Staff-student relationships now banned at UCL

UCL has just announced a ban on personal relationships between staff and students, particularly those of a romantic or sexual nature.

Suitably known as the ‘Personal Relationships Policy’, it does not allow for any “close personal and intimate relationships between staff and students where the staff member has a direct responsibility for, or involvement in, that student’s academic studies and/or personal welfare.”

For staff who have close relationships with students that they do not supervise or are responsible for, declaration of the relationship must happen within one month. Failing to do so would result in disciplinary action by the university. The university will then assess whether there is potential for any conflict of interest due to the relationship and act accordingly.

UCL has said that the policy is meant to protect against abuse of power and conflicts of interest. The rules in this policy will also apply to PHD students, as they are temporarily employed.

Kelsey Paske, manager of Behaviour and Culture Change at UCL, told The Guardian that this decision was due to a “need to recognise positions of power and power imbalances within higher education settings, and to help prevent abuses of power.”

She also said, “To prohibit certain relationships was centred on protecting both students and staff.”

The National Union of Students’ Women’s Officer, Rachel Watters, has spoken in support of the policy and hopes more universities will put in similar policies. Similar bans have been enacted at several high-profile universities in the United States, including Princeton, Harvard and Yale. The University of Greenwich and the University of Roehampton are the only other two UK-based universities that have such policies banning staff and student relationships, making UCL the first Russell Group university to do so.

A Guardian investigation previously found that 97 universities in the UK have policies discouraging staff and student relationships but they do not outrightly ban them.

This policy change has been received well by campaigners, particularly Dr Anna Bull of the 1752 Group. The 1752 Group campaigns against sexual misconduct in higher education and “strongly supported” the new policy.


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