Harassment - Help and Advice

If you think you are being harassed the College strongly encourages you to do something about it. This section of the guidance sets out information on the help available to you.

Harassment advisors

It may be that you have recently experienced an incident of harassment for the first time and want advice on trying to prevent further incidents from occurring. Alternatively, you may have suffered a prolonged period of harassment in silence and feel as though you have finally reached breaking point. Whatever stage or circumstance, there are a number of people who are available to help you.

You may, in the first instance, want to discuss the matter in confidence with a friend or colleague who is familiar with the setting in which you work or study. If you are a member of staff, you may also want to discuss the matter informally with your Head of Department or trade union representative. Alternatively, the College's Personnel Advisor can be contacted in confidence on 01865 281427.

If you are a student, you may want to discuss the matter with the Dean or Junior Deans, or another College Officer with pastoral responsibilities. At a common room level, the Welfare or Equal Opportunities Officer may be a good person to talk to. OUSU's Student Advice Service also provides a confidential and impartial listening and advice service, whilst the University has approximately 300 harassment advisors with two (one of either sex) appointed within each department and faculty. Details of the harassment advisors are posted on departmental and faculty office notice boards.

There are also confidential advisors appointed within the colleges. The harassment advisors at St Catherine's are Richard Todd (Email) and Gaia Scerif (Email).

Should you want to speak with an advisor entirely unconnected with your department, faculty, or College, approximately 60 of the advisors advise those outside their own department/ faculty/ College for this very reason. You should telephone the designated harassment telephone line (01865 270760) to be put in touch with such a harassment advisor, or send an e-mail to the harassment line.

The College recommends that you should discuss the situation with a harassment advisor before taking any other steps in response to the alleged harassment. Talking through the events and your feelings with the advisor will help you decide on the best way to deal with the behaviour and will clarify the options available to you.

What can the harassment advisor do?

The harassment advisor has three main functions: to listen effectively and discuss the situation with you; to give you clear information, help and guidance about the options available to you, the next steps to take, and how best to take them; and to support you through the resolution process.

The harassment advisor cannot: approach the alleged harasser in an attempt to mediate or resolve the matter for you; act as your representative or advocate; or be involved in any formal stage of the process, be it in writing the formal complaint, the investigation, disciplinary or grievance procedures, except by way of giving you the support you need during this time.

Information on other help available to you is provided on the University website.

Harassment - Frequently Asked Questions


1. Although I have made it very clear that I am uncomfortable with this behaviour, my tutor persistently asks me personal questions unrelated to my work and sits very close to me at tutorials. Is this harassment?

This is unwanted and unwarranted behaviour which is affecting your quality of life and therefore constitutes harassment.

2. I feel as though my tutor is always critical of me in tutorials and/or of my written work. Does this amount to harassment?

Your tutor will clearly have high expectations as regards academic standards. Sometimes, what you may perceive as criticism of you will be the direction of these high expectations towards your academic work. So, provided that the way in which your tutor expresses views about your work is proper, fair and reasonable, the comments you may perceive as criticism are unlikely to amount to harassment.

However, it is particularly important for tutors to bear in mind that not all students will have high levels of confidence in their academic work, and that criticism of a student's work may in some cases greatly affect a student's feeling of self worth.

If you are feeling troubled, unhappy or humiliated about your tutor's behaviour or manner towards you, you should seek to talk the matter through. It may be possible to speak with the tutor in question about your feelings. If this would not be appropriate, you may wish to speak with a College Officer with pastoral responsibilities, another member of staff at the faculty, a harassment advisor, or OUSU's Student Advice Service.

3. I am a graduate student and my supervisor regularly sends emails to others about me in which jokes are made about my personal appearance. Is this harassment?

This is likely to be regarded as harassing behaviour if the jokes are perceived as humiliating and degrading.

4. I feel as though the person I report to in the department is unnecessarily critical when reviewing my work and/or I sometimes feel bullied by his or her instructions to me. Does this amount to harassment?

Reviewing your performance is an important part of your supervisor's job, and an important function of any performance review is to identify areas that require improvement, and discuss possible ways of attaining such improvement. Provided a performance review is carried out in a proper, fair and reasonable way, comments you may perceive as criticism will be unlikely to amount to harassment.

