Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland universities offer workshops on sexual consent for students

Northern Ireland's two universities are offering sexual consent classes or workshops for students. (stock photo)
Northern Ireland's two universities are offering sexual consent classes or workshops for students. (stock photo)

By Gillian Halliday

Northern Ireland's two universities are offering sexual consent classes or workshops for students.

Ulster University (UU) and Queen's University, Belfast revealed the measure as a report revealed yesterday almost two-thirds (65%) of universities across the UK have introduced the classes.

A spokesperson for UU said it worked in partnership with its student union to deliver the peer-led workshops, which are not compulsory, for new and returning students.

The workshops, Smart Consent training, have been running over the past two years.

"The university will continue to profile sexual consent workshops this academic year during sexual health week in February 2020," they added.

QUB explained in addition to its non-mandatory consent classes, it also provides an online facility to enable students report incidents relating to sexual issues.

"Queen's University is committed to protecting the health and well-being of its students and staff," they said.

The Belfast institution also revealed it employs a staff member who provides advice on healthy relationship.

"This role is supported by a team of advocates across the institution to enhance engagement with students on the issue of consent and sexual misconduct," they explained.

According to the report compiled by Universities UK (UUK), which is the umbrella organisation for 136 high-level educational institutions, other universities which have also introduced consent classes include Oxford, Edinburgh and Kent.

Its survey, based on the responses of 96 UK universities, also revealed that a number of institutions had made courses mandatory in freshers' week.

The UUK found 81% of institutions have updated their discipline procedures to address harassment, while just over 80% said they had improved support for students who reported harassment.

UU Student Union president, Andrew McAnallen, said that for the issue to be tackled effectively, it needs to begin at primary and secondary level.

"Currently, there is no standardised, comprehensive and inclusive relationship and sex education across NI and that needs to change," he said.

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