Publication - Minutes

Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities minutes: October 2018

Published: 26 Feb 2019
Date of meeting: 26 Oct 2018
Location: Universities Scotland, Edinburgh

Minutes from the meeting of the Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Working Group held on 26 October 2018.

26 Feb 2019
Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities minutes: October 2018

Attendees and apologies


  • Saira Kapasi, Scottish Government (Head of VAWG and Barnahus Justice Unit Violence against Women and Girls) (Chair)
  • Gareth Allen, Scottish Government (Advanced Learning and Science)
  • Steven Paxton, Scottish Government (Advanced Learning and Science) (Secretariat)
  • Kirsten McPhee, Scottish Government (Violence Against Women and Girls)
  • Pam Currie, EIS
  • Mrs Fiona Drouet, #emilytest 
  • Anni Donaldson, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, University of Strathclyde
  • Dr. Anke Kossurok, University of Strathclyde
  • Suzanne Marshall, College Development Network
  • Fiona Burns, Scottish Funding Council
  • Detective Inspector Julie Marshall, National Rape Task Force and Human Trafficking Unit, Police Scotland
  • Roseanna Macdonald, Scottish Women’s Aid,
  • Kathryn Dawson, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Lauren O’Rourke, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Susannah Lane, Head of Public Affairs, Universities Scotland
  • Shuwanna Aaron, NUS Scotland, Women’s Officer
  • David Lively, NUS Scotland
  • Sandy MacLean, College Development Network
  • Jill Stevenson , AMOSSHE
  • Stephanie Millar, Advance HE
  • Dr Davena Rankine, Unison
  • Mhairi McGowan, ASSIST, Glasgow


  • Heather Dunk, Principal, Ayrshire College
  • Joanna McLaughlin, National Violence Against Women Co-ordinator, Improvement Service
  • Anne Marie Hicks and Marie Claire Chaffey, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Suzanne Marshall, College Development Network
  • Kay Stevens, Advance HE
  • Cara Spence, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Mhairi McGowan, ASSIST

Items and actions


The group noted the apology from Cara Spence and looked forward to inviting her to future meetings of the Working Group. The group also welcomed Lauren O’Rourke, Training and Education Coordinator for Further and Higher Education, Rape Crisis Scotland Co-coordinator to the meeting.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes of the meeting of the Working Group of 17 August 2018 were approved.      

Matters arising

A number of matters arising from the last meeting were considered at this meeting as undernoted:

  • Item 3: Equally Safe in Further and Higher Education implementation plan
  • Item 5 action: website hosting for the toolkit and the Support Card resources
  • Item 6 action: outcome agreement guidance
  • Item 10: fresher’s week and start of college year arrangements 

University and UCAS declaration of criminal convictions and colleges risk assessment processes and protective suspension

Saira Kapasi explained that the issue of university and colleges risk assessment processes and protective suspension had been raised at the last meeting of the working group in August (Item 9). It was agreed to place this as the first Item on the agenda for this meeting and it would be considered together with the UCAS declaration of criminal convictions item. 

UCAS declaration of criminal convictions

Mrs Drouet explained that UCAS had removed declaration of criminal convictions (other than, for example, medicine, law, teaching etc.) from application forms. UCAS had advised that this had been done to comply with GDPR (and the Data Protection Act) and to lift barriers to accessing higher education. UCAS had worked with the charity Unlock, in this regard. Information would not be collected at a national level but rather captured directly by institutions at a later stage the admissions process. 

Mrs Drouet reiterated her concern about the safety and well-being of students, especially around the provision of accommodation and that the decision to remove the requirement for criminal convictions had not been informed by advice from Violence Against Women professionals. Mrs Drouet further advised that Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland also had concerns. 

Ms Lane advised that both Universities Scotland and Universities UK were alert to this change and had convened a sector-wide discussion of the implications, institutional action and best practice sharing on 4 December. Universities Scotland indicated it would be happy to represent the views of this group in that forum and it was agreed that ESCU would prepare a paper for the 4 December meeting to represent the concerns from the perspective of prevention of gender based violence.

Risk assessment processes and protective supervision

Mrs Drouet explained that Glasgow Caledonian University used protective suspension arrangements and reference to this is also contained in the Toolkit. 

In discussion, the working group noted that GDPR considerations for UCAS had been informed by guidance from the Information Commissioner. The Universities Scotland secretaries group is in dialogue with institutions about how to take this forward, looking at when it is appropriate to collect such data. The group noted that while education is in itself rehabilitative, students must also be kept safe, especially as convictions for offences against women and girls could be of a violent nature. This was further amplified by concerns from the college sector. Reference was also made to research work by the Scottish Funding Council (Recruit with Conviction) which noted that the UCAS criminal convictions field had not been used consistently. It was further suggested that work on this issue could complement the ongoing work to review the Pinset Mason Guidelines. 

The use of non-disclosure agreements in universities

Mrs Drouet and Saira Kapasi would meet to look at the issue of the use of non-disclosure agreements in universities. It was felt that a paper on the approach taken by the working group on Equally Safe could be helpful for any discussions at UK level. 

Progress on outcome agreement guidance

Fiona Burns, Scottish Funding Council advised that the Outcome Agreement Guidance has now been published: 

Institutions had responded well to the guidance. Scottish Government officials had met with SFC Outcome Agreement managers and under the auspices of advance HE, had presented to institutional managers in September. SFC Outcome Agreement managers would meet again in December.  


