Case Study: Robert Gordon University

How one of Scotland’s oldest educational institutions changed the way gender-based violence incidents were handled.

  • Concerns over the rising number of (gender-based violence) GBV incidents prompted a new approach from Robert Gordon University (RGU)
  • Culture Shift was launched as part of the award-nominated Speak Up Speak Out campaign
  • Culture Shift data highlighted a continued lack of understanding around consent, allowing RGU to create new targeted campaign materials
  • 70% of surveyed students said they would feel confident making a report compared to less than 10% before the campaign
  • The campaign has extended to other forms of unacceptable behaviour, including hate crime, harassment and bullying

Background

Robert Gordon University’s history dates back more than 250 years. It was awarded university status in 1992 and now provides 300 courses to a student population of more than 16,000. 

Like a lot of institutions, RGU had grown concerned by media reports about the rising levels of gender-based violence on university campuses. At the same time, Scotland’s Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities toolkit had just been launched.

As an institution with a strong culture of inclusivity, it recognised the need to be proactive. To raise awareness of gender-based violence within its communities, improve reporting pathways and highlight the support available within the university and local support services. Furthermore, it wanted to educate its community on consent and bystander intervention. 

What happened

RGU identified Culture Shift (then Report + Support) to form a key part of its solution. Among the key reasons for the choice were the platform’s easy user interface, personalisation and case management capabilities. Plus, the ability to provide information 24-7 and online.

The platform was launched as part of the university’s Speak Up Speak Out campaign created in partnership with its Student Union and Student Presidents. 

To complement the launch of the platform and support case management, RGU also launched its ‘First Responders’. Staff trained by Rape Crisis Scotland to handle face-to-face disclosures of gender-based violence.

The campaign was then supported with social media posts as well as promotional material on campus, including screensavers, plasmas and flags hung on lampposts. The university also held a launch event one month into the academic year. 

Impact

Since launch, the university continues to identify that a high proportion of incidents are due to a lack of understanding of consent, what constitutes an offence, and a lack of understanding of what behaviours are and are not acceptable.

70% of surveyed students said they would feel confident making a report about gender-based violence incidents compared to less than 10% before the campaign.

Since launch, more RGU staff have been trained to receive disclosures and support information is updated regularly.

RGU has prioritised raising consent and bystander intervention awareness through a number of wider campaigns around Dignity, Respect, Tolerance and Equality. 

Following the success of the gender-based violence campaign, Culture Shift is being extended for reports of hate crime, harassment and bullying.

The campaign has received national media coverage from BBC Radio Scotland and was shortlisted for the NUS Scotland Awards 2019. 

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“Culture Shift’s Report and Support platform really gives us an opportunity to effectively reach our community and provides a user friendly central hub to signpost to support and help. It enables us to collect data that we weren’t effectively collecting previously so we can improve our services and better target our communications to work towards building a safe campus for everyone – so they can most effectively enjoy their time studying here with us at RGU.”
Fiona Hall, Project Coordinator, Student Life, Robert Gordon University

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