University students and staff in Sheffield investigated for misconduct

Sheffield's two universities have released misconduct figures
Sheffield's two universities have released misconduct figures

University students have been investigated tens of thousands of times for misconduct during a three-year period, for serious assaults, threats of violence and sexual offending to more trivial offences, new figures reveal.

Nearly 75,000 incidents were logged by universities across the UK for the academic years 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17, with some institutions reporting significant numbers of drug-related offences and misbehaviour in student halls.

At Sheffield Hallam University, there were a total of 1,632 cases involving students and three involving staff over the three years.

The university said there were between 502 and 591 academic misconduct cases reported each year.

Cases involving students included incidents of violence and inappropriate behaviour, including allegations against 18 members of a men’s football team. 

The University of Sheffield revealed that 52 cases led to action being taken against university employees.

They included incidents of inappropriate or unreasonable behaviour, harassment, bullying, theft and verbal abuse.

The university does not hold data for its students.

Nationally, there was an across-the-board increase in academic misconduct, such as cheating in exams and collusion with other students, according to the figures.

Around 1,300 members of university staff were also investigated during the same time frame for allegations including poor time-keeping, conducting inappropriate relationships, and bullying, according to institutions with relevant data.

Inconsistencies in the way some institutions report allegations - plus the handful of those who refused to supply information - means the true numbers are likely to be much higher.

There were several serious cases of student misconduct, including one who received a ‘severe reprimand’ for ‘threatening to blow up the graduation ceremonies’.

Other incidents included allegations of sexual offences, making extremist comments and possessing weapons on campus.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, said: "These shocking figures show our world-class universities often have to put up with third-rate behaviour.

"Cheating, bullying and vandalism should have no place on university campuses - they are incredibly unfair to the majority of students and staff who are trying to do their best.

"It is imperative that universities continue to monitor behaviour that adversely affects other students and, where necessary, to provide induction and training courses to stamp it out. I hope that, in time, universities will collect this data in more comparable and transparent ways.”

Disclosure logs highlight some more familiar examples of undergraduate trouble-making - including vandalism, setting off smoke alarms, and urinating in public.

A clutch of universities also reported large groups of students getting into trouble for unacceptable behaviour on sports trips or foreign visits.

The data showed plagiarism was a common issue - with 6,394 incidents in 2014/15, rising to 7,059 the following year. This number dropped to 6,642 by 2016/17.

A spokesman for Universities UK, which represents institutions across the country, said: "All universities have a code of student conduct which sets out expectations for student behaviour.

"With more than two million students enrolled at universities across the UK, there will inevitably be occasions when a line is crossed and rules are breached. This is not new.

"The important thing is ensuring that students are familiar with the institution's code of conduct and that there are clear procedures to resolve matters when behaviour is unacceptable, and for serious issues to be escalated to the appropriate authority.”