THE University of Worcester has said reports in a national newspaper that there is a ‘culture of exploitation’ after claims lecturers are having numerous affairs with students, is “wholly untrue and utterly without foundation”.

The Telegraph ran the story which alleged University of Worcester senior management had “chosen to ignore” reports some of its academic staff have had “repeated affairs” with students and claimed the university’s board of governors had been warned that investigations into “potential grooming and sexual misconduct” by lecturers have been hampered by weak policies on staff-student relationships.

The Telegraph story quoted a letter, written by the University and Colleges Union (UCU), that claimed “male members of staff appear to be having multiple sexual and romantic affairs with female students” which is “known and allegedly condoned by senior management”.

And the paper alleged University of Worcester imposed a number of sanctions on a lecturer after concerns were raised about his “inappropriate relationships” with female students in 2019.

But in a statement to the Worcester News a spokesman from the university said: “The allegation that there is a “culture of exploitation” at the university is categorically denied.

"It is wholly untrue and without foundation.

“On the contrary, the university is a leader in the struggle against sexual abuse and exploitation with a notably strong culture of inclusion and fairness.

“An allegation has been made to the Daily Telegraph that a member of staff was involved in the sexual grooming of students.

“Individual cases of attempted predatory sexual behaviour may arise in any organisation. This allegation had been extensively investigated at the university when it was first made in 2019.

"No evidence was found to support the claims of any form of grooming, exploitation or abuse.

"No student has come forward with evidence despite the pro-active investigation of the university and the excellent, confidential support provided, as it always is, by our highly professional counselling team in student services.

“The university always carries out robust and extensive investigations into any allegations of predatory sexual behaviour made by staff or students, and where there is evidence, always takes action.

"Anybody who has evidence about any allegations concerning a specific individual, or complaints, is invited to contact the university immediately through its safeguarding or whistleblowing procedures.

"The university has just again been named the top university in England for gender equality in the university impact rankings.

"Worcester has been the best UK university for fair gender pay since the statistics were first nationally published. The university is very active through both research and professional training in the field of combatting sexual violence and exploitation. Very unusually for a UK university, the executive leadership at Worcester has been at least 50 per cent female since 2003. It is currently 60 per cent. Concerns for gender equity and the vigorous promotion of a culture of respect and inclusion is central to the university’s life and being."

St Johns Campus, University of Worcester

St John's Campus, University of Worcester

Ann Jordan, deputy provost at the university and head of safeguarding, said: “The university is deeply committed to tackling all forms of violence and abuse and has been at the forefront of research and education in this area for more than a decade.

"We work hard to create a culture that is inclusive, safe and supportive but we know that, sadly, abuse and harassment occurs all too often across society, and no university is an island. That is why we have very robust processes, policies and procedures in place to tackle any allegations in a timely and systematic way.

“We take each and every allegation seriously and never hesitate to investigate and take action where there is evidence of inappropriate behaviour.

“Our robust safeguarding and disciplinary procedures are reviewed and updated regularly working with experts within the field.”

Dr Tim Jones, acting deputy pro vice chancellor (students), who is the former head of research, evaluation and analysis at safelives, the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, added: “We have a very positive and supportive culture at the university. Our bystander intervention programme has seen several hundreds of students trained to spot and intervene in matters of violence or harassment.

"We have well-defined processes for students who want to report any allegations of violence, abuse or harassment and are always clear that we will listen and take action when needed."

In 2001, the law was changed to make it illegal for school teachers to engage in sexual activity with pupils at their school aged under 18, but there are no such laws to prevent university lecturers from having consensual relationships with their students.