It is also the job of your supervisor to provide you with instructions. Clearly there will be times where your supervisor will be able to sit down with you and explain his/her instructions fully. At other times, he or she may be under pressure and may not be able to devote time to explaining matters to you as clearly as might be desired. Provided that instructions are given in a proper, fair, and reasonable way they are unlikely to amount to harassment.

However, if you are feeling troubled, unhappy or humiliated about your line manager's behaviour or manner towards you, you should seek to address and resolve these matters. It may be possible to speak with your supervisor but, if you feel unable to do so or consider that this would not be appropriate, you may wish to speak with the Personnel Advisor.

5. My supervisor constantly sets targets for me to complete work and when I fail to complete on time, s/he uses it as an opportunity to criticise me in front of colleagues/other students. Is this bullying?

Whilst the setting of reasonable targets which you are not able to meet is unlikely to constitute bullying, using this failure as an opportunity to criticise and to denigrate your work in front of others may be a form of bullying.


1. Will what I say to the harassment advisor be kept confidential?

Confidentiality underpins the role of a harassment advisor. Harassment advisors fully understand that coming forward to talk about the subject of harassment can be extremely difficult, and that many people would not come forward and seek advice unless they had complete trust in the confidentiality of the advisor. It is for this reason that, aside from limited exceptional circumstances (explained below), an advisor cannot, without specific consent, disclose either the identity of any party revealed in the course of dealing with a matter or even general facts relating to the allegation if doing so might compromise the anonymity of any party.

2. What are the exceptional circumstances referred to above?

The advisor will normally be bound by confidentiality unless they believe, on the basis of the information you have provided, that a serious criminal offence has been committed, and/or that harm may result to you or to another person.

In such circumstances, provided the advisor has used all reasonable efforts to persuade you to agree to the release of the information, he or she is permitted to disclose your identity and that of the alleged harasser to appropriate persons or authorities without your consent. Except in the case of emergencies, the advisor will always endeavour to discuss this with you first.

Very rarely cases of harassment can result in legal proceedings. Despite being confidential, the information may have to be disclosed in the course of such proceedings if it is relevant to them.

3. Can I talk to others about my allegations?

If you feel that you are being harassed, it is recommended that you speak to a harassment advisor before taking any other steps. The harassment advisor will urge you, and any person who accompanies you at any stage of any complaints procedure, to treat all information relating to your complaint in a strictly confidential manner.

An allegation of harassment made in good faith and expressed in confidence within the context of a complaints procedure, which includes seeking advice from a harassment advisor, should not amount to defamation, even if the allegation is not substantiated. However, indiscriminate discussion of your complaint could result in a counter-complaint being made against you for defaming or harassing the alleged harasser.

If you feel you need to talk to someone other than your advisor you should ask their advice about this matter. If an allegation is malicious, it may be subject to a defamation claim even if made in confidence to a proper authority. However, the mere fact that a complaint is not upheld in an investigation or subsequent disciplinary procedure will not normally make it malicious.

4. Will the harassment advisor keep records of our meetings?

It is important for advisors to keep a factual record of meetings, advice given, and actions taken for their own use, and to ensure that they can give the best possible advice and support. Ideally, record keeping should commence when the advisor receives your initial request for assistance.

As with your records of events, advisors' records may be of importance if they are subsequently asked to give an account of their actions or if the complaint in question progresses to a formal disciplinary hearing. All records will be kept in strict confidence and in the advisor's own possession for as long as he or she considers appropriate.

5. Can I, or anyone else, ask to see the records?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 any individual has the right to see their own personal data held by the College subject to the rights of confidentiality of any third parties in that information.


You have the right to seek advice from a confidential harassment advisor and the College recommends that you do so. The same harassment advisor consulted by the complainant will not be able to advise you in relation to the complaint.

If you are aware that someone is unhappy with your behaviour and is contemplating a formal complaint, an advisor can discuss with you the possibility of reaching an informal resolution. In the first instance, this may involve offering a verbal or written apology to the complainant, and/or explaining that you had not realised the effect of your behaviour, and giving an undertaking not to repeat the behaviour in future. You should keep a factual record of what you say, a copy of any letter you write and a note of the response of the complainant. This will be useful to you if a formal complaint is subsequently made and an investigation undertaken.

Not every allegation of harassment is well-founded. Malicious or vexatious allegations may give grounds for disciplinary proceedings against the complainant, but this will not include ill founded allegations which were nonetheless made in good faith.


