opportunities for social, cultural, sporting and spiritual engagement. In this way, the University aims to make a positive contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of all students and staff.
Mental health difficulties can beset students at any point in their academic career, and some students may begin their studies with pre-existing conditions. The higher education experience at Durham is competitive and high-achieving, in which some students will thrive but for others may present a challenge to wellbeing. It is well-recognised that transitions in life can be times of acute stress. However participation in Durham University also presents an opportunity to develop resilience, independence and skills to manage one’s own wellbeing and contribute to the wellbeing of others.
The University aims to provide a supportive environment in which all students, including those with mental health difficulties, have the opportunity to realise their full potential and meet the academic requirements of their programmes of study.
The University aims to promote a culture in which mental health difficulties are recognised and supported. It will ensure that students are not disadvantaged, academically or otherwise, because of their difficulties in accordance with the University's Equality and Diversity Policy. The University has specific responsibilities towards those students whose mental health is defined as a disability under the law to ensure that reasonable adjustments are put in place to support their learning. Where a student is facing academic progression or disciplinary processes, and mental health may be a contributing factor, the student will be offered support to protect their longer-term academic prospects.
However the University recognises that the students are individual, adult learners, with a responsibility to contribute to their own self-care and to contribute to the quality and wellbeing of the University community. Students are invited to engage appropriately and professionally with the support available, where mental health difficulties are adversely affecting the student’s capacity to engage productively with their studies or with the University community. The University will assist students to understand the support provision within the University, within its remit as an education institution, and to assist students to access appropriate external support where necessary.
The University seeks to implement these aims by:
- Providing pastoral and welfare support services within the College environment and access to specialists in the Counselling and Disability Support Services, in addition to the support services provided through an external body such as the Durham Students' Union;
- Encouraging students with mental health difficulties to make these known to the University and to seek support both pre-arrival and after they have commenced their studies, and at such times that their support needs may change, for example in undertaking work or study placements abroad;
- Taking a proactive and collaborative stance in supporting students to develop a support plan;
- Ensuring that transparent and consistent procedures are adopted across the University and its constituent Colleges to support students with mental health difficulties;
- Providing clear guidance on the confidentiality of personal information provided by students;
- Providing guidance, training and support to staff involved in student support;
- Maintaining strong links with local specialist mental health services to improve the provision of services to meet students’ needs and referring students with mental health difficulties to services when appropriate.
Whilst the University is committed to providing a supportive environment, it is important to recognise that it is not a mental health facility nor is it a therapeutic community. There are, of necessity, limits to the extent of the support that can be provided and it is not the responsibility of the University to replicate services that already exist within the wider community and within the NHS. The University cannot provide treatment for mental illness but aims to provide an environment and the resources to support students to maximise their sense of mental wellbeing.
A positive approach from students and University staff towards the management of mental health conditions is critical to student learning, academic achievement and the quality of the wider student experience for all.
Public Interest Disclosure Policy 'Whistle Blowing'
(1) The University is committed to the highest standards of integrity, probity and accountability. It seeks to conduct its affairs in a responsible manner taking into account the proper use of public funds, the requirements of its funding bodies and
the standards required in public life.
(2) The aim of this policy is to enable and encourage individuals to raise matters of concern (referred to in this Policy as “disclosures”) that are in the public interest (often referred to as “whistleblowing”) at a high level within the University, so that
they may be investigated and, where appropriate, acted upon. All concerns raised by an individual will be treated fairly and properly and no individual will suffer any detriment for raising concerns under this Policy in good faith.
(3) It is a reasonable expectation of the University that any disclosures will be raised internally and this Policy exhausted in the first instance.1
(4) When this Policy Applies
(4.1) Disclosures under this Policy may be an honest belief of alleged wrongful conduct of the University, or about the conduct of a fellow employee, service user, or any third party. The individual making a disclosure is often not directly, personally, affected by the concern which they raise, although they
(4.2) This Policy applies to all employees and those who are engaged to work in the University and includes apprentices, interns, atypical workers and those with honorary contracts. The Policy also applies to any students undertaking work in the University [and extends to students, and members of University bodies such as members of Council and committees].
(4.3) This Policy cannot be used by individuals to challenge financial and business decisions properly taken by the University or seek reconsideration of any matter already addressed under other internal procedures, for example disciplinary and grievance procedures. Furthermore, any disclosure under this Policy should be raised in the ‘public interest’ rather than matters relating to an individual’s situation, for example a complainant about an individual’s contract of employment. Any disclosure made under this Policy must be made in good faith and should not be made for personal gain.
(4.4) The University also has in place a set of Financial Regulations covering a wide range of areas including the delegation of financial authorities, purchasing, and general systems of audit and internal financial control. In the case of concerns regarding financial irregularities/concerns, these may be addressed under the University’s Fraud Procedure or other relevant Finance processes.
(5) Qualifying Disclosures
(5.1) Disclosures which qualify to be considered under this Policy are those where the individual making the disclosure reasonably believes that one of the following issues is happening in the University, took place in the recent past or is likely to happen in the future:
(5.1.1) criminal activity;
(5.1.2) a failure to comply with any legal obligation;
(5.1.3) a miscarriage of justice;
(5.1.4) endangering the health or safety of any individual (including risk to colleagues, students or any third party or member of the public engaging with the University or using University premises);
(5.1.5) financial or non-financial maladministration, malpractice or fraud where issues are not adequately addressed by measures listed at 4.4;
(5.1.6) damage to the environment; or
(5.1.7) deliberately concealing information demonstrating that one or more of the above taking place.
(5.2) Should the University consider that issue raised could be more appropriately considered under an alternative University policy or informally within a department/faculty/school, the University may, at its discretion, consider the issue under that alternative process.
All disclosures under this Policy will be treated in a sensitive and, where possible, confidential manner. If required, the identity of the individual making the disclosure will be kept confidential for as long as possible, provided that this is compatible with an effective investigation. The investigation process may have to reveal identity of the individual making the disclosure and that individual may be asked to make a statement or attend an investigatory meeting as part of the process.
(7) Anonymous Disclosures
(7.1) Individuals making a disclosure are expected to identify themselves; as disclosures raised anonymously can be significantly more difficult to address effectively. The University will not normally consider anonymous disclosures. The University may investigate anonymous disclosures taking into account the seriousness of the issue, the credibility of the concern, any prejudice to those named in an anonymous disclosure and the likelihood of being able to investigate the matter and confirm the allegation from alternative sources.
