Everything you need to know about the General Election Find out more

Many students in higher education (HE) encounter instances of unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct. To help tackle the prevalence of unacceptable and unlawful behaviours, Students’ Union UCL has developed and implemented a two-part Active Bystander Training Programme. Over the last seven years, more than 35,000 students have engaged with the programme, helping us build a safer and more diverse community.

For the first time in the programme’s history, we have compiled a report that offers a complete overview and in-depth evaluation of Students’ Union UCL’s Active Bystander Programme.

Between September and December 2022, 4,004 students completed the online module and 3,535 students attended a live workshop. After completing each part of the training, students were invited to complete a feedback form, which has been central to monitoring the programme’s impact.

The feedback that we have gathered includes both quantitative and qualitative data and has been extremely valuable in increasing our understanding of student experiences of the Active Bystander Programme. Student feedback has been incredibly encouraging, while offering insights into possible improvements to the programme.

Our analysis of this feedback has found that:

  • 78% of respondents agreed that the online module was useful.
  • 96% of respondents agreed that they understood what constitutes as bullying,
  • harassment, and discrimination after completing the online module.
  • 86% of respondents agreed that they feel more prepared to intervene in a situation of unacceptable behaviour after attending a live workshop.
  • Students appreciated clear explanations of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, interactive elements in the online module, scenario discussions in the live workshops and the use of the 4 Ds strategy of bystander intervention.

What’s next?

Considering the lessons that we have learned and the feedback that we have received from students, we hope to continuously improve the programme and increase its impact, both at UCL and in HE more broadly. There are several steps that we plan to take in the upcoming year to achieve this, including:

  • Employing more peer workshop facilitators and developing a programme of ongoing development.
  • Improving communication channels between Students’ Union UCL, UCL departments and students.
  • Ongoing evaluation and improvement of the programme, including developing a pre-training questionnaire for students.
  • Review the workshop and module content to reduce duplication while improving the interactivity of the training.
  • Support other institutions in developing Active Bystander Training, particularly in light of the recent Office for Students consultation which has proposed a condition of registration that would see HE institutions be required to deliver mandatory training

What we learnt from student feedback

Although the programme is not considered mandatory, UCL supports Students’ Union UCL through positioning it as a core part of a students’ induction to UCL, with many departments supporting the programme through incorporating it into their induction programme. In their feedback, many students expressed that knowing their peers have completed the training makes them feel safer on campus.

"[I like] the fact that all students have to take it which ensures that no one will be ignorant towards these issues on campus/online."

Students have praised the interactive nature of both components of the programme. Interactive elements in the online module have been incorporated to keep students engaged and to prompt them to effectively engage with the content presented in the module.

"The online module is interactive which allows students to stay focused. The information shared is clear, concise and useful."

To ensure that the live workshops are engaging and interactive, we have incorporated real-life scenario discussions which take place in small groups. Students commented on the fact that the scenarios helped them understand how different intervention strategies could be implemented in real life situations: “The breakdown of what bystanders can do (the 4Ds) is useful, but things are usually more nuanced or blurry in real life so talking about real life scenarios was helpful.”

Moreover, students appreciated discussing scenarios and intervention strategies with their peers as this gave them the chance to hear a range of opinions and consider various intervention strategies.

"There was opportunity to discuss some scenarios with other people and hear their opinions, which I think is helpful for expanding our own perspective/views and allows for more open-minded thinking."

When asked what could be improved, students asked for additional interactive elements to replace some of the text-heavy sections of the online module. When giving feedback on the live workshops, they commented on the fact that they were interested in covering more scenarios and that overall, there was not enough time dedicated to scenario discussions. We plan to incorporate these suggestions into both elements moving forward.

In addition to providing theoretical and practical knowledge, students indicated that the training has made them realise the impact they can have as bystanders: “You are reminded of the impact you can have on a daily basis by actively observing your environment and taking action when needed.” 

Students also reported that the online module has made them feel more empowered and confident to challenge unacceptable behaviour.

"The module helped me to clearly differentiate the terms bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct, hate crime and hate incident. It also awakened me to observe if there things are happening around me and gave me the confidence to raise my voice if something is happening around me."

This ties in with a key aim of the training which is to give students the confidence and skills to identify and challenge unacceptable behaviour in their communities.

Information for UCL departments and external higher education providers

In-person and online workshops will continue to run in the 2023/2024 academic year, starting in Induction Week. If departments would like to book workshops for their students, please get in touch with us at [email protected] as soon as possible as slots are filling up fast.

If external higher education providers are interested in implementing Active Bystander at their institutions, please contact us at [email protected].