The University of Sussex failed in its duty of care to a student who was assaulted by her lecturer boyfriend, an independent inquiry into the case has found.
Postgraduate student Allison Smith was punched and kicked by Dr Lee Salter in September 2015. He also doused her eyes and ears in salt.
But the university waited more than a month to suspend the senior media lecturer after he was charged with assault and criminal damage in June 2016, the Press Association reported.
The case led to a massive backlash from the public, with more than 3,000 people signing a petition calling for Salter’s dismissal.
A review into the university’s handling of the case, conducted by Durham University’s Professor Nicole Westmarland, found that Sussex had failed to follow it’s own policies and procedures.
“The university failed in their duty of pastoral care towards (the student),” Westmarland said.
“On top of the emotional support she received she should have been kept up to date with the broad actions that were being taken, subject to the university’s contractual and statutory duties of confidentiality.
“Failing to do so caused her considerable stress and anxiety over an extended period of time.”
The inquiry also criticised the university’s risk assessment of the situation as inadequate, and found that media attention had played a role in Salter’s eventual suspension on August 3.
The lecturer, who met Smith, 24, on an induction day at the university, was charged with assault and criminal damage over the attack.
He was sentenced to 22 weeks in jail, suspended for 18 months, a restraining order and 150 hours of unpaid work.
Salter resigned from his role in August 2016. An appeal against his conviction is due in April.
While the review made 11 recommendations, it praised two members of staff, one of whom offered support to Smith in a “subtle, unassuming and discreet” way.
The university’s new vice-chancellor Professor Adam Tickell said: “Our foremost concern remains with Allison Smith, who has been incredibly courageous in sharing her story.
“I have spoken with Allison to let her know my personal views and it is only right that I am now able to formally, and publicly, acknowledge that the university’s response to her case was inadequate.
“Consequently, on behalf of the University of Sussex, I am very sorry for the failings identified in Professor Westmarland’s report. I am grateful to Allison for taking part in the review. We will continue to offer her whatever support she needs.”
The university is now bringing in a major series of initiatives in response to the recommendations, the vice-chancellor added.