(7.2) It should be noted that that the ability to provide relevant feedback and protect against detriment will depend on the University knowing the identity of the individual making a disclosure.
Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Procedure
(8) Raising a Concern
(8.1) It is expected that the majority of concerns will be raised openly with line managers or another senior colleague (or for students their academic or (College tutor) as part of the day-to-day good practice of the University. Any concerns should be raised promptly so that they can be considered in a timely manner.
(8.2) It is only when an individual considers that their concerns (which meet the criteria in 5.1 above) have not been appropriately dealt with as part of day-today management or the concern is about their line manager or department or the concern is so serious that it should be considered at a more senior level in the University, that a concern may be raised under this Policy.
(8.3) Where an individual considers that it may be necessary to make a disclosure under this Policy, and that disclosure fulfils the criteria at 5.1 above, disclosure should be made in writing to the University’s Secretary or, should the role of University Secretary be vacant, disclosures should be made to the Head of University Assurance Service. The University Secretary may designate an alternative senior officer in the University to deal with any disclosures made under this Policy. The University Secretary or senior officer
considering a disclosure is referred to as the “Designated Person”. If a disclosure involves or implicates the Designated Person, the disclosure should be made to the Chief Operating Officer.
(8.4) An individual raising a concern raised under this Policy should make it clear that they are raising their concern under this Policy and they should provide sufficient information and detail to allow the concern to be meaningfully considered by the Designated Person.
(9) The University’s Response to a Disclosure
(9.1) The Designated Person will acknowledge receipt of the disclosure and will consider whether the matters disclosed provide sufficient grounds for proceeding further. The Designated Person may bring the disclosure to the attention of the Vice-Chancellor, Chair of Council, Director of HR and the Chair of Audit Committee.
(9.2) If the Designated Person does not have sufficient information to determine whether or how the matter should proceed, they may appoint an investigating manager to undertake a brief preliminary investigation to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case to be considered further under this Policy. The outcome of the brief investigation will be reported to the Designated Person (normally within 21 days) who will then decide on appropriate next steps.
(9.3) Following consideration of the disclosure (and any preliminary investigation which may have been conducted), the Designated Person may:
(9.3.1) Determine that a substantive investigation should be conducted in accordance with the process outlined below.
(9.3.2) Decide that the matter should be considered under a different University policy. The individual will be advised of this decision and the disclosure will be referred to an appropriate manager to take any relevant further action.
(9.3.3) Refer the matter to an appropriate body external to the University, for example the police.
(9.3.4) Determine that no further action should be taken and the Designated Person will inform the individual of this decision.
(10.1) Should the Designated Person consider that the disclosure should be investigated (excluding any preliminary investigation), the Designated Person will appoint a manager to conduct an investigation (the “Investigating Manager”).
(10.2) The Investigating Manager will be chosen based on the nature of the disclosure. The Investigating Manager must not be a person who would make decisions based on the outcomes of the investigation or who may be involved in other processes which may be invoked as an outcome of any investigation under this Policy.
(10.3) The scope of the investigation will be determined by the Investigating Manager.
(10.4) Investigations will be conducted as quickly as possible, whilst having regard to the nature and complexity of the disclosure.
(10.5) When an allegation is made against a "named individual", the named individual will normally be informed of the allegation and any supporting evidence and they may be given a right to respond to any allegations. The point at which this may occur will depend on the specific nature of the case.
(10.6) The Investigating Manager may interview and/or seek a written statement from the individual who made the disclosure and any other individuals who they consider to be relevant to the investigation including anyone named in the disclosure. Any individual being interviewed under this Policy may be accompanied to an investigatory meeting by a colleague or trade union representative. A refusal to participate in an investigatory meeting may lead to disciplinary action.
(10.7) When the Investigating Manager has concluded the investigation they will provide a report with their findings to the Designated Person. Thereafter the Designated Person will determine what action, if any, should be taken in the circumstances. This may include the initiation of alternative University procedures, reference to an external third party or no further action.
(10.8) The outcome of any investigation may be reported, as appropriate, to the Vice-Chancellor, the Chair of Council, the Director of Human Resources and the Chair of Audit Committee. The individual who made the disclosure may be told the outcome of an investigation but the investigation report may not be shared with them.
An individual making a disclosure or an individual named in a disclosure has no right of appeal under this Policy about the outcome of any investigation undertaken or any decisions of the Designated Person.
(12) Protection Against Detriment
An individual will not be subjected to a detriment because they have made a disclosure in good faith and based on an honest belief under this Policy. Anyone causing an individual a detriment because of any disclosure which they have made under this Policy could be subject to potential disciplinary action.
(13) False Allegations
A disclosure that is not pursued further or confirmed by an investigation, will not lead to any action, penalty or detriment against the individual making the disclosure. However, individuals who, on the balance of probability, knowingly making false allegations/misusing this Policy may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action, notably if the individual persists in raising the allegations after the Designated person has taken action.
All concerns raised and action taken in response to any disclosures under this Policy, including a copy of any investigation reports, will be retained by the Designated
Person for 5 years. An annual report of disclosures which have been made under this Policy will be compiled by the Designated Person and submitted to Council, the Director of Human Resources and the Chair of Audit Committee.
1 For example a disclosure may be raised in good faith with HEFCE, albeit it is HEFCE’s practice to refer a disclosure back to the institution to ensure that
internal policies have been exhausted in the first instance
Recording of Lectures and Teaching Sessions Policy
(1) There is an expectation that lectures and teaching sessions may be audio recorded by students and/or staff in line with policy guidance. This does not include seminars or tutorials.
(2) The audio recording of group-based teaching and learning activities (e.g., lectures) can provide a useful resource for students and can be used to, amongst other things:
- provide a study aid for review and revision;
- help accommodate different learning styles;
- assist students who do not have English as their first language;
- assist students who have particular educational needs.
(3) The audio recording of lectures and teaching sessions is particularly important in the context of our commitment to equality and diversity and should be considered a reasonable adjustment from which all our students will benefit. The audio recording of lectures and teaching sessions is supported to supplement the student experience, and will not replace student contact hours.
(4) Audio recording devices must be kept with the student at all times and may not be placed on the lectern/lab table unless required for any disability related reasons.
