Universities will be stepping up their focus on student spiking across the UK and the response procedures to them.
A new practice note has been published by Universities UK to help universities prepare, ahead of the start of the academic year, for any reported spiking incidents.
According to Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) 14% of students know or think they have been given drugs through their drinks without their knowledge, following a survey in November 2021.
Alongside this over a third of respondents know or think they have been spiked at a local nightclub and over 70% of respondents who think or know they’ve been spiked did not report their experience(s) of spiking to anyone.
40% of respondents who know or think they’ve been spiked reported their experience of spiking, of which a quarter were supported getting home safely. Respondents also stated they would like students’ unions and universities to provide mental health support to victims of spiking.
UUK to support universities with spiking response
Ahead of the start of the 2022-23 year, universities are being urged to prepare to support their student communities with essential information to prevent spiking and on what to do if it does occur.
The note is the initial output of a working group, originally convened by ministers at the Department of Education, and chaired by Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter.
The practice note outlines how:
- When dealing with spiking and communicating its risks, universities must understand and recognise its complexities. It is not only a crime that impacts women, or one necessarily linked to sexual violence and assault. It may not even involve the use of illegal drugs. Failure to recognise this can make it less likely that some students will report it.
- Any communications should focus on the perpetrator and not the victim – well-used simplistic messaging like ‘don’t leave your drink unattended’ put the impetus on the potential victim. Communications should focus on deterring the perpetrator, and then helping victims or witnesses to report incidents.
- The disciplinary process for perpetrators must be clear and well-explained.
- Universities should have an ‘open door’ policy on reporting and be clear that information students disclose in this process, as victims or as witnesses, will not result in negative consequences for them.
- A ‘multi-partner approach’ is needed, with universities working with student unions, local police, nighttime venues and NHS, in recognition that this is a wider problem which cannot be tackled by one sector alone. Student representatives must also help design awareness campaigns, be consulted and heard.
Prof Roberts said: ‘Spiking is a horrific crime that nobody should have to experience or fear. While the true scale of the problem is uncertain, we do know that every student should be able to safely enjoy the social opportunities of university life without feeling afraid.
‘The entire higher education community needs to understand the risks, and universities can help be part of the solution.
‘We want university life to be as safe and enjoyable as possible for every student and to deliver that outcome, universities will look to work closely with local police, healthcare providers and partners in the night-time economy to help ensure everyone can safely enjoy the nightlife of our local towns and cities.’