Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, News.

Karen Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Private and voluntary sector employers with over 250 employees were required to publish a gender pay gap report about their workforce by the 4th April 2018. This article examines what those reports revealed, the reasons behind the gender pay gap and whether the reporting requirements will make a difference.

 Gender pay gap vs equal pay

The gender pay gap is different to ‘equal pay’ and it’s a common misconception to think that the ‘gender pay gap’ has something to do with paying women the same as men.

Equal pay has been unlawful since 1970 and is based on men and women in the same employment being paid the same for doing the same or similar work. In contrast, the gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly wage of all men and women across an organisation and is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. [1]

As one report explained “If you line up all the men and women working at a company in two separate lines in order of salary, the median pay gap will be the difference in salary between the woman in the middle of her line and the man in the middle of his”.[2]

Employers have to split their results into 4 equal salary quartiles which identify where women are concentrated  – these are the  lower pay band ( i.e. the bottom 25% of earners); lower middle (25-50%); upper middle (50-75%) and upper ( 75-100%).[3]

The power of governments to force employers to report their gender pay gap is contained in section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. However this section was not brought into force when the coalition government came into power in 2010 who instead decided to introduce a voluntary gender pay gap reporting scheme instead, called  ‘Think, Act, Report’[4]. After only 7 companies voluntarily published their gender pay gap data, the government brought section 78 into force in August 2016.[5] The Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations 2017 came into force on the 6th April 2017.

What do the gender pay gap reports reveal?

The reports published demonstrate a wide ranging and deep structural inequality in the UK’s workplaces. In particular they show that:

  • Women are concentrated in the lowest paid jobs
  • Men are concentrated in the highest paid jobs
  • The gender pay gap for bonuses is especially wide

Looking at just a sample of the results published demonstrates the above problems:

  • At Barclays, 81% of  the best paid employees are men and 63% of the worst paid are women[6]
  • At Tui 95% of the best paid employees are men and 79% of the worst paid are women[7]
  • Ryanair has a pay gap of 71.8% and only 3% of women in higher paid jobs (only 8 of their 554 pilots are women)[8]
  • Bank JP Morgan has a gender pay gap of 54% and less than 1 in 10 of employees in their highest paid group are women[9]
  • The bonus pay gap for the University of Manchester is 87% and for the University of  Liverpool is 90%[10]
  • At law firm CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang women are paid 32.8% less than men per hour and the bonus pay gap is 30.4%[11]
  • When the ‘big four’ accountancy firms KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte revised their reports to incorporate partner’s earnings this increased the overall gender  pay gap from 13.7% at PwC to 43.8%; from 18.2% to 43.2% at Deloitte; from 19.7% at EY to 38.1% and from 22% to 42% at KPMG.[12]


Why does it exist?

Several different factors contribute to there being a gender pay gap.

Despite girls doing well at school and in education, once they leave women tend to be concentrated in the types of work that are paid less whereas men are disproportionately represented in many of the highest paid sectors of employment.[13]

In particular women are concentrated in the ‘five C’s’ of cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering and clerical work[14].  These occupations are “lower paid and lower valued than men’s.”[15]

However even when women do work in better paid areas of work, they are concentrated in the lower paid positions. Just 7 of the FTSE 100 companies have female CEO’s[16]  Despite women making up 47% of the workforce, they only comprise 35% of managers, directors and senior officials[17]. Anecdotally, older women with more experience report being passed over for promotion by younger men with less experience.

Another issue, and one which is related to women being concentrated in lower paid positions, is the lack of high paid part time work. 45% of working women in the UK work part time[18].  For many women it is “the only practical solution to the problem of combining parenthood with paid employment.[19] However, very few well paid jobs are part time with only 3% of UK job vacancies for part time roles earning £20,000 or more.[20]

There are also cultural issues at play here as the chief executive of the Fawcett Society says “Women are not 70% or 80% less productive than men; when women ask for bonuses they are seen as pushy”.[21] One female bank worker reports that “Whether you get along with your line manager influences the size of the bonus, and they’re all men.”[22]

Will the reporting obligations make a difference?

The idea behind gender pay gap reporting is that it by ‘naming and shaming’ employers they will be forced to doing something about it, as not only may  a large gender pay gap put off potential female recruits but it will be bad ‘PR’ for the company or organisation.

The ACAS Guidance on gender pay gap reporting does encourage employers to implement an ‘action plan’ which will aim to reduce their gender pay gap, but that is voluntary [23].

It may be that the bad publicity and outcry at the gender pay gaps being reported by some organisations will prompt them to act and at the very least it means they can no longer claim that the gender pay gap is not a  problem at their company or  organisation.

However there are no sanctions for any company or organisation that does reveal a large gender pay gap or where men dominate the highest paid positions, only for those that fail to comply with their reporting obligations.