(5) The University regards staff recording their own lectures and teaching sessions to make available online as good practice, noting that due process must be followed where recordings would include the intellectual property of others.
(6) Subject to the right to opt out of recording of parts or all of a teaching session (see 7 and 8 below), staff and students are deemed to consent to the audio recording of lectures and teaching sessions in accordance with University policy.
(7) Audio recordings of ‘sensitive personal data’ require the express consent of the staff or students being recorded. Sensitive personal data means data that is identifiable and contains any of the following information: racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or other similar beliefs, trade union membership, physical or mental health, sexual life or the alleged commission of a criminal offence. In instances where personal or confidential matters are being discussed the teacher responsible for the session should make it clear that some or part of the session should not be recorded.
(8) If a teacher feels his/her entire module may not be suitable for recording he/she is encouraged to engage in discussion with the Head of School/Department to establish whether any of the opt out reasons as set out below pertain. If the University has an overriding legal obligation to provide a recording (e.g. a student with a disability needs to make a recording as part of the ‘reasonable adjustment’ process), opt out will not be permitted. Opt out will be appropriate if a lecture contains confidential or personal information, is commercially or politically sensitive, includes such a degree of interaction with students that recording is not viable or the mode of delivery makes recording unsuitable. There may be other valid reasons why opt out may be appropriate. These should be discussed with the Head of School.
(9) Permission to record other teaching activities (i.e. seminars and tutorials) is at the discretion of the teaching staff with any recordings made subject to the same restrictions as lectures. The University encourages consultation with the student regarding consideration of alternative methods of providing support when recording is deemed to be inappropriate.
(10) Covert recording of teaching activities, where permission has been withheld, is not permitted and will be treated as a major disciplinary offence.
(11) Except where authorised by the University, recordings of University lectures and teaching sessions are not for public consumption by any means, including by virtue of external publication, whether on the web or otherwise. Such recordings must not be copied or passed on to anyone else, other than for transcription purposes. Once a personal copy of a recording has served its purpose, it should be permanently erased. Infringement of this principle will be treated as a major disciplinary offence.
(12) All breaches of the policy will be dealt with in accordance with the University’s General Regulation IV: Discipline.
(13) The University recognises that copyright in the lectures and other teaching sessions reside with the teacher responsible for the teaching session, and that privacy matters of the teacher and students may be affected by recording teaching sessions. For this reason the University seeks to protect the intellectual rights and privacy, and objections of staff and students against recordings of themselves must be respected.
(14) Recordings will not be used for staff performance management purposes.
(15) Staff must comply at all times with copyright legislation relating to their lectures and educational activities.
(16) The University recognises and acknowledges that:
- not all teaching styles are suitable for capture, e.g., where there is use of whiteboards, chalk boards, etc. or if a high degree of audience interactivity is used;
- a requirement for staff to change their preferred teaching style for the purpose of recording may be detrimental to the student experience, and is not encouraged;
- ethical issues, or the use of sensitive material may render the recording of some teaching and learning activities as being inappropriate.
Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy (NEW)
(1.1) Durham University recognises that incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct occur within the University, and acknowledges that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of incidents disclosed by the student community; a trend reflected across the Higher Education sector and beyond. The University acknowledges that Sexual Violence and Misconduct can be experienced by any individual, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, age, disability, faith, ethnicity, nationality and economic status. The University is committed to promoting a culture in which any incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct will not be tolerated, and will be thoroughly addressed to ensure the preservation of a safe work and study environment.
(2.1) Durham University holds the following set of Principles to reflect the University’s commitment to establishing a culture of support and respect. All members of Durham University have a responsibility for upholding the Principles that are as follows:
- We will treat all members of our community with dignity and respect at all times, and it is expected that all members of our community will share in this responsibility for creating and sustaining an environment which upholds the dignity of all.
- We recognise the significant impact of all experiences of Sexual Violence and Misconduct, and acknowledge the potential detriment to studies and employment, regardless of when the experience occurred.
- We strive to maintain equality and diversity within our community, and will work to sustain an equal and safe environment in which a culture of prevention will be promoted through appropriate and consistently applied education and training.
- We will actively respond to all Reports of Sexual Violence and Misconduct and, whilst recognising that some experiences may constitute a criminal offence, we will ensure that, in all cases, Reports are carefully and thoughtfully addressed by relevant staff members through a process that is transparent and clearly communicated to the individuals involved. We will respect the right of the individual disclosing an experience to choose how to take forward a Disclosure.
- All University staff will have been informed of the Policy and will be trained as appropriate to their roles. All staff involved in the process will act with impartiality and discretion at all times.
- We believe that no person should suffer the effects of Sexual Violence or Misconduct alone, and will ensure that there is dedicated specialist support, including free and accessible counselling for all individuals involved.
- We will work with local partners and key groups to forge positive relationships to support all our work in this area, from prevention to enquiry and post-incident care.
- We are mindful of our civic responsibilities to the wider community.
- In addressing experiences and working with both internal and external experts, we will seek to learn from experience, enabling the University to both shape and respond to national and international policy and practice, and to provide regular assurance to Council, Senate, the University Executive Committee and the wider University community, that specific incidents and broader cultural issues are appropriately captured and addressed.
(3.1) This Policy relates to all incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct, as well as vexatious and malicious reporting, complicity, and retaliation as defined below. Under this Policy all students and staff members who have experienced Sexual Violence and Misconduct will have equality of access to both internal and external specialist support (e.g. Sexual Assault Referral Centre and Rape Crisis), regardless of when the experiences occurred. The accompanying procedure to this Policy relates specifically to those experiences which have occurred during the course of study at the University, in which the Accused Party is a current student of the University. Disclosures and Reports made under this Policy are not limited to University premises or the immediate geography of the University.
(3.2) This Policy should be read in conjunction with the Durham University Safeguarding Children Policy and the Durham University Safeguarding Adults at Risk Policy.
(3.3) Sexual Violence and Misconduct includes a broad spectrum of sexual behaviour. Examples of the types of behaviour that will constitute a violation of this Policy are set out below. Reports of such behaviour will be considered by the University under its internal disciplinary regulations including, in particular, the Procedure for Dealing with Student Cases of Sexual Violence and Misconduct and General Regulation IV: Discipline. Some incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct may also constitute a criminal offence under English law. Such incidents may be addressed through criminal proceedings, internal disciplinary proceedings, or, in some cases, both criminal and internal proceedings.