1. Informal or formal resolution?

If possible, you should attempt to resolve the matter informally; it may be that the alleged harasser does not know what effect his or her behaviour is having on you. If an informal resolution can be effectively achieved, this will in many cases be advantageous to you. It is however recognised that, in some cases, only a formal procedure would be appropriate.

Regardless of whether you succeed in resolving the matter informally, or decide to bring a formal complaint, try to keep a factual record of the offending behaviour. It is easy to forget details after the event and such a record will help you when seeking advice, in deciding whether to make a complaint, in formulating the complaint and in giving evidence at any subsequent hearing.

The harassment advisor will discuss with you what steps you can take to try to reach an informal resolution. The first step may be to speak with the alleged harasser and let him or her know that you object to his or her behaviour, explain why you object and ask that they stop. You should keep a factual record of what is said and done and of any witnesses present.

Alternatively, or as a second step, you could put your objections and a request to stop in a letter addressed to the alleged harasser. Again, keep a copy. It is not advisable to communicate with the alleged harasser by email as these are easily copied and all too quickly sent without proper consideration of the wording. The harassment advisor cannot tell you what you should say, or write a letter for you, but he or she can guide you, discuss the steps to take and review the outcomes with you.

If the behaviour continues regardless of your requests to stop, or if attempting an informal resolution is not appropriate in the first place, the next stage will be to make a formal complaint.

Physical attacks: Any member of the College, or visitor, who has been physically attacked should seek help immediately. This may involve reporting the attack to the police. Any harassment advisor will be able to provide support, and help the individual to decide what to do.

No further action will normally be taken on behalf of the individual unless they have first been informed and have given their express permission. For the protection of all, it is important that the offender is dealt with. Should an individual decide to go to the police, they will not be asked to go alone, unless they wish to do so.

Any member of the College, or visitor, who has been sexually assaulted should seek medical help and advice immediately.

2. Should I use the College procedures or the University procedures?

This will depend on the circumstances. It may be the case that only one procedure is relevant. On the other hand it may be the case that you could take the matter forward under either procedure. Your harassment advisor will explain the options to you. Whichever procedure you use you cannot then use the other one if you are dissatisfied with the outcome.

3. Making a formal complaint

The decision to bring a formal complaint is one which you are advised to take only after discussion with your harassment advisor. Your advisor will be able to explain to you what issues you ought to take into account when making your decision on whether to make a formal complaint.

You do, however, have the right to make a formal complaint on your own initiative, without advice from a harassment advisor, if you prefer to do so. It is recognised that formal resolution of a complaint may be the only means of bringing harassment to an end. Whether or not the complaint is upheld, any adverse reaction towards you by the alleged harasser or by others on his or her behalf is likely to constitute further harassment and/or victimisation which itself is a serious offence.

The College's commitment to non-tolerance of harassment applies equally strongly to victimisation and any such incident will be taken extremely seriously and dealt with under the College's disciplinary procedures.

4. Who should the formal complaint be addressed to?

This will depend upon the status of the person or the persons complained against as set out below:

If the person complained against is a member of the academic or academic-related staff (including a Head of Department) you should write to the Academic Registrar.

If the person complained against is a member of the non-academic staff you should write to the Home Bursar.

If the person complained against is a student member you should write to the Proctors.

If the person complained against is a visiting academic or student advice should be sought from the Registrar or Proctors respectively.

5. What should I do if I do not know the status of the alleged harasser?

If you do not know the status of the alleged harasser and therefore the correct person to whom to address your complaint, you should consult your departmental administrator or a harassment advisor; they can guide you as to the correct procedure.

6. What should I include in my letter of complaint?

You will need to make sure that your written complaint is accurate and clear. The sort of details you need to include are: the description of the behaviour complained about; the dates of any relevant events in chronological order; and information about any witnesses to the events. This will help the person to whom the complaint is addressed to make a speedy decision on whether or not an investigation should take place.

You should keep a copy of the complaint and of any evidence you send with it. You should also treat all information relating to your complaint as strictly confidential. The harassment advisor cannot write the complaint for you but he or she can guide and support you in drawing up your complaint.

7. What will happen to the complaint?

The person to whom the complaint is addressed will consider the matter and will let you know as soon as possible and normally within 10 days whether an investigation into the complaint is to be held or not.

It may be decided not to carry out a formal investigation, for example, because the complaint contains sufficient evidence to invoke disciplinary proceedings immediately; because it does not appear to disclose grounds for a claim of harassment; or because it would be more appropriately dealt with under a different procedure. If no investigation is to take place, you will be told why and what other action may be taken, if any.