There is a risk that with so many employers reporting gender pay gaps at the same time, that the size of the gap gets lost in the deluge of reports each March and April. The other risk is that the public and employees become apathetic about the results and start to just ‘accept’ the gaps as being ‘normal’.

There is a question mark over whether publishing the reports alone with drive the necessary structural changes needed to the way work is organised and rewarded in this country in order to really address the gender pay gap. The regulations do require the government to review within 5 years whether they have met the objectives of the policy to reduce the gender pay gap[24], but that review will probably be more focused on driving compliance with reporting obligations or crunching statistics about the results rather than  introducing legislation to address the structural inequalities in the workforce.

The big question is whether employers will really act voluntarily to implement the necessary changes.  One female bank worker summed up the conundrum:  “We try to get change, but men are holding the levers of power. We’re expecting our oppressors to change the system – it’s like asking turkey’s to vote for Christmas”.[25]


Karen Lawson


[1] EHRC What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay, available from accessed on 25th April 2018

[2] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 2 of 17

[3] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note pages 23-24,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[4] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 2,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[5] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 3,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[6] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 2 of 5

[7] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 3 of 5

[8] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 17

[9] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 17

[10] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 17

[11] Monidipa Fouzder, ‘Handful of law firms among first batch to report gender pay gap’, The Law Society Gazette, published 8th January 2018

[12] Max Walters, ‘Firms begin to reveal partner pay gap- but stop short of full comparison’, The Law Soceity Gazette, published 21st March 2018

[13] EHRC What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay, available from accessed on 25th April 2018

[14] Trades Union Congress (TUC) from their written evidence submitted to Business, Innovation and Skills ( BIS) select committee dated October 2012 available from accessed on 26 July 2013 at page 17 of 26

[15] BIS Committee ‘Women in the Workplace’ First Report of Session 2013-14 Volume 1 published 20 June 2013 available from accessed on 11 October 2013 at page 8

[16] Anoosh Chakelian, ‘What to say when someone tries to mansplain away the gender pay gap’, The New Statesman, 4th April 2018 available at at page 2 of 4

[17] EHRC What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay, available from accessed on 25th April 2018

[18] Government Equalities Office ‘Quality part time work: an evaluation of the Quality Part time Work Fund’ published November 2010 available from accessed on 5 July 2013 at page 7

[19] McColgan A Just wages for women (1997) at page 248

[20] Equal Opportunities Review ‘Few opportunities for senior part time workers’, issue 239 August 2013 at page 5

[21] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 5

[22] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 5

[23] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 27,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[24] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 30,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[25] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 5

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Last week two things happened which, on the face of it, seemed unrelated, but which with reflection covered some common ground. The first was a session run by a representative of Advance HE (the new amalgam of the Higher Education Academy, the Equality Challenge Unit and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education). In the session, a recurring theme was the importance of choice for students. In 2016, the Department for Business Information and Skills summarised the responses to an earlier consultation and said that “increased student information and choice was welcomed” (p. 5). They also concluded (p. 7) that “Respondents were supportive of the overall aims of the TEF and the focus on high quality teaching to drive up standards and improve student choice.” A couple of years earlier, an HEA project by Pedro de Senna found that both students and lecturers alike were concerned and interested in the level of student choice that was available.

That students are consumers of Higher Education is no longer much debated. There are still colleagues who lament the monetisation and commodification of education, but the reality is that this is what has happened, and that we cannot realistically go back to how things used to be. As a business, customer choice is said to be paramount – choice in the sense that the students can decide which institution (if any) to attend, which course to study (and whether to take a single honours or joint honours approach), and which modules to take within that course.

Is choice always good?

Iyengar and Lepper suggest that this may not always be the case.

“It is a common supposition in modern society that the more choices, the better—that the human ability to manage, and the human desire for, choice is infinite.  From classic economic theories of free enterprise, to mundane marketing practices that provide customers with entire aisles devoted to potato chips or soft drinks, to important life decisions in which people contemplate alternative career options or multiple investment opportunities, this belief pervades our institutions, norms, and customs” (p. 995).

Their experiments involved shelves of jam, and showed that customers purchased more jam where there was a narrower choice. Too much choice, it seems can be demotivating (hence the title of their paper).

The second thing which happened this week was a visit to an “all you can eat” restaurant, which offered different dishes from around the world, and allows customers to select the dishes in whatever combination they like.

Looking around the restaurant, there were many unfinished plates of roast beef, Thai green curry, chicken carbonara and chips, for example. The customers had chosen these because they liked each individual dish, and decided that a combination of all of them would therefore be what they wanted. The reality turned out to be an unappetising combination. Luckily, they were able to go and reselect a different combination of things they liked, so eventually they were sated and left content.

In HE, the ability of students to decide that they no longer like the choice they have made and would like to change it is limited, primarily by funding restrictions. After an initial bedding-in period, it is not possible for students to decide mid-year that they would prefer to study modules A, B and C, rather than X, Y and Z which they chose at the beginning of the year.