(3.4) A list of definitions is provided below to clarify the exact scope of the Policy.
The definitions below have been separated into explanations of the types of behaviour captured under this Policy, clarification of the terminology used within the Policy and additional Policy violations.
1. Type of Behaviour
For the purposes of this Policy and the accompanying procedure, Sexual Violence and Misconduct is defined as any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which occurred in person or by letter, telephone, text, email or other electronic and/or social media and includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviour:
- Engaging, or attempting to engage in a sexual act with another individual without consent;
- Sexually touching another person without their consent;
- Conduct of a sexual nature which creates (or could create) an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for others including making unwanted remarks of a sexual nature;
- Inappropriately showing sexual organs to another person;
- Repeatedly following another person without good reason;
- Recording and/or sharing intimate images or recordings of another person without their consent; and
- Arranging or participating in events aimed at degrading or humiliating those who have experienced sexual violence, for example inappropriately themed social events or initiations.
Reporting Party is, for the purposes of this Policy and the accompanying procedure, the person(s) who has been the subject of the alleged incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct.
Accused Party is, for the purposes of this Policy and the accompanying procedure, the person(s) whose behaviour it is alleged amounted to an incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct.
Consent is the agreement to participate in a sexual act where the individual has both the freedom and capacity to make that decision. Consent cannot be assumed on the basis of a previous sexual experience or previously given consent, or from the absence of complaint, and each new sexual act requires a re-confirmation of consent as the foundation of a healthy and respectful sexual relationship. Consent may be withdrawn at any time.
· Freedom to consent: For consent to be present, the individual has to freely engage in a sexual act. Consent cannot be inferred from a lack of verbal or physical resistance. Consent is not present when submission by an unwilling participant results from the exploitation of power, or coercion or force.
- Coercion or Force includes any physical or emotional harm or threat of physical or emotional harm which would reasonably place an individual in fear of immediate or future harm, with the result that the individual is compelled to engage in a sexual act.
- Capacity to consent: Free consent cannot be given if the individual does not have the capacity to give consent. Incapacitation may occur when an individual is asleep, unconscious, semi-conscious, or in a state of intermittent consciousness, or any other state of unawareness that a sexual act may be occurring. Incapacitation may also occur on account of a mental or developmental disability, or as the result of alcohol or drug use.
- Alcohol and/or Drug Use: Incapacitation arising from alcohol or drug consumption should be evaluated on the basis of how the alcohol/drugs have affected the individual; signs of incapacitation may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: slurred speech, unsteady gait, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, unusual behaviour, blacking out, a lack of full control over physical movements, a lack of awareness of circumstances or surroundings, and/or an inability to communicate effectively. Intoxication is never a defence for committing an act of Sexual Violence and Misconduct, or for failing to obtain consent. If there is any doubt as to the level or extent of one’s own or the other individual’s incapacitation, the safest approach is to not engage in a sexual act.
Confidentiality will be maintained, where possible, throughout the Disclosure, Reporting and investigative processes in recognition of the sensitive nature of Sexual Violence and Misconduct matters. As such, information will usually only be shared with relevant individuals/entities (who may be internal or external to the University, e.g. internal counsellors, witnesses, external experts from specialist agencies like Rape Crisis, Sexual Assault Referral Centres or the Police) with the agreement of the Reporting Party. The University reserves the right, and may be under an obligation, to share information in exceptional circumstances where such disclosure is necessary to protect any individual or the wider University community from harm or to prevent a crime from taking place. All individuals involved in any process under this Policy must keep information that is disclosed to them as part of the process confidential. Any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information will be considered a Policy violation and will be addressed accordingly. Throughout all proceedings, the University will act in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Disclosure, for the purposes of this Policy and the accompanying procedure, involves an individual choosing to tell anyone who is part of the University about their experience of Sexual Violence and Misconduct (different from Report).
Report is the sharing of information with a staff member of the University regarding an incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct experienced by that individual for the purposes of initiating the investigation process set out in this Policy and the accompanying procedure (different from Disclosure).
3. Other Policy Violations
The University recognises that there are potentially additional types of behaviour that will constitute a violation of this Policy and which will therefore need to be considered under the relevant internal disciplinary regulations, although the frequency and likelihood of such offences are likely to be low:
· Vexatious reporting involves the creation of persistent, unwarranted reports of Sexual Violence and Misconduct, or a refusal to accept any reasonable decisions arising from the application of the accompanying procedure to this Policy.
· Malicious reporting occurs when an individual shares allegations of Sexual Violence and Misconduct that the individual knows to lack a basis in fact.
· Complicity is any act that knowingly helps, promotes, or encourages any form of Sexual Violence and Misconduct by another individual.
· Retaliation may constitute any words or actions, including intimidation, threats, or coercion, made in response to disclosures or reports of Sexual Violence and Misconduct, by any individual including both the Accused Party and the Reporting Party, as well as witnesses, friends, or relatives.
Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Procedure
1.1. This procedure sets out how the University will deal with incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct against student members of the University community. The procedure is part of the University’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy and should be read in conjunction with that Policy.
2.1. This procedure applies to all alleged incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct between the University's students. It does not cover incidents of non-sexual harassment as the University has a separate policy (Respect at Study Policy and Code of Practice) in relation to those matters. If a conflict arises between this procedure and any other procedures of the University, then the Lead Sexual Violence and Misconduct Officer ("LSVMO") shall determine which procedure will be used. In the event that the Reporting Party is a member of staff or contractor of the University and the Accused Party is a student, this procedure will apply. In the event that the Accused Party is a member of staff or contractor of the University, action may be taken in accordance with the appropriate Human Resources process.
2.2. If a decision is taken not to deal with a case under this procedure then the Reporting Party can request a review of that decision in accordance with the review process set out in paragraph 11 below.
3. Management of this procedure
3.1 The LSVMO is responsible for the application of the procedure. The day-to-day management of the procedure will be overseen by the Academic Support Office. The key staff contacts are the Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence & Misconduct), Assistant Registrar (Appeals, Complaints & Discipline) and the Deputy Academic Registrar (who is the Deputy Lead Sexual Violence and Misconduct Officer ("DLSVMO")).
