STUDENTS
16/06/2015 12:13 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 12:59 BST

Figures Showing A Third Of Females Discriminated Or Harassed At University A 'Disgrace'

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Yvette Cooper makes a speech in support of her Labour Party leadership campaign at 10 Greycoat Place, London, as the final line-up of candidates in the Labour leadership election will become clear when nominations close for the contest to succeed Ed Miliband at the helm of the Opposition.

Yvette Cooper has described revelations that a third of female students are discriminated or harassed at university as "disgraceful".

The MP, who is in the running to become Labour's next leader, urged higher education institutions to act on the research, which showed universities are failing to respond adequately to the endemic problem.

The survey of female students at UK universities found one in three had experienced discrimination or sexual harassment, with more than half of the incidents occurring on campus. Of those victims, 93% did not report their experiences.

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One female said her case was dropped by the police "after pressure from the university". Another dropped out of lectures to avoid seeing the perpetrator, who had no action taken against him, despite the female student lodging a complaint.

"No one cares," one student said. "We all have to live with this guy in our lectures and classes."

Cooper has now called for a code of conduct to ensure universities investigate the problem.

"Universities must not turn a blind eye to this disgraceful harassment and discrimination," she said. "It's appalling that so many women should feel unable to complete their studies in a safe and comfortable environment - and the fact the vast majority say they did not report incidents shows such discrimination and harassment is being seen as normal.

"Treating cases of discrimination and harassment as arguments or disagreements is utterly unacceptable."

The research, by student website Hexjam, is the latest in a series of surveys into sexual harassment at universities.

A 2013 report by the National Union of Students (NUS) into lad culture on campus revealed half of students have experienced "prevailing sexism, laddism and a culture of harassment", with some even dropping out as a result.

The following year it emerged one in four students had been subjected to unwanted sexual advances, with more than a third of female students facing inappropriate touching and groping.

The same year, a Cambridge University Students' Union survey revealed nearly a third of its students had been sexually assaulted.

Speaking about the recent figures, Susuana Antubam, the NUS' women's officer, said sexual harassment was "very common" at universities.

"Institutions are dealing with cases of sexual assault as they would an argument - putting victims and perpetrators in the same room, and telling them to work it out," she said. "We see institutions give students no support whatsoever and wanting the students to take it outside the campus rather than deal with it in the campus."

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said it would work with universities to "ensure students remain safe".