University of Salford launches first student safety and wellbeing accreditation scheme

A new accreditation scheme launched by the University of Salford will make it easier for prospective students and their parents to identify safe universities in the UK. The scheme was designed with the support and guidance of organisations including the Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO), the British Council, the International Professional Security Association (IPSA), the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education (AMOSSHE), the University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN), Greater Manchester Police, student insurers Endsleigh, National Landlords Association, College & Universities Business Officers (CUBO).

All higher education institutions across the UK are now being encouraged to join ProtectED – an accreditation scheme assessing the work done by universities to ensure their students’ safety, security and wellbeing.

They can then work towards accreditation by providing details about the services and structures they provide to enable students to avoid problems and achieve their full potential.

ProtectED is the first accreditation scheme in the UK’s higher education sector to comprehensively consider practices across the areas of student safety, security and wellbeing.

It is founded on the belief that HEIs have a critical role to play in student safety, security and wellbeing — one that does not end at campus boundaries but encompasses the wider student experience.

Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, said: “An issue which the higher education sector has grappled with for years is that institutions have varied and different ways of considering the safety and wellbeing of their students, without a higher education specific code of practice and benchmark for policies and best practice.

“These are huge issues to students and parents, but up until now there has been no standard way of benchmarking and assessing how effectively universities manage the issue. I really welcome this work developed by our dedicated and internationally-recognised security and community relations team at Salford.”

Through the accreditation process, ProtectED will gain insight into issues and collect evidence on what works. This will be anonymised, aggregated and analysed, and findings shared with members, enabling them to focus resources on effective strategies that provide demonstrable benefits.

ProtectED accreditation focuses on five areas: Core Institutional Safety and Security – covering campus security measures; Wellbeing and Mental Health; International Students; Harassment and Sexual Assault; and the Student Night Out.

There are 2.3 million university students in the UK’s 162 HEIs — more that the population of Qatar. Office of National Statistics figures show full-time students are more at risk than the general population of being victims of crime, while an NUS survey of more than 1,000 students found 78 per cent had experienced mental health issues during the previous year.

ProtectED brings together university staff and students in tackling these issues, and requires HEIs to implement practical measures. For example, ProtectED universities will deliver training and awareness-raising initiatives to highlight the support available to students, and to facilitate conversation around sensitive subjects such as mental ill-health and sexual assault.

Research suggests that international students are particularly concerned about safety in their choice of where to study overseas.

Helen Clews, External Relations Adviser for the British Council and member of the ProtectED Advisory Board, said: “Personal safety in the UK for students, their dependents, visitors and workers coming to the UK is a duty of care the British Council takes very seriously and we work with partners such as ProtectED to help international students take care of themselves and settle happily into their community.”

Student retention is another significant issue. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 26,000 UK students failed to complete their first year in 2010/11. ProtectED is based around the need for effective prevention, early intervention and timely support, raising levels of student satisfaction and enabling more students to complete their studies.

Mark Sutton, chairman of the Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO), said: “The ProtectED code of practice gives a clear opportunity to benchmark processes and procedures that will allow universities to focus on sector best practice, continuous improvement and the student experience. It will raise standards throughout HE and therefore I fully support this excellent initiative.”

Ben Lewis, chairman of the Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education (AMOSSHE), said: “ProtectED gives real potential for institutions to think more strategically about how they structure their security and support services, how they work with one another and how they can improve all aspects of the student experience. AMOSSHE is fully supportive of the work being led by ProtectED and the team at Salford University.”

Dave Humphries, Director of Partnerships & Interventions at the Security Industry Authority, said: “As the UK Government’s regulator of private security, we support the ProtectED initiative as it is an innovative way to ensure a higher university security standards. We have been pleased to work alongside colleagues at the University of Salford.”

Institutions wanting to join must sign up to the five key ProtectED Principles, committing to adopting within their policies, structures, processes and culture.

To gain accreditation, applicant institutions must self-assess their own policies, processes and practice against the ProtectED Code of Practice. This is followed by peer review and a verification visit by a ProtectED approved assessor and student assessors.

Membership is open from Monday 6 February 2017, with the first group of ProtectED Accredited Institution award holders expected to be certified in early 2018.

For more information, visit www.Protect-ED.org, follow @ProtectED_HEI or email info@protect-ed.org

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