4. Police investigations and judicial proceedings
4.1 This procedure is designed to support the Reporting Party to disclose incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct to the University, and to support the Reporting Party when they choose and assess the course of action that is most appropriate for them.
4.2 Where a criminal investigation or judicial proceedings are ongoing or are likely to commence in respect of a Disclosure, the University will not investigate a Report of Sexual Violence and Misconduct and will suspend an ongoing investigation but will undertake any necessary precautionary action (see paragraphs 7.8 and 8.5 below).
4.3 Reports under this procedure of alleged incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct will be considered at an Initial Review Meeting ("IRM"), (see paragraph 8), including situations where the Reporting Party chooses not to report the matter to the Police. An IRM will also be called after the conclusion of a criminal investigation or judicial proceedings. A decision by the Police or Crown Prosecution Service (or other law enforcement agency) to take no further action in relation to a criminal matter or an acquittal at a trial does not preclude the University from taking action under this procedure and does not mean the Reporting Party has made a vexatious or malicious complaint.
4.4 In all cases, the University will advise the Reporting Party that it does not have the legal investigatory powers of the Police, and cannot make a determination on criminal guilt. An internal investigation is focussed exclusively on whether a breach of the University’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy has occurred. The internal process cannot therefore be regarded as a substitute for a Police investigation or criminal prosecution.
4.5 Where a student has been convicted of a criminal offence or accepts a Police caution in relation to behaviour that falls within the scope of the University’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy, the conviction/caution will be taken as conclusive evidence that the behaviour took place and no further investigation shall be required by the University. The case will be referred by the DLSVMO to the Deputy or Chair of the Senate Discipline Committee as an allegation of a major offence under General Regulations IV.
5.1 The University is committed to providing support for those members of its community affected by these issues. The University will provide information on support resources available and offer interim measures as appropriate to the Reporting Party, Accused Party, and witnesses involved in alleged incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct. Support resources are available to any member of the University who discloses an incident regardless of their choice to make a Report to the University or Police. Support provided to the Reporting Party and Accused Party will be separate; one member of staff will not provide support to both parties. The Reporting Party will be signposted to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre if appropriate (See paragraph 7.4). The support available is set out at: www.dur.ac.uk/sexualviolence/getsupport/.
6.1 The University will maintain a central record of incidents to effectively engage in prevention and response initiatives. The Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence & Misconduct) will keep a record of Disclosures of alleged Sexual Violence and Misconduct incidents, including anonymous Disclosures. The LSVMO will ensure that the University Executive Committee, Audit Committee, Senate and Council are regularly provided with anonymised data concerning the cases that are dealt with under this procedure.
Section 2: Procedure
7. Disclosures and Reporting
7.1 Disclosure and Reporting are separate actions that the Reporting Party may choose to take. The University recognises the importance of minimising the number of times the Reporting Party has to disclose an incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct.
7.2 The process below will be initiated following receipt by the University of a Disclosure of an alleged incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct. The Disclosure may be received in a variety of ways and may not necessarily be brought forward by the Reporting Party.
7.3 A Disclosure may relate to an Accused Party who is or is not a member of the University community. A Disclosure does not automatically result in a Report to the University being made under the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy. The University respects the right of the Reporting Party to choose how to take forward a Disclosure. Following a Disclosure, the Reporting Party will be given their reporting options along with information on resources for specialist support (See paragraphs 5.1 and 7.4). The University recognises that the Reporting Party may require time and reflection before making a decision. The Reporting Party will be given the option and support to do one or more of the following:
- report to the Police;
- make a Report to the University under the University’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy;
- make no report of the incident; and/or
- receive advice on the support that is available.
7.4 Staff will signpost anyone who discloses they have been targeted by someone engaging, or attempting to engage in a sexual act without the Reporting Party’s consent or sexually touching the Reporting Party without their consent to the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) so that they may access services provided. This will also allow the Reporting Party to make an anonymous report and have evidence stored while they choose if they want to report to the Police. Staff will signpost the Reporting Party to information from the Sexual Assault Referral Centre on how to preserve evidence. Staff can make a referral to the SARC on behalf of the Reporting Party with their agreement.
7.5 Staff who receive a Disclosure that may amount to a breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy must inform their Head of Department, Head of College, or Head of Division as soon as practicable that they have received a Disclosure. They may, if the Reporting party requests, omit the name of the Reporting and/or Accused Party. The Head of Department, Head of College, or Head of Division must ensure that Disclosures of incidents of Sexual Violence and Misconduct are passed to the Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence & Misconduct) or to the DLSVMO in their absence. The Disclosure may, if the Reporting party requests, omit the name of the Reporting and/or Accused Party.
7.6 The Reporting Party may choose to make a Report to the University under the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy with the intention of the University initiating the investigation process set out in this Policy. To make a Report to the University, the Reporting Party may submit a written statement of the allegation to the Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence & Misconduct) indicating the Accused Party and any witnesses. Alternative Reporting options may be available and the Reporting Party may request this information from the member of staff to whom they disclosed the incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct. If the Reporting Party is unwilling for the Accused Party to be informed of the allegation against them, the investigation cannot proceed.
7.7 Following receipt of a Report to the University or Police, the DLSVMO will instruct the Academic Support Office to organise an Initial Review Meeting ("IRM") as soon as practicable.
7.8 Pending the IRM, the Head of Department, Head of College, or Head of Division shall take such steps as may be necessary to:
- ensure that the students involved receive appropriate academic and pastoral support;
- safeguard the health, safety and welfare of members of the University community;
- ensure that confidentiality is maintained as appropriate.
7.9 The decision to launch a formal investigation into the alleged incident can only be made at the IRM if supported/requested by the Reporting Party, and staff must not attempt to investigate the incident or inform the Accused Party or any other student of the Report or Disclosure.
8. Responding to a Report and Initial Review Meeting
8.1 The IRM will be chaired by the DLSVMO (or their delegate in their absence). The purpose of an IRM is to assess support needs, consider how to protect the interests of all parties and members of the University community who may be affected by the case and to agree next steps (the alleged incident will not be investigated at the IRM).