Of course, removing choice completely has its problems too, and could negatively impact on student experience and student satisfaction.

What is needed, and what we do well on the LLB programme, is limited, but well-informed choice. The choice is limited, because only a certain number of modules exist, and there is a framework which dictates how many modules must be taken from within a particular subject area. Giving the students as much information as possible about the modules from which they need to choose, from content, to ethos to assessment, gives the students the best possibility of making the choice that works best for them. They may choose poorly, or they may choose well, and our role as lecturers is not to prescribe a set of choices, but to offer a series of suggested combinations.

As it is a grey looking morning, my thoughts are turning to Bacon – Sir Frances said “knowledge is power” and I have the knowledge that a bacon roll is not the best choice for my healthy breakfast, and because I know that, I can make a well-informed choice (even if it is a bad choice). Now, where is the brown sauce…


Journal Source:

De Senna, Pedro, (2014), Student choice in the curriculum: An investigation into existing practices in theatre and drama

Iyengar, Sheena and Mark Lepper, (2001), When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79(6):995-1006



Posted by & filed under Student Voice.

Dr Rachel Fitzgerald, Senior Lecturer in Business Studies writes:

This part of the ILT Project evaluated approaches to Capturing the Student Voice in relation a post graduate module that is delivered across most partnerships to ascertain how module and course leaders gain insight to the student voice and address concerns. The focus of this post is on results from the Student-Staff Liaison Committees and Student Module Evaluation exercises.


During the 2016/17 and 2017/18 period the University of Northampton course team report that there has been no engagement from student representatives from partner institutions at Staff Student Liaison Committees. Additionally no feedback has come to the University of Northampton course team from any partner institutions SSLCs.

Module Evaluation Data

While student engagement with module evaluations from partner institutions are limited, there is more engagement with this method of feedback than with the SSLCs. Summarised module evaluations data contains both qualitative and quantitative data and captures the student voice in relation to each module of study.

The following data has been extracted from module evaluations from partner institutions for the named module.

Tables 1 and 2 below denote the actual number of responses to module evaluation and what this  represents in % of students on the module.

Table 1: 2016-17 Module Evaluations across a range of partners

Response Representation
P1 N=27 28.1%
P2 N=1 14.3%
P5 N=1 6.7%
P6 N=33 39.2%
P7 N=10 12%

Table 2: 2017-18 Module Evaluations across a range of partners

Response Representation
P1 N=7 11.3%
P2 N=5 41.7%
P3 N=1 5%
P4 N=2 20%
P5 N=1 11.1%

The tables demonstrate that representative feedback from the module evaluations are low but often enough to accept as insight into the student voice. This is further demonstrated through an evaluation of a single category from the module evaluation survey. Category 5.1: Appropriate and sufficient opportunities to gain advice and support have been made available to me during this module

Reviewing the Student Voice in relation to Access to Advice and Support

A review of the advice and support category 5.1 of the module evaluation survey reveals that on a 1-5 scale that the general average of scores for this category sits close to centre (between 2.5 and 3) for all partnerships. This indicates that students are generally accepting of the advice and support available to them but do not think it excels. While achieving average is not flagged as an area for change – it does indicate more work is needed to improve student rating regarding this aspect of their module and that this is a consistent requirement across all partnership institutions.

Reviewing the Qualitative Feedback of the Module Evaluation Form

A review of qualitative feedback from the module evaluation form is revealing: In some partner institutions, students indicate that there are communication issues and that they don’t always understand the university requirements for assessments. This could be easily addressed with a discussion between the partner teaching team and the module teaching team. Students at other partner institutions indicate that they would like more support through virtual learning methods and would like to be able to access live and recorded lectures from the university. While some of these issues are specific to particular partnerships, collective data is also evident. For example, across a number of partner institutions, students indicate that assessment feedback is late and this could be followed up to ensure that the moderation process, for example is not the hold-up.

Addressing feedback from the Module Evaluation Survey

It is clear that comments on the module evaluation survey give insight into areas that could be improved by both the partner institution and the University. However, what has emerged from discussions with the university teaching team is that the module evaluation data is returned to the module leader and is not necessarily shared with the module teaching team at the partner institution or the university. There are no processes to ensure that issues are discussed and/or addressed at a module level so therefore there is no data to suggest that the student voice is heard where it needs to be heard or that we can identify how these issues have been addressed for future cohorts.


This enquiry into student feedback from partner institutions identified that there is little to no engagement from students with regard to SSLC channels for feedback. There is, however, qualitative and quantitative data from students at partner institutions available through module evaluation surveys. While module evaluation responses are limited, the data can provide rich insight into common issues and specific areas that could be addressed both at the partner institution and at the University. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no processes to monitor and address this feedback in a cohesive manner that ensures both university and partner institutions are acknowledging the feedback and assuring students that their voice is valued, and recognised as part of our service delivery. This lack of acknowledgement may also be a factor in the limited engagement with feedback processes. The difficulty may lie in the distributed nature of the module teams however with clear process this could be a straightforward area to address to enhance the student experience.