Equally Safe in Further and Higher Education: progress report

Anni Donaldson, University of Strathclyde, reported on progress. The following universities have adopted the toolkit:

Fearless Edinburgh Group (an example of a local collaborative partnership: University of Edinburgh, Scottish Rural University College, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot Watt University, Open University, Queen Margaret University), Robert Gordon University; Abertay University, Aberdeen University, University of the Highlands and Island and University of the West of Scotland, Stirling University. 

Abertay Student Union are implementing the ESHE toolkit and have recruited an Equally Safe coordinator to work in collaboration with Women’s Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (WRASAC) in Dundee.

The ESCU GBV campus network was now established. Participating institutions included the Fearless Edinburgh Group, University of the West of Scotland and the University of Strathclyde. 

There was discussion around the role of colleges in the research and the relationship with advance HE, which was funded by the Scottish Funding Council. It was intended that colleges would be brought into the research on a phased basis.

Kathryn Dawson, Rape Crisis Scotland advised that Lauren O’Rourke was now in post, explained the expected outcomes for the post and updated on progress to date. This included the identification of pilot institutions based on implementation of toolkit, existing partnerships with Rape Crisis centres, to include a range of geographical locations, colleges and universities and activities supporting partnership and collaboration. Roseanna Macdonald, Scottish Women’s Aid made reference to the capacity building for local groups work it had already done.

The group agreed (a) that Anni Donaldson forward the Research Briefing to AMOSSHE and the University Secretaries Group; and (b) that update reports be a standing item for the working group.

Fresher’s weeks and start of college year arrangements

Steven Paxton, Scottish Government outlined the objectives, organisation, execution and proposed learning outcomes from three proposed regional events to be held over this academic year. Anni Donaldson, University of Strathclyde advised that UHI had agreed to host the Highland Regional Event in the New Year and she was actively exploring other hosts in Scotland.

Action: In noting the report, the working group suggested that an institution’s governance body be represented at the workshops. 

Review of Pinset Mason guidelines: progress update from Universities Scotland

Susannah Lane, Universities Scotland reported that the Principals Group had agreed that work on this should commence after the launch of the Support Cards and that Universities Scotland would contact members with a date early in the new year to look at guidelines in more detail.

She further advised that Universities UK had commenced a staff to student sexual misconduct review but that this proceeded from different epistemological basis than the Scottish work. The articulation of the working group’s approach to its work would be helpful.

Action: In noting the position, the group agreed that Susannah Lane, Universities Scotland should share the brief she is developing for this work at the next meeting of the working group and that she should involve the COPFS in this.  

Equally safe: annual report

Kirstin McPhee, Scottish Government rehearsed the history of the development of the annual report advising it would be published later in 2018. Actions around Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities were prominent in the report.

Kirstin also advised that, as part of an enhancement of message and visual identity, a series of draft Equally Safe logos had been produced and she shared these with the group for comment. 

The group made a number of comments around the use of hands imagery in the logos and the use of symbols to communicate inclusivity.

Developing a community of practice (CoP)

Saira Kapasi, Scottish Government advised that the toolkit sits on the University of Strathclyde website and the materials underpinning the Support Cards are hosted by the University of Strathclyde. To support a collaborative approach to tackling GBV it is suggested that a community of practice (CoP) be established. The CoP would be an open space where practioners can share ideas, resources and learning. It should be a safe place where active collaboration can take place. The Improvement Service is using K Hub.  

Steven Paxton, Scottish Government, following his helpful conversation with Joanna McLaughlin, VAWG Partnership, highlighted a number of features:  

  • K Hub is a safe virtual, flexible place for groups to come together. It should be seen as a professional space where people are free to confidently share their ideas
  • K Hub is free unless you want a private group. Permission is need to set up a group and facilitator will be need for the group
  • potential members need to request membership of K Hub and membership criteria needs to be set
  • there is a forum section on K hub – users can set up discussion threads and posts can be tagged (e.g. research, implementation etc.) and connections made to other hubs
  • there is also a library section where key documents and resources can be placed, as well as the ability to create folders and a user guide
  • setting up K Hub is relatively easy and there a tutorials to help in the process

The working group noted that Khub was used across local government and suggested that consideration be given to linking with the Stakeholder Advisory Forum. It was further suggested that the Khub administration of the community of practice be undertaken by the improvement service.

Action: It was agreed that a report on this matter be brought to the next meeting of the working group in early 2019.

Future direction of the working group and name

Steven Paxton, Scottish Government outlined the key achievements of the Working Group since its establishment in 2017 and invited reflection on these, the purpose of the group, the name of the group and frequency of meetings. Key achievements included:

  • tackling gender based violence a key part in the ministerial letter of guidance to the Scottish Funding Council – wording shaped by the working group
  • launch of the Equally Safe in Higher Education toolkit
  • further support for the adoption and adaption of the toolkit across the sector
  • Rape Crisis Scotland – coordinator in place
  • Fearless Edinburgh launched - showing the importance of local collaboration
  • gender based violence support cards launched – led by Universities Scotland
  • University of Strathclyde commissioned to distil learning on fresher’s week and start of the college year through three regional events
  • take up of Equally Safe message by SAAS social media
  • policy linkages and key messages as part of the PSE and NHS Scotland work
  • significant increased awareness of the challenge

Action: the working group, in noting progress, agreed that (a) it would be called “Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities”; (b) the delivery plan: Equally Safe in Further and Higher Education shape its actions; and (b) it should meet quarterly – January, April and August.

Any other business

Saira Kapasi, Scottish Government advised that the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 will come into force next year and a reference group is being set up to support a national campaign around the Act. It is important that the messages resonate with the lived lives of young people. A representative is sought from the working group to the reference group.

Action: It was agreed that Mrs Fiona Drouet serve as a member of the reference group.



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