Gender-based violence and institutional responses: Building a knowledge base and operational tools to make universities and research organizations safe 

Project duration: 01.02.2021 - 31.01.2024

Project lead: Dr. Anke Lipinsky

Project team: Dr. Vera Lomazzi, Claudia Schredl M.Sc., Horst Baumann M.A. (from July 2021), Frederike Freund M.Sc. (from September 2021)

Project description:

UniSAFE is a nine-partner EU funded research project that aims to produce better knowledge on gender-based violence (GBV) in research performing and funding organizations, and to translate this knowledge into operational tools for higher education, research organizations and policymakers. It examines the mechanisms of GBV, its social determinants, antecedents, and consequences, by developing and applying an ambitious multi-level research design and holistic 7P conceptual model, covering Prevalence, Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, Provision of services, Partnerships and Policy. The state-of-the-art 7P model will be used to collect comprehensive data, analyze their relations, synthesize and compare qualitative and quantitative evidence gathered.

Research and outreach activities targeting researchers, stakeholders and policymakers will be led across Europe for three years, starting in February 2021. The project includes research at three different levels:

  • Prevalence and impacts of gender-based violence are analyzed via data gathered by a survey sampling 45 universities and research organizations and by a Europe-wide survey of geographically mobile researchers (micro level).
  • Organizational responses and infrastructure are analyzed via data gathered by in-depth case studies, interviews, and a strategic mapping of interventions in universities and research organizations in 15 member states (meso level).
  • Legal and policy frameworks are analyzed via an extensive mapping in EU27 and 3 Associated States (macro level).

UniSAFE is designed to achieve its aims through research, education and outreach activities between researchers, stakeholders and policymakers across Europe. As a result of the multi-field design, the project aims to provide in-depth knowledge of existing problems on the one hand, and current and future priorities on the other.

In particular, the outcomes include:

  • A better understanding of gender-based violence in universities and research organizations in Europe and its impact on people, organizations and society.
  • Effective policies and measures implemented at universities and research organizations.
  • Increased capacity of students and staff to address gender-based violence.
  • Tools and recommendations to reduce gender-based violence in academic environments and research workplaces in Europe.

UniSAFE relies on a strong multi-disciplinary consortium of nine European partners. The strength of the consortium is based on the partners’ in-depth knowledge and extensive collaborative track record on researching gender-based violence, transforming academic insights into operational tools, including the lead on the GEAR-tool, and knowledge dissemination, including a direct link to the Gender Equality Academy.

The 3-year project supports the European Commission’s objective of ending gender-based violence in Europe by contributing to the reduction of gender-based violence in European higher education.

The project’s main website is https://unisafe-gbv.eu/.

Materials / Activities:

Towards the end of the project the UniSAFE toolkit was launched. It supports higher education institutions and research organizations in addressing gender-based violence: whether they are just starting to reflect on how to address this issue, designing a policy or are more advanced and seeking to improve an institutional policy or its implementation. The toolkit was also published on the Horizon Results Platform.

The second European UniSAFE policy brief, published on 1 February 2024, references project findings and recommendations in order to shed light on the differences in policy across the EU and identifying gaps and shortcomings in institutional policies to comprehensively address the issue of gender-based violence. The policy brief was also published on the Horizon Results Platform.

On November 21-22, 2023, the UniSAFE final conference will take place in Namur, Belgium: "From policy to practice: Pathways to end gender-based violence in academia and research". The conference is open to all stakeholders engaged in this topic and particularly addresses policymakers, decision-makers in university and research organizations’ and relevant actors for partnerships at all levels (university networks, research funding organizations), as well as gender equality officers. 

In October 2023, CEWS published materials and methodology descriptions of the soon-to-be-available dataset of the UniSAFE survey to support secondary use of the dataset, including the method report, codebook, and 13 language versions of the questionnaire. Materials can all be found here: https://doi.org/10.7802/2475.

Within the Spanish Presidency of the European Council of EU, the Spanish Ministry of Universities is organizing a conference on “Ending gender-based violence in academia” in Bilbao, October 23-24, 2023. 

In May 2023, UniSAFE shared the following links and documents mentioned during a webinar:

Press article: "Sexuelle Belästigung an Hochschulen keine Ausnahme"
Studienautorin Anke Lipinsky: Abhängigkeiten begünstigen den Missbrauch. Mehr Hilfsangebote und eine Kulturveränderung sind nötig
In: Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung WAZ (4.47 MB), 05.04.2023 (only available in German)

UniSAFE released its first policy brief in November 2022. It summarizes findings and aims to inform policymakers on the state-of-the-art on gender-based violence in higher education and research based on results from policy mapping and prevalence survey.

In November 2022, the results of the UniSAFE survey - the largest survey on gender-based violence in academia in Europe - were published.

Following the mapping of organizational level policies and measures adopted to address gender-based violence, UniSAFE launched the next step of its research at the organizational level: case studies. The aim is to analyze the institutional responses to GBV, the implementation process and the actors involved in it.

The field phase of the UniSAFE survey ended on 1 May 2022. In total, over 35,000 responses were collected among staff and students on their experience of gender-based violence in universities and research organizations. The questionnaire is publicly available here.

The UniSAFE consortium collected content on national helplines and support services for victims and survivors of gender-based violence in 22 European countries.

You can receive the latest project outputs and updates on gender-based violence in the context of European universities and research organisations by subscribing to the UniSAFE newsletter.

From 22 to 29 November 2021, all projects, organizations, and individuals intent on eradicating gender-based violence in academia and research organizations are invited to actively post on social media using the hashtag #SafeResearch4All. Media, articles, reports designed or collected by UniSAFE and sister projects – namely the SUPERA project – have been made freely available in an Awareness-raising Toolkit.

At the end of September 2021, UniSAFE held an online event to launch its Community of universities and research organizations participating in the project. 45 European institutions are working towards producing better knowledge on gender-based violence in universities and research organizations by conducting the UniSAFE survey – the largest of its kind in Europe in the research sector – from January to April 2022.

Project partners: 

  • European Science Foundation, France
  • Örebro Universitet, Sweden
  • GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany
  • Yellow Window, Belgium
  • Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
  • Universidad Computense Madrid, Spain
  • Lithuanian Social Research Centre, Lithuania
  • Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland
  • Oxford Brookes University, UK

Funded by: Horizon 2020

Grant agreement: No 101006261

You can find resources on the topic here on our page Gender-Based And Sexualized Violence In Higher Education.