This is the fourth blog post in relation to this project. The first three can be found here, here and here.


Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, Student Voice.

Kate Exall, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Reviewing the Evidence from the Student Survey

This month’s blog focuses on the results of the survey completed by my students and the preliminary findings from it.

Data was collected from 12 students who attended a face to face workshop.  9 of them said that they has used the Discussion Board over half the time with 2 saying they have occasionally or never used it and 1 who had used it less than half the time.

Pulling out some of the findings, they fell broadly into 4 categories:

(a)    The perceived value of discussion boards

(b)    The problems with using them

(c)     What would encourage them to use Discussion Boards

(d)    How effective they found them in combination with the face to face workshops.


(a)    What the students liked about Discussion Boards

The students reported that they liked seeing other people’s opinions and answers which they could learn from.  It gave them a different perspective and the opportunity to consider other ideas.  They also liked the ability to share their own views and opinions and to express themselves.

They preferred being able to post ideas about a topic as they felt that this gave them more to talk about and being able to post their own ideas allowed them to be less academic.  Some students preferred identifying key points from a decision or a report as this sharpened up their analysis and evaluation skills but other students found this to be a difficult activity and preferred to go into detail on cases in the face to face workshops.


(b)    What stops them engaging with Discussion Boards?

The main comment was lack of time or understanding of the topic.  One student noted that it took longer to do than usual seminar preparation and another that it was more formal than preparing for a face to face seminar.  One student commented that the feedback was less effective than in a class room session where it was immediate.

In previous informal feedback the students had asked for anonymous posting and half of them repeated that message in the survey, with one person commenting that “the thought of everyone knowing it was you who had posted was daunting”.

The students generally liked the way that the Discussion Board answers were integrated into the face to face workshops and that they could build on the work that had been done.


(c)     What would encourage them to use Discussion Boards?

They would like these for assignment queries and would like the link to be clearer between the work they do on Discussion Boards and its use in class or for assignments.

They would like the ability to post by mobile phone or tablet.


(d)    The effectiveness of them

Many of the students questioned the need for them.  There were several comments along the lines of we could have done all of this just as effectively face to face. One student noted that they didn’t post their ideas on the Discussion Board as they preferred to save them for the workshop discussion; another said that they had better discussions face to face with more immediate feedback and there was an overall preference for face to face delivery.   Part of this may have been, as the students noted, that there wasn’t much interaction with the Discussion Board in that instead of being a tool for discussion they were simply a posting tool as people didn’t comment on each other’s posts.  One student stood up for Discussion Boards saying “even though it takes me some time, I must admit that my understanding of the topic is better”.


Some preliminary thoughts from this are that there is a place for Discussion Boards but thought needs to be given to the extent of their use; that students would value them more if they were used for discussions rather than simple posts and that they would like the option to post anonymously.


Posted by & filed under Student Voice.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes

This is the third in a series of blog posts which have come from our ILT-funded project which focuses on the Student Voice. The first two posts are here and here.

The project is starting to generate some results now, as we are moving towards the close of the second term. It is already clear that one of the original aims of the project is not going to be possible to complete, as the roll-out of Unitu (the online student rep system) did not work on either of the PG Programmes on which it was being trialled. Initial technical problems, such as the link being sent to incomplete lists of students, and poor engagement with the system by the students on the programmes which are part of this study, has resulted in a lack of meaningful data.

What has been markedly more successful was finding out how our Collaborative Partner institutions capture the voices on the students who are studying on their sites. There are processes set out in most of the Partnership Agreements, but the evidence gathered as part of this project suggests that these processes are being honoured more in the breach than in the practice.

For one partner, Student Representatives from each year group are elected, but because of the relatively small number of students enrolled on the programme, the formalised, regular Student-Staff Liaison Committee structure has been replaced with a more informal problem identification and resolution system. The Student Representatives are very active, and are frequently and regularly canvassing their cohort to see if there are any issues which need resolving. Some of the issues are partner-specific, and others relate more to the University. In Law, for example, one of the suggestions by the students is that they set up their own branch of the Student Law Society, as the majority of the events organised by the Northampton-based SLS are physical events, and it would not be practicable for students studying with Partners to attend.

What has also helped this system to function effectively that students report that no “serious issues” have occurred, and it is only minor issues that have had to be resolved. This is supported by the Student Module Evaluation forms, which are largely positive and do not identify any common issue that needs to be resolved.

Whilst this is clearly and effective system that suits all parties at present, the students have said that they would like the process to be a little more formalised. One of the recommendations of this project will be that it is good practice for the formalised structure to be used from the start of a partnership, so it can become embedded while there are perhaps lower numbers. This way, partner institutions will not have to adapt their ad hoc processes while they have larger numbers of students.


Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

In the Spring Statement this week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, announced that the government would not be imposing a ‘latte levy’ on single use disposable coffee cups, and would instead rely on the coffee shops to offer a reduced price to people who bring reusable cups, while the government launched a two-month call for evidence exercise (LINK). The results of this exercise will no doubt be carefully and slowly analysed, before a Consultation exercise is started. This too will yield a set of results which can be pored over, before draft legislation is introduced. With a bit of luck, this process could be halted at the end of this Parliament, so instead of demonstrating a decisive nature at the dispatch box, Mr Hammond has started a process which the Chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Mary Creagh MP has said “will drag on for years”



I agree. This was a missed opportunity, and shows a complete misunderstanding about the nature of financial incentives on human behaviour. A good few years ago, Harrington and Morgernstern wrote a short paper for the Resources for the Future organisation (LINK) in which they compared the environmental benefits of “command and control” measures and financial incentives.


In it, they argued that traditional financial incentives had a small impact on behaviour. Traditional financial incentives are those where the state rewards good behaviour – so a 10 per cent reduction in the price of coffee for those who bring a reusable cup falls squarely within this category.


The same was true with the initial drive to reduce the consumption of single-use carrier bags. Most supermarkets and chain stores offered customers the opportunity to buy a “Bag for Life” which would be replaced free of charge if it ever wore out. This had an impact on the use of single use carrier bags, but not a dramatic one. In 2014, the last year before the 5p charge was introduced, the seven main UK supermarkets (Asda, M&S, Sainsbury, Tesco, Co-op, Waitrose, Morrisons) issued 7.6 billion single use carrier bags – that is over 100 to every person in the UK.


In October 2015, a 5p charge was introduced on single-use carrier bags. This would be the equivalent to the latte levy. By 2016/7 the number of single-use carrier bags sold by the seven UK supermarkets had fallen by 83 per cent, to 1.3 billion (LINK).


This demonstrates that a small levy on an unsustainable practice has two beneficial impacts – a significant reduction in the occurrence of the practice, and (provided the revenue raised does not disappear into the central government pot) a large income for charities (£66m in the case of carrier bags).


It is unlikely that Mr Hammond will change his mind, so there are two things that we can do.


The first is to submit some evidence to this LINK before 18th May. This will cost you nothing but time.


The second will probably cost you (sorry). As I mentioned in a previous blog, the downside of trying to live a “plastic-light” life, is that the alternatives cost money. Buy a reusable cup – there are loads of different ones available – and then choose your coffee shop based on whether they give you a discount for using it. At around 15-20p a cup discount, it won’t take you a huge amount of time to recoup the cost of the cup.


Oh, and please don’t buy plastic straws.



Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, News.

Dr Melanie Crofts, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

January 2018 saw, once again, news about women being groped, sexually harassed and propositioned whilst working as hostesses at a men only fundraising event for the President’s Club charity held at The Dorchester.  Talking about this event, journalist Camilla Long questioned why this was even a story.  What did the hostesses expect? This was “standard behaviour” in these kinds of places.  So why should we be bothered?  In recent months we have heard allegations of sexual assault and harassment within Parliament, sport, the film industry and in the theatre, to name a few.  The Fawcett Society published a report on the 23rd January 2018, the Sex Discrimination Law Review Report, which concluded that “Almost a fifth of women aged 16 or over have experienced sexual assault…. These crimes are part of an environment of misogynistic abuse and harassment.” (p8)

And there it is, the reason we should all be concerned. In 2018, the year we celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave (some) women the right to vote, we are still experiencing an environment where misogyny is still rife and where sexual harassment is regarded by some (many?) as “standard behaviour”.  We may now have equal suffrage, but clearly there is still a long way to go.  Unfortunately the issues are not just apparent when the rich, famous and powerful are involved.  Yes, this is when it hits the headlines, but at some point the media furore will abate and I suspect we return to a situation where these stories no longer make headline news.

We need to look closer to home.  If this kind of behaviour really is “standard”, how do we change this? Campaigns such as #metoo and #everydaysexism have certainly drawn attention to the issues and attracted some high profile support.  However, the question for me is how do we influence attitudes and behaviour in our own spheres of life?  How do we educate people that this should not be normal or “standard” behaviour? We need to get across that these behaviours are not just occurring in high profile sectors.  For example, it has long been known that sexism, sexual harassment and violence is widespread on university campuses.   The NUS published a report in 2010 ‘Hidden Marks: A study of women students’ experiences of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault’ which highlighted that sexual harassment/violence was an everyday occurrence for some women (p3).  Similar conclusions were drawn by the Universities UK report ‘Changing the Culture’ published in October 2016.  It was as a result of the Taskforce report that the Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE) devoted it’s Catalyst Fund for projects which addressed sexual violence, harassment and hate on campuses. 63 projects were funded in total (out of 109 Higher Education Institutions in England) demonstrating that it isn’t normative practice for all Higher Education Institutions get funding to address this problem.

