Publication - Minutes

Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities minutes: April 2019

Published: 26 Jun 2019
Date of meeting: 24 Apr 2019
Date of next meeting: 25 Jun 2019

Minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday, 24 April 2019 at Victoria Quay, Edinburgh.

26 Jun 2019
Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities minutes: April 2019

Attendees and apologies


  • Saira Kapasi, Head of VAWG and Barnahus Justice Unit, Violence against Women and Girls, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Gareth Allen, Advanced Learning and Science, Scottish Government
  • Steven Paxton, Advanced Learning and Directorate, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Kirstin McPhee, The Equality Unit, Scottish Government
  • Jill Stevenson, AMOSSHE
  • Fiona Drouet, Emily Test
  • Maria Zuffova, University of Strathclyde
  • Dr Melanie McCarry, University of Strathclyde
  • David Livey, NUS Scotland
  • Susannah Lane, Universities Scotland
  • Dr Susan Cairncross, Universities Scotland/Edinburgh Napier University
  • Suzanne Marshall, College Development Network
  • Rachel Adamson, Scottish Funding Council
  • Dr Laura James, Government Improvement Service
  • Suzanne Marshall, College Development Network
  • Kathryn Dawson, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Fiona McMullen, ASSIST, Glasgow
  • Jackie Main, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Kay Steven, Advance HE
  • Dr Davena Rankin, UNISON
  • Roseanna Macdonald, Scottish Women's Aid


  • Harry Wood, Justice Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Kate Anderson, Justice Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Natalie Wilson, Advanced Learning and Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Anni Donaldson, University of Strathclyde
  • Dr. Anke Kossurok, University of Strathclyde
  • Shuwanna Aaron, NUS Scotland
  • Detective Inspector, Julie Marshall, Police Scotland
  • Pam Currie, EIS
  • Mhairi McGowan, ASSIST Glasgow
  • Lauren O’Rourke, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Isabelle Kerr, Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis
  • Cara Spence, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Scott Anderson, Education Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed Dr Sandra Cairncross, Assistant Principal, Edinburgh Napier University and Universities Scotland lead for Gender Based Violence to her first meeting of the working group.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes of the meeting of the working group of 1 February 2019 were approved subject to minor textual amendments. The chair requested that these be forwarded to Steven Paxton. Thereafter, the minutes would be published on the Scottish Government web site.

Matters arising

The Chair advised that the undernoted matters arising from the minutes, would be addressed as part of the agenda:

  • Item 4: UCAS removal of criminal convictions
  • Item 5: Review of Pinset Mason Guidelines, non-disclosure agreements, protective suspension and the UUK staff student misconduct review
  • Item 6:  Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities position statement
  • Item 10:  Houses in Multiple Occupation licensing

Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities: position statement

The working group further considered the position statement which set out the approach, including a gendered analysis, that has informed the Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Working Group.

Steven Paxton explained that the position statement had been considered at the February meeting of the working group, and it was agreed that further comments of the working group be sought.

The working group agreed the position statement, subject to a review of the numbering and suggested amendments by Scottish Women’s Aid and Universities Scotland, and that thereafter, the position statement be uploaded on the working group’s community of practice site hosted on KHub.

Proposed Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities work plan

The working group considered a report proposing  the development of a work plan to inform the group’s activities in 2019 to 2020. 

The working group, in welcoming the report, discussed the regional nature of much of the action supporting Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities (for example, through Fearless Edinburgh and the proposed Fearless Glasgow groupings), and the importance of clear outcomes and defined work streams to support those outcomes.

A number of key documents should shape the work plan, including the current Equally Safe Strategy, University and College Outcome Agreements and Gender Action Plans. 

It was agreed that Steven Paxton, Scottish Government, will work closely with the Scottish Funding Council and Advance HE, to prepare a draft plan for consideration at the next meeting of the working group.

Ministerial letter of guidance to the Scottish Funding Council update

It was noted that every year the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science sends a Letter of Guidance to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)  setting out the Government’s priorities. In last year’s letter, Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities and student mental health and wellbeing figured prominently.

Comments had been received, including in relation to support for survivors, partnership working with students’ associations, and on data capture. The relevant text in the final published letter of guidance will be shared with the working group in due course.

Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities KHUB group report

The working group considered a report by the ESCU Team, University of Strathclyde, on the continued progress and development of the Khub community of practice. There are currently sixty members of the KHub community of practice. Additional members from the college sector would be welcome and materials from the March regional events would also be uploaded onto KHub.

Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities: regional events 2019 - interim report

The working group considered an interim report by the ESCU Team, University of Strathclyde following the completion of the three regional workshops in March 2019.

The events had been well attended and well received, and it had been suggested they take place on an annual basis. The outcomes of three regional events will form the basis of a resource, referenced in the SFC’s October 2018 outcome agreement guidance, for use in colleges and universities, to inform their work around fresher’s weeks and the start of the college year and other work. 

The working group, in noting the report, looked forward to seeing the resource once ready.

Updates from Universities Scotland

The Working Group considered an update report from Universities Scotland.

