Content warning: Sexual assault, rape
The University of Edinburgh has recorded the highest number of cases of sexual misconduct against students out of all Scottish Universities. According to a freedom of information request, as of 10 August 2021, 52 cases of sexual assault have been reported within the last five years.
However, only half of these cases resulted in the university carrying out an investigation. Only 18 led to some form of disciplinary action.
Four students opted to leave the university before their cases reached a final outcome, allowing them to avoid disciplinary proceedings.
These figures come as Scottish universities have seen an increase in reports of sexual misconduct, with figures revealing an increase from 20 reported cases across all Scottish universities in 2015/16 to 41 in 2019/20.
In response to this increase, the University of Edinburgh announced the appointment of a sexual harassment and violence liaison manager last year and has committed to the launch of new software which should enable easier documentation of incidents of sexual assault.
Gavin Douglas, The University of Edinburgh’s Deputy Secretary, stated in an interview with the BBC that he finds the allegations “distressing and disturbing”, noting that he is aware there is a “challenge with sexual violence on campus” and that the university is “committed to tackling that”.
The University of Edinburgh is not the only university to face criticism.
The University of St Andrews is in the process of appointing a specialist sexual assault counsellor outsourced from the Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.
This comes amidst allegations of a “rape culture” across campus with 47 cases of sexual assault recorded by the university in the past four years.
These changes come amidst a wave of student outcry aided by the rise of social media.
Instagram accounts such as @edi_anonymous, which gives a platform to victims of assault in the Edinburgh student community, have risen to prominence in the past 18 months. These accounts are often viewed as a safe space to spread awareness of incidents of violence.
Niamh McCrossan, a former Vice President of Welfare at the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, said in a discussion with the BBC that whilst “the university have made huge improvements, there definitely is a problem”, with regards to sexual assault on university campuses, “there is still far to come”.
Image: Flickr, Billy Wilson