The University of St Andrews is introducing a compulsory module on consent and sexual assault for all of its students, following a Telegraph investigation into a series of alleged rapes on campus.
Every single one of the university’s 9,000 students will be required to participate in the online class before they are allowed to start the forthcoming academic year in a move that has been praised by female students.
The university also said that it was undertaking work to ensure that its staff were sufficiently trained up to support sexual assault victims.
On Saturday, The Telegraph revealed that more than a dozen claims of rape and sexual assault have been levelled at members of a US-style fraternity who have now suspended some of their cohort.
At least nine allegations of rape were made against students in the St Andrew’s branch of Alpha Epsilon Pi – a global fraternity with more than 170 groups in seven countries.
The fraternity responded to the claims saying: “We find the contents of these allegations abhorrent, and are taking them extremely seriously.”
They said they “immediately suspended members who acknowledged any role in the alleged incidents and entered them into Alpha Epsilon Pi’s expulsion process.”
Both the police and the university have urged victims to come forward, and the group has pledged to work with the authorities to ensure that justice can be served.
Now, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that the University has taken swift action and all new and returning students will have to undertake an online module on consent and sexual assault.
In a statement, the university said: “We are introducing a compulsory orientation module for the upcoming academic year which will require students to learn more about consent and sexual assault before matriculating – all entrants and returners will be required to complete this online orientation.
“We are also undertaking work to ensure that our staff, particularly those in Student Services, are trained to support assault victims.
“The University will always act when incidents are formally reported, and is committed to working collaboratively with students to promote a culture of responsibility and respect, in which everyone can trust in our procedures and that our community is intolerant of all forms of sexual misconduct.”
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, one young woman who says she was raped by a fraternity member in February this year says it is a welcome move by the university.
“I think this is really good because the fact that this is compulsory means that people can be held accountable.
“Unless they want to drop out of uni then they have to do it.
“This shows that the University is going to the effort of putting this in play. I haven’t always been happy with the way that the university has handled this, but the new initiative shows progression.
“They are being made to get the message now.
“I hope this will make people think more about their actions and make them aware that this cannot happen.”
St Andrews Survivors, a group which has campaigned to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus told the Sunday Telegraph: “This move shows a recognition that more has to be implemented on an institutional level to combat the culture that fosters a tolerance for sexual assault.
“Through awareness, students are more likely to understand consent and boundaries, and are more prepared to help support their friends and peers who survive trauma.
“It is a very meaningful move towards the long road required to improve treatment towards survivors and to prevent sexual assault.”
It is understood that only a handful of the UK’s 165 higher education institutions have mandatory consent classes.
In 2018, an investigation by The Tab found that only Durham and Kent had compulsory modules.
Elsewhere, classes were offered at Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Sheffield and Sussex but they were not compulsory.