8. When will the alleged harasser be informed of my complaint?

Once you have made a formal complaint and it is decided to set up an investigation, the person complained against will be informed of your identity and the nature of your complaint. Without disclosing such information, it would not be possible for a full investigation to take place or for the alleged harasser to know, and to prepare to defend, the case against him or her.

It will normally, however, be made clear to the alleged harasser that any attempt at victimisation as a result of making the complaint will be treated extremely seriously under the College's disciplinary procedures.

If you have any concerns about possible victimisation, you should bring them to the attention of your harassment advisor and/ or the investigating body to ensure that (i) these matters are taken into account in the investigation; (ii) appropriate steps are taken to eradicate any victimisation pending the outcome of the investigation; and (iii) any additional disciplinary procedures are considered and/or undertaken.

9. Who carries out the investigation?

If an investigation is to take place, it will be carried out by a nominee of the Master or Home Bursar (as appropriate) for cases against staff, or by the Proctors in the case of allegations against students. In the case of visitors, appropriate steps will be considered in each case, depending on the nature of the relationship between the individual and the College and any third party that might have authority to take action.

10. What is the purpose of the investigation?

The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there is a case for the alleged harasser to answer. An investigation normally precedes any formal disciplinary procedure. Exceptionally, however, the case may be so serious or the available evidence sufficiently clear that immediate disciplinary action is warranted.

11. How long will the investigation take?

You will normally be given information about the expected timescale when you are informed that an investigation is to take place. Every attempt will be made to complete the investigation as quickly as possible and normally it will be completed within six weeks. If this is not possible, you will be given the reasons why and be given further information about the expected completion date.

12. Will I be interviewed as part of the investigation process?

Both you and the alleged harasser, along with any relevant witnesses, will normally be interviewed. However you and the alleged harasser will not be interviewed together.

A written note of the interview will be taken; you will be provided with a copy of this note and will be given the opportunity to check the wording. (Notes will also be taken of the interviews with the alleged harasser and the witnesses and they will be given an opportunity of reviewing the written records of their own interviews).

If it is necessary to tape any interview, the interviewee in question will be given a copy of the tape.

13. Will I be interviewed alone?

If you are a student you may be accompanied at the interview by a member of Congregation. If you are a member of staff, you may be request to be accompanied at the interview by a trade union representative or a work colleague. If you are the alleged harasser, then you have the same right to request to be accompanied.

14. Will I be required to do anything else by the investigator?

The investigator may ask you or others to produce additional material, for example to respond to a point that has been made by someone else. Where this is done, the investigator will give you reasonable notice, normally five days.

15. What happens when the investigation has been completed?

Once the relevant facts have been ascertained, the investigator will make a report on his/her investigation. This will be submitted to the person to whom you submitted your formal complaint, and that person will make a decision on whether, based on the matters disclosed in the investigation, there is a case to be answered by the alleged harasser.

Both you and the alleged harasser will receive written notice of the decision as soon as possible after the completion of the investigation.

16. What happens if the investigation reveals that there is a case for the alleged harasser to answer?

If the investigation reveals that there is a case to be answered, the College's disciplinary process may be invoked. The nature of any disciplinary proceedings will depend upon whether the alleged harasser is a student, or a member of staff. The report of the investigation and material gathered in the course of the investigation will form part of the documentation for consideration in the disciplinary process.

17. What happens if the investigation does not lead to disciplinary proceedings?

It may be that whilst the investigation does not lead to disciplinary proceedings, it nevertheless reveals development and/or training needs and/or other issues which need to be addressed. In this case you will be informed of any recommended action, subject (where appropriate) to the duty of confidentiality to the person complained against.

The person about whom you have complained will also be given full details of any action to be taken in the light of the investigation.

Whilst it anticipates that the following situation will never arise, the College recognises the possibility that complaints of harassment might be brought by persons with mischievous or malicious intent. This will be regarded extremely seriously by the College, because not only are false allegations of harassment potentially defamatory, but they may also cause considerable distress for those against whom the unfounded allegations are made. Such behaviour will not, therefore, be tolerated, and may provide grounds for disciplinary action against individuals in accordance with the guidelines set down by the College.

18. What happens if I am not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, where that outcome is that no disciplinary proceedings should be invoked?

