Cambridge University partially bans relationships between students and staff

From 1st July, intimate relationships between staff and students will be banned

Cambridge University has introduced a new Staff and Students Relationship Policy which partially prohibits staff “from pursuing or entering into an intimate relationship with any student for whom they have any direct or indirect academic responsibilities”.

The new policy will come into effect on 1st July and marks a departure from the university’s previous policy, which said that relationships between students and staff should “be avoided” but were permitted if they were disclosed.

Although relationships between students and staff members without direct or indirect responsibilities for them are not prohibited, they will be required to report the relationship with the Head of Institution, who will “assess the risk of any conflict of interest”.

In addition to intimate relationships and those of a sexual nature, the policy also “strongly discourages” staff from entering into friendships with students.

The policy also discourages students from “behaviour/s towards members of staff that could be interpreted as flirtatious” and staff will be required to report such behaviour to the head of institution or HR Business Partnering Team. It will then be the responsibility of the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA) to determine appropriate next steps.

According to the university, the policy “seeks to protect members of staff and students from misconduct”. However, it “does not apply to employees and workers solely engaged by the Colleges”.

Employees who are currently or have been in relationships or close friendships with students have until 1st August to report these relationships.

Whilst the new policy marks a shift from the previous relationship policy, it comes over a year after the University of Oxford introduced a similar policy towards relationships between students and staff, whilst University College London introduced a similar ban more than four years ago.

Furthermore, the University of Exeter’s policy advises that “no member of staff should commence or pursue an intimate relationship with a student”, even one they do not have direct responsibility for, calling into question whether Cambridge’s new policy goes far enough.

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