Tolerance and respect are important facets of any learning community, and it’s crucial that students joining university spaces are on the same page regarding expected behaviours. A key focus of higher education professionals is to roll out relevant training and education in a way that works for — and engages — students.
For the University of Nottingham’s Louise Mullany, Claire Thompson and Emma Rowsell, raising awareness of the prevalence and impact of misogynistic behaviour is particularly high on the agenda — following their University’s research on misogyny & hate crimes and their work with Nottinghamshire Police and Nottingham Trent University on the matter.
The team at Nottingham sat down with Chris Mansfield, GoodCourse Co-founder, to share their research and teaching, why raising awareness of this is critical, and how this led them to collaborate with GoodCourse to better engage students.
Louise: I’m Louise Mullany, Professor of Sociolinguistics in the School of English. My research specialism is on various issues around equality, diversity and inclusion, including misogyny, hate crimes and public sexual harassment.
Claire: I’m Claire Thompson, Associate Director for Student Wellbeing. Part of my role is overseeing our work around hate crimes and harassment. I also oversee the reporting mechanism here at the university.
Emma: I’m Emma Roswell, Director of Student and Campus Life. My remit includes ensuring that students have the support to build productive communities and have an excellent experience whilst studying at Nottingham — which includes student equality and inclusion.
Louise: Back in 2016, Nottinghamshire became the first police force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
This didn’t make anything illegal that wasn’t already illegal. Instead, it allows the motivation of a hate incident or hate crime to be recorded as misogynistic, i.e. motivated by the hatred of women because they are women.
94% of people who participated in our research had either experienced or witnessed some form of street harassment, but only 6.6% had reported that to the police.
Two years later, in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University, we produced a detailed research evaluation of the problem and policy.
We found that misogyny hate crimes were rife, yet there was significant underreporting to the police. 94% of people who participated in our research had either experienced or witnessed some form of street harassment, but only 6.6% had reported that to the police.
Our research also found that the type of crimes that weren’t being reported to police were at the higher level of the crime continuum — like sexual assault, rape or groping, which was deeply worrying.
At the time of the policy change, the media reported it as ‘just criminalising wolf whistling’, but it was actually something much more severe. The trivialisation by the media was incredibly unhelpful and hid what is a very serious issue.
Interestingly, despite the media’s reports, we also found considerable support for a national rollout of the policy.
Louise: The results of our research found that 46% of respondents thought education was key to changing people's minds and raising awareness. This work also ensures students learn how to be good citizens while with us at the university.
Claire: We also need to educate people on their rights and ensure they can translate that to their home environments, workplaces and beyond. The question is, how can we enable people to speak out if they encounter misogyny outside of the university setting?
Emma: Nottingham has had good training on these topics for the past few years, but the challenge has typically been that the students who engage with formal training are already well educated on that matter — you’re preaching to the choir.
GoodCourse enables us to reach students who wouldn’t otherwise engage with training — that really excited us. With GoodCourse, it’s about introducing these topics with brevity and impact, and getting students thinking and engaged in educational discussion.
Claire: I like that the courses are delivered to students’ mobile phones, I also like the brevity, and I like that each lesson feels like a peer-to-peer conversation, which is really engaging.
Louise: Yes, the peer-to-peer element is fundamental. We know from our work that the peer-to-peer style is the most successful way to get these messages across.
Students must be able to talk to each other and have these topics presented to them in language that they understand and which isn’t patronising — or just an older person in authority telling them what to do.
The micro-approach is about getting across two or three fundamental messages via their peers and in their own language. It’s a really effective learning tool.
Emma: Ultimately, this approach introduces topics to students in a style they are already engaging with. We avoid turning our audience off by presenting hard-hitting messages in the familiar TikTok-style. This allows our students to think about uncomfortable situations in a familiar and comfortable format.
Louise: It’s been wonderful to see our longer courses transformed into bite-sized chunks. It’s an ambitious and innovative approach, and it’s been excellent to see the micro-versions of our courses come to life.
I like that GoodCourse hasn't played it safe, instead crafting bold messaging that is vital to put across, which can sometimes feel a bit risky. The micro-courses we’ve co-created are pushing the boundaries compared with usual courses.
Claire: It’s been really interesting to see the course develop. A positive for me has been what a direct and powerful approach has been taken to this topic.
Emma: And of course, now, the expertise of our academics is available across the whole university sector as these courses are available to all universities through GoodCourse.
We’re really proud of the expertise Nottingham has in the areas of hate crimes and misogyny. So we’re excited for other universities to be able to educate and equip their students with these courses when they come onto campus.
It’s great to work with a company that shares our passion for making change and progress and has such a unique solution.
Emma: Our students have said they found it engaging, easy to use and were happy that it was delivered in a format they were comfortable with. We’ve not had any negative feedback so far.
Our student population as a whole is crying out for training on these topics. There is a clear directive from students that they want training on consent, being an active bystander, and so on — we’re pushing on an open door. So now, it’s about delivering that training in a way students want to engage with.
Louise: In recent years, the student voice has been very active, and students have been proactive in wanting to work with us, which is so good to see.
Today’s students are much more politically aware than previously; they are setting up their own initiatives and driving change. They want to be the change-makers, and they see it as their role to do that. And this all gives me hope for the future.
Claire: Yes, the growing voice from the students really inspires me.