You should discuss this matter with your departmental administrator and/or with the harassment advisor; they will be able to tell you what further action may be possible.

19. What happens if disciplinary proceedings are invoked?

If disciplinary proceedings are invoked against the person complained of, the exact form will depend on the status of the person involved, as follows:

The procedures in cases where the person complained of is a student are those set out in Statute XI and in Council Regulations 32 of 2002.

The procedures in cases where the person complained of is a member of the academic staff are those set out in Part D of Statute XII and the associated Regulations.

The procedures in cases where the person complained of is a non-academic staff member are those set out in the disciplinary policy published on the College website.

20. What is involved in the disciplinary process?

In serious cases the alleged harasser could be suspended until the disciplinary hearing takes place. Suspension is not in itself a disciplinary penalty; for example, it may be used to protect you or others from potential harassment or victimisation.

If a disciplinary hearing takes place, it is likely that you will be required to tell the disciplinary panel about your complaint in the presence of the alleged harasser and to answer any questions that the alleged harasser or his or her representative wants to ask you. Your harassment advisor will be able to provide you with support through this process but will not be able to represent you.

Otherwise, you are unlikely to play any formal part in the disciplinary proceedings; for example you will not be present when the disciplinary panel makes its decision. You will, however, be kept updated wherever possible.

If you are the subject of the disciplinary hearing, your harassment advisor will also remain available to provide you with support throughout the process although he or she cannot represent you during this process.

21. Will I be told the outcome of the disciplinary process?

If you are the person who has complained of harassment, then you may be told in outline what the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings is though you will not be entitled to full details if these breach the duty of confidentiality to the person complained of.

22. What if I am not satisfied with the outcome of the disciplinary process?

If you are the person who has made the original complaint, then you should discuss this matter with your departmental administrator and/or your harassment advisor.

If you are the subject of the disciplinary proceedings, and the charges against you have been substantiated, then you have a right of appeal. You will be provided with further information on this when notified of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.

Defining harassment

Is it harassment?

You may be unsure whether certain behaviour amounts to harassment. Discussing the situation with a harassment advisor may help in making this assessment. The advisor can also provide further information on the steps that can be taken if the behaviour in question does not appear to be harassment under the terms of this guidance.

Students may also consult a College Officer with pastoral responsibilities, OUSU's Student Advice service, or the Proctors. Set out below is information to help you to decide if particular kinds of behaviour may be harassment.

Definition of harassment

A person subjects another to harassment where he or she engages in unwanted and unwarranted conduct which has the purpose or effect of:

(a) violating that other's dignity; or

(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other.

Harassment may involve repeated forms of unwanted and unwarranted behaviour, but a one-off incident can also amount to harassment.

Harassment on grounds of sex, race, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation, and/ or age may amount to unlawful discrimination. Harassment may also breach other legislation and may in some circumstances be a criminal offence (e.g. under the provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Sex Discrimination Act, etc).

Harassment on the grounds of an individual's sex can include either sexual harassment (i.e. harassment of a sexual nature), or sex-related harassment (i.e. unwanted conduct related to the complainant's sex or that of another person). Neither of these forms of harassment is acceptable.

Reasonable and proper management instructions administered in a fair and proper way, or reasonable and proper review of a member of staff's or a student's work and/ or performance will not constitute harassment. Behaviour will not normally amount to harassment if the conduct complained of could not reasonably be perceived as offensive.

Intention and motive

The perpetrator's motives are not the main factor in deciding if behaviour amounts to harassment - it is the effect that the alleged behaviour has on the recipient that is important. Just because certain behaviour may be acceptable to the alleged harasser or another person does not mean it is not harassment.


Bullying is a form of harassment. It may be characterised by offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. It may or may not be based on a specific personal characteristic (e.g. disability, gender, race).


Victimisation occurs specifically when a person is treated less favourably because they have asserted their rights under this guidance, either in making a complaint or in assisting a complainant in an investigation.

The College will endeavour to protect any member of staff, student, or visitor from victimisation for bringing a complaint or assisting in an investigation.

Victimisation is a form of misconduct which may in itself result in a disciplinary process, regardless of the outcome of the original complaint of harassment.


