student life

Is legislation the way to tackle the lad culture?

As the issue of lad culture in universities continues to be at the centre of debate for students, remarks from Business Secretary Sajid Javid have raised questions as to what role the government might have in solving the issue.

Last month, Javid said an inquiry would be launched into the problem. Additionally, in an interview with the Sunday Times, Javid did not rule out the prospect of introducing legislation during the course of Parliament to tackle it.



It is unclear however if the legislation will go ahead, as well as its context when it comes to tackling the problem. A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said Javid wrote to Universities UK to set up a taskforce to look into the matter.

Will it help?

“Universities take their responsibilities for the safety of all students incredibly seriously and they already have strong clear legal duties through the Equalities Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Kettle. “The [Universities UK] taskforce will develop a code of practice to bring about cultural change, leverage existing complaints mechanisms more effectively and improve engagement with Crime Prevention Officers.”

Reached by telephone, a spokesperson for Universities UK confirmed that a taskforce was being organised and would be in place for one year. Yet, the final criteria of what will be examined had not been finalised.

The inquiry comes amid a 2013 report from the National Union of Students, known as That’s What She Said, which looked into sexism and other harassment claims.

In a statement, the NUS said they welcomed the inquiry, and hoped they would be part of the conversation moving forward. The NUS added that it would continue to work with nine pilot unions, including one at the University of Warwick, to look at ways to solve the problem.

Problem with our society

Some believe that the legislation is important and will help. In a telephone interview, Josie Linsel, the president of the Students Union at the University of Central Lancashire, said such legislation, should it be proposed, could make progress.

“Legislation, if it’s done properly, could implement a huge jump forward,” Linsel said. “You could set out what could work onto employers and workplaces.”

Linsel says the issue of lad culture is also more of a societal issue, and that education is necessary.

“It may be raised more at universities, with unions and activists, with people becoming aware that it’s not okay,” Linsel said. “We know there is a problem. Alcohol is the only reason for it to be worse than any other time.”

Yet, writing in the Spectator magazine, commentator Ella Whelan said there were questions on the data from the NUS, noting the number of interviewees, and that Javid’s concerns should be focused elsewhere.

“He says he is concerned for his daughter’s safety when she goes to university,” Whelan wrote. “What the business secretary should be more concerned about is the fact that female students are being scared unnecessarily by student officials’ blown-up stats and anti-lad agitation. It’s odd that a cabinet minister is now suggesting institutional changes on the basis of such a small, biased and inflammatory report.”

However, while Linsel says the context of legislation would be important in creating a solution, it will be more than just action by the government that can solve the problem.

“I’d urge the government to instead of setting up guidelines for universities to tick a box, mandate universities to work with student unions,” Linsel said. “It would be a means to continue gradual profession.”

What do you think? Should there be legislation introduced to tackle the lad culture problem? Have your say in the comments section below.