The University of Oxford is set to change its disciplinary process for serious sexual misconduct - and has said that changes would not affect protests or free speech. 

The clarification came after claims from the Oxford Action for Palestine group that amendments would "significantly strip members of the university community's right to protest" - a comment the university said was "misleading". 

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In a public statement, the OA4P group said: "They (amendments) have an alarmingly large scope that would impact not just students, but anyone in the university community who voices dissent, including faculty and staff. 

"Even more concerning, the university has unnecessarily bundled these repressive amendments with reforms around sexual misconduct and harassment - crucial policies that should be passed in their own capacity, distinct from attempts to curtail academic freedom." 

A university spokesperson has said comments made by OA4P were misleading and did not reflect the purpose of the proposed changes. 

They added that a vote on the amendments which was set for June 11 has now been postponed. 

The spokesperson said: “The proposed amendments to the university’s Statute XI are a significant change to the way the university investigates serious non-academic student misconduct, particularly sexual offences.

Pro-Palestine protesters on the scenePro-Palestine protesters on the scene (Image: Lucy Williams)
"It is vital that the entire university community understands the intention behind the proposals and supports the specific changes before they come into force.

"The council has therefore agreed to withdraw today’s scheduled congregation vote with a view to resubmitting it after further consultation, additional to the consultation and committee scrutiny that has already taken place over several years."

The spokesperson said new text would have reordered some existing clauses but would not have created any new powers relating to lawful protest. 

They said: "These amendments have been widely consulted on for a number of years across the collegiate university, and also with the students’ union and campaign group representatives." 

"This pause will make no difference to the university’s approach to protests and firm commitment to free speech, as they are unaffected by the amendments.

"We hope this will enable our community to come together in support of important measures to reduce sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

The university has advised that the amendments' purpose was to update the disciplinary process in line with recommendations from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator’s (OIA) 'Good Practice Framework', and Office for Students recommendations for the higher education sector. 

The university said proposed changes predate the forming of the OA4P encampment on May 6. 

The OA4P group is set to continue its protest actions after the academic year ends with organising events set for later this week to plan the next phase of the movement post-Trinity term.