Examples of behaviour that may amount to harassment include:

  1. suggestive comments or body language;
  2. verbal or physical threats;
  3. insulting, abusive, embarrassing or patronising behaviour or comments;
  4. offensive gestures, language, rumours, gossip or jokes;
  5. humiliating, intimidating, demeaning and/or persistent criticism;
  6. open hostility;
  7. isolation or exclusion from normal work or study place, conversations, or social events;
  8. publishing, circulating or displaying pornographic, racist, sexually suggestive or otherwise offensive pictures or other materials;
  9. unwanted physical contact, ranging from an invasion of space to a serious assault.

(The above list is not intended to be exhaustive.)

All these examples may also amount to bullying, particularly when the conduct is coupled with the inappropriate exercise of power or authority over another person. Many of the above examples of behaviour may occur through the use of internet, email, other electronic media, or telephone/ mobile phone.

Being under the influence of alcohol or otherwise intoxicated will not be admitted as an excuse for harassment, and may be regarded as an aggravating feature.



St Catherine's College is committed to equal opportunities, and aims to provide an environment in which all students, employees, contractors, and visitors are treated with dignity and respect, and in which they can work and study free from any type of discrimination, harassment, or victimisation.

This section outlines the College's policy on harassment and - through links on the right hand side of this page - provides guidance for anyone who believes they are or have been the subject of harassment. Please note that wherever harassment is referred to below this should be taken to include bullying, which is a form of harassing behaviour.

Information concerning allegations of harassment should be treated in the strictest confidence. Breaches of confidentiality may give rise to disciplinary action.


All staff and students are responsible for upholding this policy and should act in accordance with the policy guidance in the course of their day-to-day work or study, ensuring an environment in which the dignity of other staff, students, and visitors is respected. Offensive behaviour will not be tolerated.

Harassment is a serious offence which is punishable under the College's disciplinary procedures.

Heads of department and their equivalents, those with significant supervisory duties, and others in positions of responsibility or seniority, including students who fall into these categories, have specific responsibilities. These include setting a good personal example, making it clear that harassment will not be tolerated, being familiar with, explaining, and offering guidance on this policy and the consequences of breaching it, investigating reports of harassment, taking corrective action if appropriate, and ensuring that victimisation does not occur as a result of a complaint. Instances of harassment should be brought to the attention of an appropriate person in authority, such as a head of department or a senior college officer.

Staff should also bring to the attention of their head of department any form of harassment or victimisation committed by third parties using College facilities (e.g. conference delegates, contractors, etc).


St Catherine's is committed to promoting awareness and understanding of this policy (and the accompanying guidance) amongst staff and students, and has therefore made this information available via its website.

The policy will form a part of every employment and student contract, and/ or relationship, and/ or contract for services. The College will endeavour to encourage a culture of non-tolerance of any form of harassment.

This policy and the accompanying guidance, which should be read in conjunction with the College's Equal Opportunity Policy and Race Equality Policy, will be the subject of regular review by the Governing Body in consultation with other appropriate committees, including the Equality Committee.

HR Policies

In addition to the information found in the Conditions of Service document published on its website, the College has published a number of policies and procedures.

Links to these policy documents can be found below.

Anti-Bribery Policy   
Capability Procedures
Disciplinary Procedures
Grievance Procedures
Pay Review Procedures
Probation Procedures
Redundancy Policy
Right to Work Checklist
Right to Work Procedures
Right to Work Checking and Copying Procedure
Sickness Absence
Stress at Work

Equal Opportunities Policy for Students


St Catherine's College (as part of the University of Oxford) aims to provide education of excellent quality at undergraduate and postgraduate level for able students, whatever their background. In pursuit of this aim, the College is committed to using its best endeavours to ensure that all of its activities are governed by principles of equality of opportunity, and that all students are helped to achieve their full academic potential.

This statement applies to student admissions, to the curriculum, teaching and assessment of students, and to welfare and support services.

Student admissions

Decisions on admissions are based solely on the individual merits of each candidate, and their suitability for the course they have applied to study as assessed by the application of selection criteria appropriate to the course of study (bearing in mind any requirements laid down by any professional body).

Admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy. We seek to admit students of the highest academic potential, and to select students for admission without regard to sex, marital or civil partnership status, race, ethnic origin, colour, religion, sexual orientation, social background or other irrelevant personal characteristics.

Applications from students with disabilities are considered on exactly the same academic grounds as those from other candidates. The College is committed to making arrangements whenever practicable to enable such students to participate as fully as possible in student life. Details of these arrangements will be provided on request by the Academic Office.

