The majority of UK students think there should be a compulsory test on understanding sexual consent at the start of university, a survey suggests.
The Higher Education Policy Institute’s survey found 58% of students backed the idea of having to pass a test to show they “fully understand” consent.
Universities have faced warnings about sexual harassment on campus.
The Everyone’s Invited website has published anonymous accounts of students facing abuse and sex assaults.
The think tank’s survey of 1,000 students found only a quarter felt they had been adequately prepared by sex education in school to have a “comprehensive understanding of sexual consent”.
There were particular concerns about understanding consent when alcohol and drugs were involved.
Friendship more important
The report examined students’ experience of sex and relationships – and said the findings challenged some of the stereotypes about student life, which was “less hedonistic than is sometimes supposed”.
The survey of undergraduates, carried out in August 2020, suggested 43% had not had sex before going to university – and 25% had never “intimately kissed” anyone.
Among male students, the survey claimed 66% had not had sex during their time as a student – and 53% of female students had not had sex during their university years.
Among all students, 11% were “voluntarily abstaining from sex” and two-thirds were not currently in a relationship.
Friendships seemed to be more important, with 58% of students saying it was more important to make friends rather than to “find people to have sex with” when first going to university.
About a third of students had never been in any “intimate relationship”, whether sexual or non-sexual, or “kissed someone on a night out” in their university years.
Almost a third said they currently watched pornography – but this was twice as likely among men than women.
The report said it aimed to provide more reliable evidence about students’ sex lives where claims were often “more salacious than illuminating”.
It showed that a “caricature” of irresponsible students had to be “redrawn”.
Nick Hillman, the institute’s director, said the findings could “help students navigate what is a key transition point in their lives”.
“By telling students about the experiences of their peers, we hope the results will make it easier for them to make informed decisions about their own lives.”