THEA welcomes the publication today by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD of the findings of national surveys of student and staff experiences of sexual violence and harassment in higher education.
It is clear that every part of our society has been affected by sexual violence and harassment. The higher education sector is in a unique position to show leadership in this area. Sexual violence and harassment should have no place in our higher education institutions.
Our member institutions have worked diligently since the production of the Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions [Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions], published in April 2019. All our institutions have robust actions plans in place to embed this Framework in policies and practices in their institutions. These action plans have been accepted by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and aim to tackle all aspects of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
While we have worked hard to create and implement plans in order to embed the Consent Framework in our institutions, we have consistently called for further investment to be made, at both institutional and national level, in order to fund the essential activities that are required to fully embed these plans. In our PROPEL report (Promoting Consent and Preventing Sexual Violence in higher education), we call in particular the creation of new posts such as a ‘Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Manager’ in institutions, to be supported at a national level by a sectoral representative and a panel of independent, trauma-informed investigators and by funding that is specifically ringfenced to support the prevention of sexual violence and harassment.
Much work has been done to embed training and reporting procedures in our institutions, with such initiatives being informed by valuable partnerships with experts, such as Rape Crisis Centres. It is somewhat positive to see that according to the survey results, the majority of people trusted that their college will support them, and a large majority endorsed positive behaviour and active consent. In 2021, we worked with Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education (PCHEI) and our member institutions to develop the anonymous reporting tool, ‘Speak Out’, which has been implemented across 19 higher education institutions since October 2021. This national online anonymous reporting tool has been designed by experts in this field to provide a safe space for all our communities to report incidences of bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, discrimination, hate crime, stalking, coercive behaviour/control, assault, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and rape. It also provides information on supports and services local to those who access it. The national data that will be collected through this tool will enhance our understanding of the data that is being published today. Importantly, this tool will facilitate sustained analysis over time, enabling institutional leaders to reflect on current initiatives, progress made, trends and challenges, and plans for improvement.
As a community, we are fully committed to working positively to encourage open conversation and tackle all aspects of sexual harassment. It is important to acknowledge that our understanding of the problems of sexual violence and harassment in higher education is still developing, and the best means of preventing and responding to these issues are consequently also in evolution. Steps being taken by leaders of higher education in Ireland are part of an all-of-education – indeed, all-of-society - response to sexual violence and harassment. Higher education will continue to play an influential and impactful role in this area.
For further information please contact:
Róisín O’Connell, Head of Communications, THEA: (087) 9193333; email@example.com
Notes to editors
The Technological Higher Education Association is the representative advocacy body for the Institutes of Technology and TUS.
For more information on the PROPEL Report (Promoting Consent and Preventing Sexual Violence in higher education institutions, please go to:
To download the full report please go to