In order to widen access to Oxford, the University and colleges support schemes which work to encourage applicants from groups that are currently under-represented. The undergraduate Admissions Office can provide details of current schemes.

None of the above shall be taken to invalidate the need for financial guarantees where appropriate.

Information relating to the University's code of practice on student admissions can be found here.

The curriculum, teaching and assessment

Unfair discrimination based on individual characteristics (listed in the statement on recruitment and admissions above) will not be tolerated. University departments, faculties, colleges and the central quality assurance bodies monitor the curriculum, teaching practice and assessment methods. Teaching and support staff have regard to the diverse needs, interests and backgrounds of their students in all their dealings with them.

Welfare and support services

Colleges have the lead responsibility for student welfare and can provide details of arrangements made to support their students. The University, in addition, provides for all students who require such support: a counselling service; disability assessment and advice; childcare advice; a harassment advisory service.

Further details of these services are included in the Proctors' and Assessor's handbook "Essential information for students", which is updated annually.

Staff training

The University, through its The Oxford Learning Institute, provides appropriate training programmes to support this statement.


A candidate for admission who considers that he or she has not been treated in accordance with this policy, should raise this matter with the College (or department in the case of graduate admission).

Students in the course of their studies may use the student complaints procedure, and should, in the first instance, lodge their complaint with the Proctors, who will advise on the procedure to be followed thereafter.

Code of Practice on Staff Recruitment and Selection


The College welcomes diversity amongst its staff and seeks to ensure that all candidates for employment are treated fairly, and that selection is based solely on the individual merits of candidates and on selection criteria relevant to the post. In pursuance of this aim and of its statutory duties, St Catherine's College will seek to adhere to the following procedure in the recruitment and selection process for all advertised posts.

These notes relate to non-teaching support staff and College lecturers. Members of academic staff with University appointments are subject to rules laid down by the University.

Selection criteria

Selection criteria will be clearly defined and reflected in the further particulars sent to candidates, and will - as far as is reasonably practicable - be designed so that they will not directly or indirectly discriminate against potential applicants on the grounds of a particular characteristic (e.g. gender, age, sexual orientation, etc).

Where the demands of the role do justify a particular characteristic being required, this will wherever possible be made clear in the advertisement and/ or further particulars.


The College uses a variety of media to advertise jobs (both internal and external) and will seek to advertise roles in such a way as to encourage applications from a broad range of suitable candidates from all backgrounds. The College website includes guidance on how to apply for jobs at St Catherine's.

Selection of candidates

The ability of each candidate to perform the job description will be assessed objectively against the selection criteria for that job, based on the evidence provided by candidates in their applications. It is the College's intention that all applications for a post should be processed in the same way.

Information sought from candidates and passed to those responsible for appointments will relate only to the qualifications for or requirements of the job. The College recognises its statutory obligation to make such adjustments to the workplace and to working arrangements as are reasonable to accommodate suitably qualified disabled applicants.

Wherever suitably qualified persons are available, there will be at least one member of each gender on the selection committee. The College will seek to ensure that all members of a selection committee are aware of this code, and (where appropriate) training and advice will be available in furtherance of its principles.

Interview questions should relate to the selection criteria. No questions should be based on assumptions (for example) about roles in the home and the family. In particular, questions about private personal relationships, children, or domestic obligations should not be asked at interview, although candidates may request information on relevant staff benefits and policies.

Where it is necessary to obtain information on personal circumstances (for example, in relation to a selection criterion such as flexibility to work irregular hours), questions about this will be asked equally of all candidates and, like other questions, will relate only to the job requirements.

In the case of disabled applicants who identify themselves at the application stage, appropriate interview arrangements (such as accessible interview rooms or the assistance of a sign interpreter) will be offered to enable such candidates to compete on an equal basis.

Record-keeping and Recruitment Monitoring

Details of candidates - both successful and unsuccesful - and of selection decisions (including the rationale for selection or rejection) will be kept for twelve months after an appointment has been made, and will then be destroyed.

The College will ask all candidates to complete a voluntary recruitment monitoring form as part of their application. This form will be anonymous and details of candidates will not be provided to members of the selection panel. Forms will normally be kept for a period of 12 months and will then be destroyed.

Data derived from recruitment monitoring forms may be used to determine whether individuals with a particular characteristic (e.g. ethnic background, age, disability, etc) apply in smaller numbers than might be expected, or are shortlisted or appointed in a lower proportion than their application rate, or are concentrated for example in certain jobs or departments. Where such under-representation is identified, positive action initiatives may be developed.

