The University believes that the professional relationship between a student and a member of staff is an important part of a student's educational development. It is vital that trust and confidence exist between staff and students to ensure that students derive maximum benefit from their studies.
In this context a professional relationship is defined as one where there is:
- education, including teaching and assessment;
- supervisory and or pastoral care; or
- responsibility on the part of the member of staff.
Staff must bear in mind that they are in a position of authority and trust, and consider carefully how their behaviour and actions may be interpreted or create difficulties. This is important at informal as well as formal events. Differences of attitude, background or culture and the misinterpretation of social signals can mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem so to another.
The University has a zero tolerance approach to harassment. Any act of harassment that involves the abuse of a position of authority or trust will be regarded by the University as very serious and could constitute gross misconduct.
With this in mind, staff are strongly advised not to enter into a sexual and/or romantic relationship with a student particularly one for whom they have this responsibility noting that there may be exceptional occasion where this occurs (where the member of staff is also a student for example). Staff are also discouraged from entering into any other relationship, business, commercial, financial or a close friendship of a social nature, with a student which could compromise, or could be perceived to compromise, the relationship of trust and confidence.
The University recognises, however, that such relationships may exist, either when a member of staff is appointed or when a student enrols, and that a relationship may develop between a member of staff and a student during their course of study. Where a member of staff involved in such a relationship has an assessment, supervising, tutoring, teaching and or pastoral role for that student, it is the responsibility of the member of staff to inform their Head of Department or Section immediately in order that alternative arrangements can be made. This is to protect both the staff member and student from accusations of unfair and preferential treatment.