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Photography Antoine J

The UK government orders universities to tackle spiking

The Department for Education announced yesterday that it is launching a new initiative to address the number of students reporting incidents of spiking

Last year saw a huge surge in spiking-related incidents at UK universities. Now, the UK government has ordered universities to introduce politics to tackle the issue by the end of the year.

The Department for Education announced on May 24 that it is launching a new initiative aimed at tackling the number of spiking incidents targeting university students, with the universities minister Michelle Donelan launching a taskforce made up of vice-chancellors, police, campaigners and victims to lead plans for practical action to help keep students safe.

“This is an issue that is very close to my heart, having had someone close to me spiked when I was younger, which had devastating consequences. So I know first-hand what a horrific crime this is and I am determined to stamp it out,” Donelan said.

The prevalence of spiking in the UK remains unclear. In 2021, 2,201 people across England and Wales reported incidents of spiking to the police, but it is thought that only one in 12 people report spiking and the true figure is estimated to be around 43,000 spiking victims in just one year.

It’s an issue which disproportionately impacts students: police data obtained by the Commons home affairs committee said 81% of recorded victims were students while 11% of students surveyed by the Tab in 2021 reported being spiked.  Students across the country took part in a mass boycott of nightclubs following this rise in reported attacks in autumn last year.

There were also multiple reports of ‘spiking by injection’ in autumn 2021, with 670 reports of injection spiking between September and December. Thankfully, in January 2022 the UK’s private security watchdog found no evidence of spiking by injection – but ultimately those who reported being injected are still no closer to finding out what really happened to them.

Alongside the launch of the new working group, Donelan has also announced that every university must bring in a dedicated policy to address spiking by the end of 2022, including measures which ensure all victims are recognised and supported.

It’s worth noting that some universities have already got anti-spiking policies in place. For example, the University of Exeter offers drink safety test strips while Nottingham Trent University offers bystander intervention training for staff in night-time city venues.