The University of Northampton was awarded just over £40,000 from the Catalyst Fund.  The ‘New Spaces’ project considers the policies, processes and mechanisms which are in place to support women making disclosures of sexual violence.  The aim is to make recommendations to ensure robust reporting strategies and a joined up approach to addressing support for both victims and staff, to whom disclosures are often made.  A holistic approach to ensuring that victims of sexual violence and harassment are given appropriate and timely support is needed.  The impact of experiencing sexual violence can be varied and severe and clearly has implications beyond a student’s academic engagement.  Mental health and counselling services are key in providing an adequate response for victims, both within the university and externally.  This means involvement from student support services are vital.  Therefore, support services, which are already stretched, need to be adequately resourced to be able to provide appropriate assistance.  As a result of early findings in this project a ‘Gender-based Violence Working Group’ has been proposed with the aim of implementing the eventual recommendations from the ‘New Spaces’ project.  Unfortunately the response to this proposal has been that “[t] the issue of gender based violence is obviously very important to us. However, as they stand we do not feel that the Terms of Reference and membership of the proposed working group would achieve the proposed objectives.” I will leave that there.

In addition to considering processes and support mechanisms, education is key to changing the culture within universities (and we couldn’t be better placed!).  For the past three years there has been a campaign, run by a small number of staff at the University of Northampton, based on the NUS, campaign, I *Heart* Consent. ‘I *Heart* Consent week’ has had contributions from academics, external support services, the counselling and mental health team at the university and students from the Students’ Union.  This year sessions covered bystander training, the meaning of consent in law, consent and the LGBTQ+ community and many more topics.  However, on the whole, sessions were poorly attended (unless run as part of a lecture already taking place) and mostly attended by female students (it is a ‘woman’s’ issue, after all!).  The message is slow in getting through.  Without the week being part and parcel of the institutional events calendar and organised by the university, with sufficient resources devoted to it, it is unlikely that ‘I *Heart* Consent week’ will have the desired impact of engaging male staff and students, challenging perceptions and knowledge of consent and changing institutional culture.

My final point relates to the issue of power.  There has to be a recognition that sexual violence and harassment often involves significant power differentials.  This is illustrated very clearly in the context of universities.  We are not only talking about incidents between students, but there has to be an appreciation that where intimate relationships between staff and students occur there is a risk of abuse of power which can result in sexual harassment and violence.  For example, too often relationships between staff and students are ignored because they are, after all, consenting adults.  However, this fails to recognise the potential abuse of power (most often with male lecturers having relationships with younger, female, students) and the difficulties in leaving such relationships or reporting sexual violence when it occurs.

So, what is all the fuss about? The impact of sexual violence and harassment are far reaching.  The issues don’t just impact women who work with powerful and high profile men. Taking the issues seriously, having robust processes in place for reporting incidences and supporting women are essential.  This includes universities. Universities need to take the issues of sexual harassment, violence and the power dynamics which exist seriously.  A failure to do so has implications for academic work, mental health, physical health and the overall safety of staff and students on campuses.

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

The country has been in the icy grip of the “Beast from the East” this week, and many places have seen pretty substantial accumulations of snow. It is not set to thaw today, and indeed there are Met Office weather warnings for tomorrow and Saturday as well.

One every occasion that it snows, or becomes icy, the conversation often turns to the tricky issue of whether or not you should clear snow/ice from the pavement outside your house, or from the dropped kerb area between your driveway and the road.

The Government website (LINK) is not entirely reassuring – telling you that “It’s unlikely that you’ll be sued or held responsible if someone is injured on a path or pavement if you’ve cleared it carefully” although the yardstick for much of the advice is that as long as you don’t make the situation worse, you should be fine.

The government advice on how to clear snow and ice is useful and practical, however:

“When you clear snow and ice:

  • do it early in the day – it’s easier to move fresh, loose snow
  • don’t use water – it might refreeze and turn to black ice
  • use salt if possible – it will melt the ice or snow and stop it from refreezing overnight (but don’t use the salt from salting bins as this is used to keep roads clear)
  • you can use ash and sand if you don’t have enough salt – it will provide grip underfoot
  • pay extra attention when clearing steps and steep pathways – using more salt may help” (LINK)

Most of us have to leave the house to go to work or school as well, and with transport networks creaking under the strain of the weather, and journeys taking longer, there are those who feel a sense of their own invincibility when driving. Yesterday morning, driving to work at a shade under 40mph in a 40mph zone, with reasonably clear roads but gently falling snow, I was overtaken by two cars which disappeared into the murky distance. Notwithstanding the standard seeping offence, this was a ludicrous display of recklessness.