8.2 The membership of the IRM will depend upon the nature of the alleged incident and will be determined by the DLSVMO (or their delegate in their absence). The membership may include, as a minimum:
- The Director of the Counselling Service (or their nominee);
- The Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence & Misconduct) (or their nominee);
- A senior representative from the Colleges of the student/s named in the report;
- A senior representative of the Academic Departments of the student/s named in the report.
8.3 In addition, consideration will be given to the inclusion of external stakeholders who are actively involved in supporting the student/s affected or who can make a contribution to the purpose of the IRM. This may include, but is not limited to representatives from a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre or the Safeguarding Manager based within the local Police force.
8.4 In determining the membership of the IRM, the DLSVMO will ensure that University members of the IRM have received appropriate training. The gender composition of the IRM will be taken into account.
8.5 During the IRM, the members will:
- Consider the academic, welfare and support needs of the Reporting Party and of the Accused Party and of any other members of the University community directly involved in the alleged incident and identify any actions required to ensure that those needs are met;
- Undertake a risk assessment in order to determine whether any precautionary measures need to be put in place in order to:
- ensure that a full and proper investigation can be carried out (either by the police or University) and/or
- protect the Reporting Party or others whilst the allegation is being dealt with as part of a criminal process or disciplinary process.
- Precautionary measures may include:
- imposing conditions on the Accused Party (for example, requiring the Accused Party not to contact certain witnesses or requiring the Accused Party to move accommodation or prohibiting the Accused Party from going to certain places within the University at certain times of the day); or
- suspending the Accused Party (in which case General Regulation VI: Suspension will apply)
- Identify the members of staff within the University with responsibility for supporting the Reporting Party and Accused Party and, where appropriate, inform them of the outcome of the IRM;
- Ensure that arrangements are in place to maintain confidentiality as appropriate;
- Review the involvement of external agencies (e.g. Sexual Assault Referral Centre and the Police);
- Decide/make recommendations about what the next steps should be and determine how to carry forward the decisions and/or recommendations that are made;
- Consider any other actions relevant to the alleged incident.
8.6 Actions arising out of the IRM may include (but are not limited to):
- The provision of further or different support to the students involved. The support measures may relate to academic, housing, finance, health and well-being matters.
- The imposition of precautionary conditions on the Accused Student pending the outcome of the criminal and/or disciplinary process;
- A recommendation to the Academic Registrar that a suspension be imposed on the Accused Student (under General Regulation VI) pending the outcome of criminal investigations/proceedings and/or internal investigations/disciplinary proceedings.
- A recommendation to the LSVMO that the alleged incident be investigated under this procedure;
- Appropriate communication with the parties involved;
- Collection of further information necessary to inform future management of the situation;
- A recommendation to the LSVMO that an investigation into an alleged incident that has already commenced under paragraph 10 should be suspended or terminated.
8.7 The Academic Support Office will be responsible for ensuring that any decisions or recommendations made at the IRM are recorded and acted upon.
8.8 The risk assessment and any precautionary measures that are put in place will be reviewed regularly and amended as appropriate. Additional review meetings may be convened by the DLSVMO as they believe necessary.
8.9 Where either the IRM or the LSVMO determines that an alleged incident should not be considered under this procedure, the Academic Support Office/LSVMO shall provide the Reporting Party with written reasons for the determination and information about their right to seek a review or challenge the decision.
9. Investigating a report under this procedure
9.1 Where the IRM recommends that a Report of an alleged incident of Sexual Violence and Misconduct should be investigated under this procedure and the LSVMO agrees with that recommendation, the following process will apply.
9.2 The LSVMO will appoint two investigating officers who have been trained in understanding Sexual Violence and Misconduct who will be designated as Authorised University Officers under the University’s General Regulations. One of the Investigating Officers will be identified by the LVSMO as the lead investigator. The investigators will seek to gather evidence as to whether or not a breach of the University’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy has occurred. The investigation will be supported by the Academic Support Office.
9.3 Investigating Officers will act promptly and tactfully, observing appropriate levels of confidentiality at all times. Investigating Officers will take appropriate measures to provide a safe, comfortable and supportive environment in which to discuss the alleged incident with the Reporting Party, Accused Party and any witnesses. Investigating Officers may consult external parties to seek specialist advice as required while maintaining confidentiality.
9.4 Before the investigation begins the Reporting Party will be asked to attend an initial meeting during which the procedure to be followed will be explained and the details of the allegation will be confirmed. If the Reporting Party is unwilling for the Accused Party to be informed of the allegation against them, the investigation cannot proceed. A note of the initial meeting will be sent to the Reporting Party who will be asked to confirm whether it is an accurate summary of the discussion.
9.5 Following the initial meeting with the Reporting Party, an investigation will be undertaken as quickly as possible and will normally begin within 5 working days of that meeting. All parties involved will be expected to maintain appropriate levels of confidentiality. The Reporting Party and Accused Party will be informed that they must not make any contact with each other during the course of the investigation unless otherwise instructed by the Investigating Officers.
9.6 The Reporting Party and any potential witnesses will be required to attend an investigation meeting with the Investigating Officers. Students may be accompanied by a member of the University community such as a member of staff, Students’ Union representative or a fellow student or a member of a specialist external agency such as the Sexual Assault Referral Centre or Rape Crisis.
9.7 The Accused Party will receive written notification of the allegation made against them, informed of the procedure being followed and asked to attend a meeting with the Investigating Officers. Students may be accompanied by a member of the University community such as a member of staff, Students’ Union representative or a fellow student. During this meeting the procedure will be explained and the details of the allegation against them will be confirmed. The Accused Party will be given a full and fair opportunity to explain or present their version of events in response to the allegation.
9.8 In all investigatory meetings, notes will be made and the interviewee will be asked to confirm that it is an accurate summary of the discussion. The interviewee may make any written comments about any section of the notes that they do not agree with. Copies of the confirmed notes, with any comments, will be retained by both the interviewee and the Investigating Officers.
9.9 The Investigating Officers may hold additional meetings or consult with additional parties as necessary to obtain relevant information and evidence.
9.10 The Investigating Officers may either:
- decide that no further action is required (for example, because there is no evidence that the alleged incident took place) - in such an instance the case will be dismissed and no disciplinary action will be taken; or
- decide that further action is required.
10. Major or non-major breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy
10.1 If the Investigating Officers determine that further action is required, they will decide whether the alleged incident, if proven, would constitute a breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy and, if so, whether it should be treated as a non-major or major offence under General Regulation IV: Discipline.
