Higher Education After #MeToo

About the Project

Examining institutional responses to sexual misconduct: Higher education after #MeToo is an ESRC-funded project led by Principal Investigator Anna Bull with Senior Research Associate Erin Shannon. It aims to analyse possibilities and limitations of complaints processes for addressing sexual misconduct cases in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). Through policy analysis and interviews with university staff as well as with student and staff complainants, Higher education after #MeToo seeks to understand:

  • the extent to which university complaints processes can address sexual misconduct
  • what complaints processes reveal about the gendered nature of universities
  • and how institutional power shapes complaint processes.

In order to investigate the above areas, Anna and Erin will carry out interviews with staff at a range of case study institutions, and with staff and students who have attempted to report sexual misconduct to their higher education institutions.

About Participation

Who can participate?

In order to be eligible to participate in this study, you need to have been studying or working at a UK higher education institution when you experienced (or think you may have experienced) sexual harassment, violence, or misconduct from a higher education staff member(s) or student(s), and reported, or attempted to report, this experience to your institution. The staff member(s) can be any gender, employed at the institution you were enrolled at or another, and can be academic, professional, contract or temporarily employed staff. We are particularly interested in hearing about more recent experiences, so we would like to speak to people whose (attempted) report was made any time from January 2017 until now (even if the misconduct occurred earlier).

It doesn’t matter whether you are still a student or not, or still working at the same institution if you are or were a staff member, but you must be over 18 years old. We would like to speak to people of all gender identities and sexualities.

The interview process

If you choose to participate in this research, you will be interviewed by Dr Erin Shannon, Senior Research Associate on the project, over Zoom. In the interview, Erin will ask you about the effects that your experience of sexual misconduct has had on your academic studies as well as your life more generally. She will also ask about what would make you feel comfortable and safe to report your experience to your institution; or if you did report it, how the institution responded. There is no need to talk about your actual experiences of misconduct, unless you wish to. You’ll have the opportunity see the interview questions prior to the interview.

In order to make the interview as safe as possible for you, you can choose where it takes place, whether it is recorded or not, and you can talk about as much or as little of your experience as you are comfortable with. You are very welcome to take a break or stop the interview at any point, and the interview will be a non-judgemental space. Due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, all interviews will take place over Zoom; we can discuss any issues around data security or other concerns you may have.

The interview will be audio recorded if you are happy with this. If you prefer not to be audio recorded, then Erin will take notes during the interview. After the interview, she will send you a copy of the transcript or notes from your interview via a password protected file over email, so that you can check over what you said and amend anything. You are welcome to bring someone with you to the interview for support if you would like. If you think that you may find it upsetting to talk through your experience, then you may wish to arrange for a friend or family member to meet you at the end of the interview.

To express interest in participating

If you meet the above criteria and would like to participate in this research, email Erin at erin.shannon@port.ac.uk with the subject line “HE after #MeToo: Participation Inquiry.” You can read the full information sheet and consent form here.

Meet the interviewer

Erin Shannon, an associate member of The 1752 Group and a Senior Research Associate at the University of Portsmouth, will be conducting the interviews for this project. She received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of York in January 2021. Watch Erin’s introductory video below:

Click here for a transcript of the video.

Prospective Staff Participants

We will be carrying out research with up to four higher education institutions (HEIs), interviewing any staff who are involved with handling sexual misconduct complaints institution. Each HEI that participates in the project will have the opportunity to create a partnership agreement with us that discusses what the research entails, how we will securely store the data, and how we will report the results. If you belong to a partner HEI and work in a role whose remit includes responding to sexual misconduct complaints, we will contact you via internal gatekeepers to ask if you would like to participate in this research.