Oxford University has announced a new policy that bans “intimate or close personal relationships” between students and staff. 

Tutors or lecturers who have any responsibility for a student will face losing their job if they break the new policy that comes into force in April.

Under the new policy, staff will also be “strongly discouraged” from making any other close personal relationship with students that “transgresses the boundaries of professional conduct”.

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Currently, the policy says that close personal relationships between students and staff are heavily discouraged, rather than being prohibited and must be declared to a line manager.

When the new policy comes into force, any staff members who are already in pre-existing relationships with a student, will not teach or work with that student.

The university said it will work to avoid "conflicts of interest by ensuring the staff member ceases to have, or does not acquire, any responsibility for the student."

Oxford chiefs said that the policy had been developed over many months and consultation across the institution.

It comes after calls from It Happens Here, an Oxford University Student Union group which campaigns against sexual violence, for a ban on “inappropriate relationships”.

The group said in 2021 that relationships between staff and students “raise issues relating to inequalities of power in a relationship, or perceived favouritism, or the undermining of trust in the academic process”.

Oxford follows a number of other universities that have banned relationships between staff and students, including University College London and the University of Nottingham.

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This comes as regulator the Office for Students (OfS) works on its own regulations for staff-student relationships, launching a consultation on regulating harassment and sexual misconduct in English higher education.

The body is currently deciding on whether to ban the relationships outright or make the staff in question disclose them.

Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said: “The majority of those working in higher education behave appropriately towards their students.

"But we recognise that there can be a power imbalance in personal relationships that could be exploited by unscrupulous staff to subject students to harassment or sexual misconduct."

Furthermore, according to the Telegraph, a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that five student complaints of staff sexual misconduct at Oxford have been upheld in the past five years.

However, only one staff member was suspended and subsequently dismissed.

A spokesperson for the university told the paper that Oxford "is working hard to build a culture where our students can feel safe and where sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated".

It is also reported that the new policy was not made in response to the information released in an FOI request or the recent OfS consultation.

The new policy will start on April 17.