10.2 The nature of the alleged misconduct, the evidence of the alleged misconduct and any mitigation present in the case will be taken into account when determining whether the case will be classified as a potential breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy and a non-major or major offence under General Regulation IV: Discipline. A list of the types of behaviour which may be considered to constitute a non-major breach and a list of the types of behaviour which may be considered to constitute a major breach is set out below. The lists are illustrative only and are not exhaustive.
10.3 Under General Regulation IV, breaches of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy that would constitute a non-major offence include:
- kissing another person on the hand or cheek without consent where there is no element of force or other harassment behaviours involved;
- a single incident of following another person without good reason where there is no threatening or abusive behaviour involved;
- making a single remark of a sexual nature where there was clearly no intention to cause offence;
- inappropriately showing sexual organs to others where the act is not focused upon any individual.
10.4 Under General Regulation IV, breaches of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy that would constitute a major offence may include:
- engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act without consent;
- kissing another person without consent where there is any element of force involved;
- touching others inappropriately;
- threatening or abusive behaviour of a sexual nature;
- sharing intimate images or recordings of another person without their consent;
- instances where non-major Sexual Violence and Misconduct is frequent or repeated or the Accused Party fails to comply with disciplinary decisions or sanctions.
10.5 If the Investigating Officers determine that the alleged incident, if proven, would constitute a breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy and a non-major offence under General Regulation IV: Discipline and the alleged misconduct is admitted in full by the Accused Party, the Investigating Officers will determine whether it is appropriate to impose a sanction/s on the Accused Party and, if so, decide which sanction/s should be imposed. If the Investigating Officers determine that the alleged incident, if proven, would constitute a non-major offence and the alleged misconduct is not admitted in full by the Accused Party, the Investigating Officers will decide, on the balance of probabilities (it is more likely than not), if misconduct has occurred and, if so, will determine whether it is appropriate to impose a sanction/s on the Accused Party and, if so, decide which sanction/s should be imposed.
10.6 The circumstances and context of each case will be taken into account when determining whether a sanction/s should be imposed and if so, which sanction/s should be imposed and, where relevant, the timeframe for compliance. The following list provides examples of sanctions which may be imposed by the Investigating Officers for a breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy which is a non-major offence under General Regulation IV. The list is illustrative and is not exhaustive:
- Undertaking additional training or attend an appointment for counselling.
- A reprimand.
- A requirement to change College membership (with the consent of the relevant Heads of College and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience).
- A permanent restriction on contact with a named person or person(s).
- A reasonable additional sanction given the nature of the incident (see paragraph 8 (f) of General Regulation IV: Discipline).
10.7 If the Accused Party fails to comply with the sanctions imposed by the Investigating Officers within the time specified they may be considered to be in breach of the ruling and the Investigating Officers may refer the matter to the Chair or Deputy Chair of Senate Discipline Committee as an alleged major offence under the University’s General Regulation IV - Discipline.
10.8 If the Investigating Officers determine that the alleged incident, if proven, would constitute a breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy and a major offence under General Regulation IV: Discipline, they should refer the matter to the Chair or Deputy Chair of Senate Discipline Committee as an alleged major offence under paragraph 5 (c) of the University’s General Regulation IV – Discipline.
10.9 The Investigating Officers will write to the Reporting Party, the Accused Party and the LSVMO setting out a brief written decision summarising their findings and considerations which led them to reach their decision.
11. Request for a Review
11.1 If the Reporting Party or the Accused Party is dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation or they believe the matter has not been handled fairly in accordance with this procedure, they may request a review in writing to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) within 14 days of receipt of the outcome. This review process can be used if a decision is taken not to consider a case under this procedure or if a decision is made to take no further action following an investigation under this procedure or in relation to a decision about alleged misconduct which has been classified as a non-major breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy. It cannot be used to challenge the classification of an allegation of misconduct as a non-major or major breach of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy.
11.2 The review request should include details of why the Reporting Party/Accused Party is dissatisfied with the way the case has been handled and demonstrate why this had a substantial, material effect on the Investigating Officers’ decision, or why they believe the outcome is not reasonable together with any supporting documentation.
11.3 The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), or their nominee, may choose to undertake the review if they are independent of the case or will identify a senior officer, independent of the case to undertake the review ("Reviewer").
11.4 The request will be reviewed on the basis of the documentation provided by the student and that held by the Investigating Officers. The Reviewer may seek further information if necessary. If the Reviewer decides that the case was not handled appropriately or the outcome was not reasonable, the Reviewer may take whatever action the Reviewer decides is required. For example, the Reviewer may require a new investigation to take place or make a change to the sanction imposed or change the nature of the disciplinary process/action. If the Reviewer decides that the case has been handled fairly and the outcome is reasonable, the review request will be dismissed.
11.5 If both parties submit a review request a single Reviewer will review both requests. The other party will not be informed that a review request was made, its details or its outcome unless the Reviewer determines it necessary in the circumstances or if the review is upheld and any further action materially affects the other party;
11.6 The party who requested the review will be informed of the outcome of the review request within 28 days of receipt. The decision of the review request is final.
Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education
Once all internal processes have been exhausted, a student can make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) if they remain dissatisfied with the University’s decision. Further information is available on the OIA website: www.oiahe.org.uk.
Student Alcohol Awareness and Use Policy
The purpose of this policy is to outline the University’s position on alcohol consumption and related issues amongst the student body.
(2) Policy Statement
The University recognises that moderate consumption of alcohol can be an enjoyable part of socialising and has no wish to discourage sensible and responsible drinking. However, the University is concerned to make all students aware of the harmful effects of alcohol, particularly as they relate to health, behaviour, safety, and academic performance, and to establish guidelines for its proper use. The University also considers it important to encourage a social life that respects those who choose not to drink alcohol. Overall the University aims to provide a supportive environment which encourages a culture of self-regulation and a respect and care for others.