The Equality Committee reports annually to the Governing Body of the College, outlining the results of the recruitment monitoring for the year that has just been completed.

Review of recruitment practice

Recruitment procedures and practices will be kept under review so as to ensure that this code is operating effectively.

Equal Opportunities - Childcare

St Catherine's College operates a salary-sacrifice childcare scheme which is detailed in the conditions of service document on the College website. Members of staff with queries about the scheme should contact the College Accountant in the first instance.

An alternative scheme is also available for those members of staff whose children attend a nursery run by the University or a College. Details can be found on the University of Oxford website.

The University has a range of nursery facilities, which are open to any student or member of staff at the College. Due to the popularity of these nursery facilities waiting lists can be long, but more information (including frequently asked questions and details of available funding) can be found on the University website.

The Alan Tayler Lecture 2014

St Catz together with The Smiths Institute, are delighted to welcome Professor Alan Newell from the University of Arizona, to give this year's Alan Tayler Lecture. Entitled, 'Phyllotaxis, Pushed Pattern Fronts, and Optimal Packing' we are sure that this will prove to be a stimulating and informative lecture.

Equal Opportunities - Equality Legislation

General principles of equality law
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in employment or in the provision of training and education on the grounds of any of the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Staff and students are protected in all aspects of the employment, education and/or training relationship, which includes: recruitment and selection, employment terms and conditions, promotion, transfers, access to benefits, appraisal/annual review, assessment of performance, dismissal and post-termination (such as providing references).

Discrimination can occur in several different ways, as follows:

Direct discrimination
This is where one individual is treated less favourably than another, and the less favourable treatment is because of a protected characteristic they have, or are thought to have (see perception discrimination), or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination
This is where a provision, criterion or practice applies equally to everyone but has, or would have, a disproportionate impact on those people who share a protected characteristic (e.g. it is more difficult for someone to comply with a requirement because of their religion or belief).

Discrimination by association
This is direct discrimination against an individual because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.

Perception discrimination
This is direct discrimination against an individual where the person is treated less favourably than another, and the less favourable treatment is because others think they possess a protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.

This is defined as unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of either: (a) violating another person's dignity; or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other person.

This occurs where an individual is subjected to less favourable treatment by reason of the fact that s/he has done a ’protected act‘ under the discrimination legislation – e.g. someone has made a complaint about discrimination on grounds of their age or sex, or helped somebody else to do so, and they are now being treated less favourably by their manager.

Positive Action
The College may take positive action in respect of access to facilities and training for specific groups who are under-represented. It would be reasonable to take action to increase applications for posts or study from a particular group of people, or provide work experience, outreach days or training programmes only for those people. These actions increase the numbers of eligible people by developing relevant skills and increasing applications from under-represented groups.

However, positive action is not the same as positive discrimination (which is prohibited), and the selection for admission to study or appointment to posts must therefore be made solely on the basis of merit.

Genuine Occupational Requirements
There are limited exemptions from liability in all the discrimination legislation. Thus where the sex, race, age, sexual orientation or religion or belief of an employee is required for the specific job he or she is required to do, that characteristic may amount to a genuine occupational requirement (GOR).

There must be a clear connection between the duties of the post in question and the characteristics required. An example might be the need to recruit a person from a particular racial group to act in a role written for a character from that racial group.

However, GORs are usually difficult to establish and anyone wishing to establish a GOR should discuss this with the Personnel Advisor before advertising the post.

Public Sector Equality Duty
As part of the Equality Act St Catherine's College has a public sector equality duty which came into force in April 2011. The equality duty covers all the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act with the exception of marriage and civil partnership. Under the duty the College must have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act;
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Having ‘due regard’ means consciously considering the three aims listed above as part of our decision-making processes and when we are reviewing or developing policies.

Due regard for ‘advancing equality’ involves removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics; taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people; and encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

‘Fostering good relations’ involves tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups.

The legislation allows for the more favourable of treatment of some people, but only where the more favourable treatment can be objectively justified as a proportionate means of fulfilling the public sector equality duty.

College Response
St Catherine's College is committed to fulfilling the public sector equality duty. As part of this commitment we will:

  • annually review the information we publish in relation to our compliance with the equality duty;
  • set equality objectives every four years which are then annually reviewed in the equality report

The College’s Equality Report can be accessed through this link.


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