The Highway Code gives braking distances for cars at different speeds – 36m at 40mph (LINK), but the insurance company LV quotes Kevin Clinton, head of Road Safety for RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), who points out that in wintry conditions

“you may need up to ten times the normal distance for braking.” (LINK)

The maths is easy – ten times 36m is 360m, but how many of us can accurately gauge what 360m looks like? It is actually three times the longest length a professional football pitch can be (LINK)

In the last couple of mornings, there have been images on the news of cars, vans, and lorries which had spent the night stuck on Motorways in Scotland and the North and South West of England. I have some sympathy for the drivers and passengers, as it must have been a dreadful night, but there had been a Red Weather warning in place for several hours before they got stuck – a warning which they had all clearly felt they could (or had to) ignore. Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, of Devon and Cornwall Police tweeted early this morning:

“Please can we have a more literal interpretation of the word ‘essential’ this morning. There have been so many warnings that this weather was coming.”

Perhaps there is a tenuous link here to Brexit. Experts warned of the danger of driving in blizzard conditions, and the snowfall was widely and accurately predicted. As Michael Gove has been often quoted for saying, people are fed up of listening to experts, decided they knew best, and set off down the route of no return.

Then they spend a long, cold, hard night going nowhere.

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

This year, three of the University of Northampton Law Team will be presenting work at the Association of Law Teachers’ (ALT) Annual Conference at the University of Keele. The overall conference theme is “Diversity and Innovation.” The ALT is a professional organisation of legal academics, and the aim of the organisation is to “inspire and celebrate excellence in the teaching of law, and to share the understanding and practice of legal learning.”[1] The four papers being presented by Melanie, Nick and Simon cover a wide range of issues, from equality duties and safety on campus to Team Based Learning and Active Blended Learning.

Dr Melanie Crofts will be presenting two papers, one with Dr Kimberley Hill from the Psychology team at Northampton.

Melanie’s first paper is entitled ‘Formal Equality, Legal Compliance and the TEF: Impetus for Change?’

Using Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a theoretical basis, this paper discusses the impact of the politics and perceptions on compliance with legislative requirements as reflected through the equality processes within a case study institution.  The tendency towards adopting the formal equality stance impacts on the case study’s equality processes and, in turn, their response to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The institutional barriers are not seen by those tasked with implementing the PSEDs because a substantive approach is not adopted. The situation is unlikely to improve whilst the external pressures on institutions decline further. However, this paper will explore the implications of the approaches to equality and the PSED for the TEF.  Will the need for institutions to consider the whole student journey in relation to the various protected characteristics provide the impetus needed for institutions to demonstrate their commitment to equality?

Melanie and Kimberley’s paper looks at Consent on Campus – Challenging Gender Based Violence. Research suggests that consent is often misunderstood but limited research has focused specifically on the perceptions and attitudes students. In 2014, the NUS initiated a campaign called ‘I Heart Consent’ to raise awareness and challenge myths around gender-based violence. The campaign followed research which found that sexism and ‘lad culture’ were pervasive on campuses.

Inter-disciplinary researchers from Law and Psychology convened a local ‘I Heart Consent’ week of action, to raise awareness at a local level. During this week, students were surveyed about their perceptions and understanding of issues around sexual consent, as well as their knowledge of gender-based violence and support services.

This paper will focus will be on the direct and practical applications of this research. For example, these findings may inform local policy and practice, as well as systems within Higher Education which support students disclosing incidents of sexual violence.  The implications of this research impact on the wellbeing of staff and students and discusses the implications of inter disciplinary working and the role of legal education when it comes to raising awareness and running campaigns addressing sexual violence on campus.

Nick Cartwright’s paper is called “(Dis)engagement and innovation in legal education.” In it he shows that despite the claims made of Team-Based Learning (TBL) that it advantaged all learners[2] there were patterns of dominance in group activities which correlated with race and gender.  The students had not seen (or were not reporting) these issues, instead reporting a meritocracy.

TBL may be as oppressive as more traditional approaches critiqued by critical pedagogists[3] and there is a danger that this may not be fully realised when embracing innovative practice.  Further students adopt ‘working identities’[4] that allow a narrative of meritocracy to be super-imposed over their experiences of oppression.  This is cast against a backdrop of first neo-liberalism and then austerity which has resulted in a less culturally diverse curriculum and policies which hinder the retention, progression and attainment of students from minorities.

Dr Simon Sneddon’s paper also looks at issues relating ot learning and teaching. Titled “You’ve done what? Breaking out of the lecture theatre” his paper explores the impact of moving to an Active Blended Learning (ABL) model of delivery. ABL modules are delivered “taught through student-centred activities that support the development of subject knowledge and understanding, independent learning and digital fluency.”[5]

The pedagogic rationale is the notion that large lectures are often “broadcast”, and that interactivity boosts both knowledge retention and understanding (UoN, 2016). This approach required the redesign of the module materials and delivery style, and the redesigned ABL-embedded module was rolled out in September 2017.