Review of student misconduct guidelines 

The report explained that Universities Scotland are reviewing, from a Scottish perspective, the existing UK Student Misconduct Guidelines, commonly referred to as the Pinset Mason Guidelines.  A scoping group, convened by Universities Scotland is chaired by Dr Sandra Cairncross, Assistant Principle, Edinburgh Napier University and the Universities Scotland Lead for Gender Based Violence and has met twice since February 2019. Membership includes Universities Scotland, Police Scotland, Scottish Government (ALS and Justice), UCU and representatives from universities and the third sector.  The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s Service have already offered Universities Scotland comments on the existing guidelines. 

Universities Scotland have prepared a report which includes a project plan, based on the discussions at the first two meetings of the scoping group, for consideration by the University Secretaries Group which meets later this week. The report sets out the recommended way to take the review forward, including the governance of the project in a steering group or similar format. Following revisions from the secretaries group, this draft plan will issued to the scoping group for final comment before formal submission to the Universities Principals Group which meets in June. Following approval, Universities Scotland would issue invitations to join the group and set dates for this from September onwards

Susannah Lane, Universities Scotland, advised that, should members of the Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Working Group have comments on the existing Pinset Mason Guidelines, they should contact her directly. 

Suzanne Marshall, College Development Network (CDN) advised that although the review was not applicable to Colleges, the College Principals had resolved to take this matter forward through CDN’s Safeguarding Forum and thereafter the College Principals. CDN would need to work with Colleges Scotland as its deliberations had policy implications. 

At the February 2019 meeting of the working group, Universities Scotland made clear that while NDAs are used in certain circumstances they would not be used in respect of criminal activities. The UK Government had issued a consultation on the use of NDAs which closed on 29 April. The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) published a response on behalf of UK universities.

UCEA cannot share how many Scottish HEIs were amongst the 29 respondents to UCEA. Universities Scotland will be testing this submission against the views of Scottish University Secretaries at the Group’s next meeting later this week.

It was agreed that an update report on the review of student misconduct guidelines and non-disclosure agreements be considered at the next full meeting of the working group.

GBV and student mental health stickers

The report provided an update on the gender based violence and mental health support stickers. Some 50,000 stickers had now been issued to HR Departments in all colleges and universities in Scotland. The stickers, which complement the gender based violence support cards, launched last September, will be formally launched by the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science at Edinburgh Napier University on Thursday, 9 May.

Protective suspension

The working group received a presentation from Jackie Main, Director of Student Life, Glasgow Caledonian University.

In her presentation she advised that the use of protective suspension is a protocol rather than a policy and it aligns with the current Pinset Mason Guidelines and the principles of GCU’s Student Code of Conduct. It is normally used before a disciplinary hearing and protects the individual student, the complainant, the wider student body and the reputation of the university. Protective suspension is not punitive at the investigation stage and are is underpinned by safeguarding arrangements along with fitness to study and fitness to practice arrangements where applicable.

Jackie advised that she sits on the multi-agency case conference which is convened to look at issues of student misconduct. The case conference is the locus for considering a risk assessment and it can call upon expert advice, including medical and gender based violence. The case conference makes its recommendations to the University’s Senate Disciplinary Committee’s Chair and then to the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic). The student has a right to appeal during this process.

Jackie then illustrated the use of protective suspension through a case study, highlighting that frontline staff at the university are trained in gender based violence.

Mrs Drouet highlighted the importance of universities sharing information on perpetrators and that this should be considered as part of the review of student misconduct guidelines.

The working group, in thanking Jackie for her informative presentation, noted that guidance on the use of protective suspension would be included in student misconduct guidelines review. 

Proposed Rape Crisis Scotland additional resource and next steps with training and education

The working group received an update from Rape Crisis Scotland. Kathryn Dawson gave an update on the coordinators work, including the development of a network of trainers and first responder training. 
The working group discussed the importance of a regional approach and institutions having good working relationships and referral pathways with local rape crisis centres, women’s aid centres and the wider third sector. It was equally important that colleges and universities work closely with AMOSSHE and the College Development Network in developing local relationships. RCS will contact colleges and universities via these networks to invite expressions of interest in working together, though as capacity will be limited a strategic regional approach may help to prioritise resources. A regional approach would also support the approach taken by the proposed work plan. Kathryn invited working group members to comment further on this approach through the Khub.

Kathryn further advised that RCS is developing an online student engagement tool in the form of an app, focussing on prevention, to communicate key messages about GBV, customised by institution. The app would be developed by the end of 2019. The working groupsuggested that SPARQS would be a useful contact for the development of the app and that the work should  also be informed by existing apps such as Bright Sky (available on Google Play).

The licensing system and Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities

Steven Paxton explained that this item was postponed from the February 2019 meeting due to time constraints. It was proposed that, in conjunction with Police Scotland and COSLA, there be an exploration of how Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities might be embedded in the wider licensing system (taxis and private hire vehicles, HIMOs and pubs, clubs and restaurant). The working group noted that this issue had also been raised by members and officials at Glasgow City Council.

It was agreed that a report on this matter be submitted to the next meeting after the June meeting of the working group.  

Date of next meeting

The Chair advised that a poll had indicated that 25 June would be the most suitable date for the next meeting of the working group at which the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science would be present. 

The working group agreed this date, the venue as St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh and that the focus of the meeting and discussions with the Minister be around strategic priorities for the group.

Any other business

The University of Strathclyde requested to join the emerging Fearless Glasgow Group.

The meeting ended at 15:00 hours