The University is committed to achieving the following objectives:
(3.1) to promote a clear and consistent message which advocates responsible alcohol use at Durham University sanctioned events and activities, and more generally;
(3.2) to improve awareness of the impact of alcohol and the health risks associated with consumption;
(3.3) to promote personal responsibility for alcohol consumption and care and support in relation to that of others;
(3.4) to provide a safe environment for all Durham University sanctioned events and activities that mitigates the risks and reduces the vulnerabilities related to the consumption of alcohol;
(3.5) to provide an atmosphere free from pressure to drink for those who choose not to drink alcohol;
(3.6) to offer a balanced social programme with choice and alternatives to drinking alcohol;
(3.7) to offer appropriate help and support to those who experience problems related to their consumption of alcohol;
(3.8) to provide appropriate support for those affected by the alcohol-related behaviour and problems of others;
(3.9) to ensure that University strategies and procedures in this area are consistent with those of appropriate external agencies such as the Government, Students’ Union, external support agencies and community stakeholders;
(3.10) to have clear, appropriate and integrated procedures to deal with problems arising from alcohol use which are both supportive and disciplinary as appropriate;
(3.11) to challenge behaviours in relation to alcohol consumption where these are identified as posing a risk, for example pre-loading;
(3.12) to identify, monitor and reduce alcohol-related incidents in so far as they affect our student body.
The implementation of this policy, through a supporting annual action plan, is overseen by the University Executive Committee Lead on Alcohol, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience). The objectives (above) will be implemented through:
(4.1) the dissemination of the Policy on Student Alcohol Use and Awareness to all members of the University community;
(4.2) clear statements on alcohol which can be used in all University publications, including materials for recruitment, induction and progressing students;
(4.3) the organisation of educational information, campaigns and events to raise awareness of alcohol together with the behavioural and health risks associated with excessive consumption, and to promote individual and collective responsibility for alcohol consumption; these should be delivered throughout the year and directed at all students through integrated delivery from appropriate sections of the University together with the Students’ Union;
(4.4) the promotion of Durham University sanctioned events which are inclusive; all events will provide cheaply priced or free non-alcoholic refreshments, or will not involve any alcohol;
(4.5) University policy not to sanction any events or activities which encourage inappropriate and excessive consumption of alcohol such as drinking games, and a zero tolerance approach towards initiation ceremonies;
(4.6) the consideration of the appropriateness and inclusiveness of sponsorship from outlets that retail alcohol;
(4.7) the provision of appropriate and accessible advice and signposting for all students who experience problems related to their own alcohol consumption or that of others; through the College Student Support Offices, the Counselling Service, or the Students’ Union Advice and Help Service, and to appropriate specialist external agencies, for example;
(4.8) the provision of regular training for staff and students to improve awareness and develop skills to address alcohol-related problems;
(4.9) regular liaison and meetings with appropriate external agencies and community stakeholders (e.g. Health Services, Local Authority, Police, specialist agencies, Residents’ Associations);
(4.10) where appropriate, the effective use of the disciplinary procedures in response to allegations of alcohol-related misconduct;
(4.11) the assessment of risks associated with alcohol consumption at all Durham University sanctioned events and activities for students, and the implementation of appropriate mitigation to address the vulnerabilities created by drinking alcohol;
(4.12) the consumption of alcohol during normal working hours only occurring on special occasions, such as presentations, or seasonal gatherings, and with the prior permission of the appropriate Head of College, Department or Section; on such occasions the provision of alcohol should be moderate and suitable non-alcoholic alternatives made available;
(4.13) the monitoring of alcohol-related incidents at all Durham University sanctioned events;
(4.14) the regular review of the policy, associated procedures and annual action plan, including input from student representatives.
The University Executive Committee Lead on Alcohol, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), has oversight of and responsibility for the Policy on Alcohol Awareness and Use and associated annual action plan.
The University is a caring community committed to promoting the wellbeing of its members and supporting those who wish to address problems.
We provide appropriate help and advice for students who wish to address issues arising from their own alcohol use, and also provide appropriate help and advice for those adversely affected by the alcohol-related behaviour and problems of others.
Excessive drinking can be the first outward sign that an individual needs help. Students can seek advice from their College Student Support Office, from the Counselling Service or from the Students’ Union Advice and Help Service, and will be signposted and assisted to access appropriate external specialist agencies.
As well as offering appointments, the Counselling Service also provides electronic sources of support available through the service website: www.durham.ac.uk/counselling.service/.
The University, through all appropriate sections and together with the Students’ Union, provides regular education and publicity to raise awareness of the health and other risks associated with the misuse of alcohol and to promote responsible alcohol consumption to all members.
(8) Ticketed Events and Activities
Tickets sold for all Durham University sanctioned student events and activities, whether taking place within or outside the University, will always provide a ticket option which does not include any alcohol at all, and if alcohol is included in a ticket price then the amount shall not exceed three units.
(9) College Bars
College bars are not merely outlets for alcohol. They provide inclusive social space for college communities and are the focus of a wide range of events and activities that may or may not include alcohol. College bars are safe and supportive environments.
All college bars conform to standard operating procedures.
Colleges have Designated Premises Supervisors and permanent managers are responsible for the operation of the bars. Permanent managers and key student members complete the BIIAB Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders along with other relevant training.
A minimum pricing policy is in operation and is reviewed annually. No promotions which encourage the purchase of alcohol through giveaways or reduced prices are permitted.
All college bars are accredited by the Best Bar None Scheme which includes annual inspections. The bars of Durham City colleges are also members of the Durham City Pub watch.
(10) Community Liaison
The University is committed to working in partnership with community stakeholders (Emergency Services, Local Authority, Residents’ Associations etc.) and regularly liaises to share views on best practice regarding the problems associated with alcohol consumption and to take action where this is identified as being necessary.
(11) University Regulations
The University recognises that, regrettably, excessive consumption of alcohol is a common factor when dealing with student misconduct. Consequently the University regulations.
apply in respect of any alleged misconduct, including misconduct which is a consequence of alcohol use. Being under the influence of alcohol is not an excuse for misconduct, offensive, abusive or illegal behaviour, and may be regarded as an aggravating feature. The application of disciplinary procedures always includes the provision of appropriate support.
(12) University Staff
It is the responsibility of all University staff to promote safe, sensible and responsible alcohol use and to signpost and assist those students who wish to access support for problems arising from alcohol use. The University will provide appropriate training and sources of advice.
(13) Monitoring and Review
This policy and the achievement of its objectives through the annual action plan will be reviewed annually by the University Executive Committee Lead on Alcohol, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience). This review will include receipt of data collected to monitor incidents related to the consumption of alcohol and the use of support services provided to address alcohol-related issues.