The use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases at universities is masking the scale of the problem, campaigners have said.
Academics and lawyers told the Guardian the confidentiality contracts were being used by universities trying to protect their reputations.
Campaigners are calling for greater punishments for academics who sexually harass students, The Press Association reported.
Non-disclosure agreements are legal contracts and are sometimes a part of a settlement.
Universities UK told the Guardian there were no statistics on the use of the agreements but it was likely that they were used occasionally when employees left.
“There are very few penalties for academics who sexually harass their students; until penalties are established and made known, the problem will continue.”
The Department for Education told the Guardian that universities had clear responsibilities to students, including having policies in place for handling sexual harassment complaints.
A spokesman said: “If a student is unhappy with how a complaint has been dealt with they can speak to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. Ultimately, if a student feels they have been the victim of a sexual assault they should report it to the police.”