Our latest Thought Leadership guest-blog is by Dr Iain Morrison, Dean of Students, University of the Highlands and Islands. Iain tells us about a new national staff development training resource, which is freely available for colleges and universities.

The shocking escalation in reported domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic has been called a ‘shadow pandemic.’ People in abusive relationships have become even more isolated and calls to support organisations have increased dramatically. Colleges and universities have significant experience in providing support to survivors and a new national initiative will provide a useful, freely available resource for further staff development.

The University of the Highlands and Islands, with co-funding from seventeen Scottish universities, led the creation of a new online training course to raise awareness of gender-based violence issues for college and university staff. The course builds on the work of the Scottish Government-funded Equally Safe in Higher Education (ESHE) Toolkit and was funded by members of the Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education – Scotland (AMOSSHE-Scotland). The funders were united in their desire to make the resource freely available to colleagues in every college and university in Scotland.

The aims of the one-hour course are:

• To develop participants’ understanding of the nature, extent and impact of Gender-based violence;
• To demonstrate how Gender-Based Violence affects staff and students in colleges and universities;
• To offer guidance on responding sensitively to disclosures.

By the end of this course, participants will have developed:

• An awareness of the nature and extent of GBV, why it happens and to whom;
• An informed understanding of the impact of GBV on individuals, families and communities;
• An informed awareness of GBV as an important issue for campus communities;
• An ability to recognise GBV and respond sensitively to GBV disclosures.

It complements the excellent training developed by Rape Crisis Scotland, including the new online resource for students and their in-person first responder training. The University of the Highlands and Islands has over twenty years of experience in delivering blended learning supported by local student services and we were delighted to be able to bring the expertise of our Education Development Unit to the project, helping to create an accessible and interactive online course.

Speaking about the project, course author and former Equally Safe in Higher Education national lead Dr Anni Donaldson said:

“It has been exciting to work with colleagues at the University of the Highlands and Islands on this important project. The #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements have demonstrated how widespread the prevalence of all forms of gender-based violence are in the UK and internationally, with recent research and media reports also highlighting the impact on staff and students in our colleges and universities. The creation of this course confirms the partners’ strong commitment to collaboration and to ensuring that the education sector is contributing to Equally Safe, Scotland’s national strategy to prevent and eradicate this destructive but still all too common social issue.”

If any college would like free access to the training resource, please contact Iain at: iain.morrison@uhi.ac.uk

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