Each week, sessions follow a similar pattern:

1)      A discursive online (and recorded) session (using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra), presenting basic topic material, and giving students the opportunity to pose and respond to questions.

2)      Directed preparatory work posted into the VLE and discussed by students on the discussion forum.  Students are encouraged to bring their own content to the discussions.

3)      These discussion points form the basis of the workshop activity where further discourse takes place.

The paper introduced ABL, assesses its impact of on this cohort of students, and explores whether improved engagement levels can be attributed to ABL.

Nick, Melanie and Simon will reflect and feed back on the conference after the event.


[1] Association of Law Teachers, 2018,

[2] Michaelsen, L. K., Knight, A. B., & Fink, L. D. (Eds.) Team-based learning: A transformative use of small groups (2002, Greenwood publishing group)

[3] For example see: Freire, P. Pedagogy of the oppressed (2000, Bloomsbury Publishing)

[4] Ferri, B. A., Annamma, S. A., & Connor, D. J. ‘Critical Conversations Across Race and Ability’ DisCrit: Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education, (2015) 213

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Last year, my cat was shot.  The pellet we dug out from his back was less than a centimetre from his spine. He was lucky, and survived with no long-term ill-effects. The number of cats, dogs and other animals killed or seriously injured by air weapons is unknown, as no official records are kept, but a quick online search uncovers multiple hits.

Under s4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, punishable by “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine not exceeding £20,000, or to both” (s32(1) AWA 2006). Oddly, last year, the CPS decided to prosecute Franky Mills, from Surrey, with Criminal Damage rather than animal cruelty, after he shot seven cats with an air rifle. The CPS explained their decision:

“By charging the offender with a number of counts of possessing an air weapon at the time of committing criminal damage and criminal damage, this allowed us to ensure the case could be heard and sentenced in the Crown Court.

A charge of animal cruelty and simple possession of an air weapon could only have been sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court, which we felt would not have been appropriate in this case, as it would not have reflected the serious nature of the offences or offered sufficient sentencing powers.”(LINK).

At the moment, anyone over the age of 18 can go and buy an air gun. There is no licensing requirement. There are exceptions. Anyone who has been sentenced to between 3 and 36 months imprisonment cannot own an air weapon for five years, and anyone sentenced to more than five years can never own an air weapon.

The Home Office “Brief Guide to Safety” for Air Weapons (LINK) published in October 2017, lists a range of offences that it is possible to commit with an air weapon, including:

“It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill a pet animal or knowingly cause a pet animal to suffer unnecessarily, which could be committed by shooting at a pet animal.”

In December, the Home Office opened a consultation on increasing controls of the ownership and use of air weapons. The consultation was triggered by the tragic death of 13-year old Benjamin Wragge, who was accidentally shot in the neck. The focus of the consultation was whether  It was not an open consultation, and was limited to:

“a number of families who have raised the issue of air weapon legislation with their MPs as well as police forces and relevant charities and representative bodies such as the RSPCA, the Gun Control Network, the British Shooting Sports Council and the Gun Trade Association” (LINK)

Taking the issues raised in the limited consultation in turn, the requirements on storage of firearms are very strict, as you would expect.

There will be a chorus of air gun owners and users who cry “but people are stabbed all the time, why not have a licence for knives.” This is true, far more people are stabbed than are shot with air guns. The argument is spurious, however. Knives have other uses, airguns only have a single purpose – shooting things. I will use a knife, or probably a series of knives at home this evening to prepare my food. There is no circumstance where I could use an air rifle to do the same thing.

Air weapon licensing has been introduced in Scotland (Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015). Several of the bodies representing people who like to shoot legally have criticised it – and their criticism is based on the same assumption. The Countryside Alliance says “only those that wish to use airguns legally will bother to have them licenced” (LINK) and the British Association of Shooting Clubs argues that the “licensing system…, will only be taken up by already law-abiding airgun users” (LINK).

Again, this misses the point somewhat. I have the pellet which was used to shoot my cat. No doubt the shooter would consider themselves to be a law abiding airgun user, but on this occasion they were not, and a list of licence holders of the same type of weapon could yield a successful prosecution under either the Animal Welfare Act or Criminal Damage Act.

The safety issue for manufacturers hinges around whether it should be made harder for air weapons to be accidentally discharged. In addition, making it harder for after-market upgrades to be fitted is being considered.  There is a thriving (legal) market in upgrade kits, and also in DIY for a describing how to make an air weapon more powerful (most of the latter come with disclaimers of liability for any illegality).

I am not suggesting for a second that the majority of air gun enthusiasts are law abiding, entirely pleasant people, who just happen to have a penchant for shooting things. Neither am I denying that the number of reported offences committed with air weapons has declined over the last decade – though they are currently increasing, and numbered in excess of 3,000 for 2015-16. What I am suggesting is that a licensing regime, including the registration of resales, would make people think twice about misusing their weapons.