29 April 2019

Social safety at our universities: ensuring a safe, open and respectful sector

Dutch universities draw up statement on social safety

Together with all other Dutch universities, Utrecht University has drawn up a statement on social safety. With it, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) speaks out against undesirable behaviour. Besides, it also creates a mutual starting point for a shared responsibility for a socially safe university.

▶ Read the statement

Social safety at our universities: ensuring a safe, open and respectful sector

Dutch universities are committed to providing their students, employees and visitors with a safe environment. Of key importance to Dutch universities are collegiality, integrity, equality, respect, openness and attention to each other. Dutch universities do not tolerate any type of undesirable conduct, including sexual and general harassment, aggression, bullying or discrimination. This message is communicated at all administrative levels, from the executive board to the shop floor of research and education. It is a vital task for universities to act as effectively and appropriately as possible when there are suspicions of undesirable conduct.

Universities are responsible for offering a positive work and study environment that enables all members of the academic community to develop their talents. By their very nature, universities are institutions at which people from different backgrounds can meet and cooperate. Anyone affiliated with our universities as a student, employee or visitor contributes to a mutually respectful treatment, regardless of origin, religious belief, sexual preference, handicap, position or job. In sum, it is up to all persons within the institution to make an active commitment towards social safety.



We want to be an organisation where everyone feels welcome. Cooperation and trust are central themes, employees and students approach each other with respect. We do not tolerate any undesirable behaviour: aggression, sexual harassment, other forms of intimidation, violence, discrimination and bullying are considered unacceptable. These points are also included in the statement mentioned above.

Code of Conduct

We have a Code of Conduct Undesirable Behaviour with which we want to prevent and combat undesirable behaviour. More information on the definition of undesirable behaviour can be found there. There is also a special complaint procedure regarding intimidation, aggression, violence and discrimination.

We are currently working on an adjustment of the Code of Conduct and the complaint procedure regarding undesirable forms of interactions. These new versions will better describe how we define undesirable behaviour. The Complaints Committee Undesirable Behaviour will also be examined: the methods, staffing and role of this commission have been updated. Information on this will be published on our websites this spring.

Confidential Advisors

We employ various Confidential Advisors who can support our employees in the fields of staff matters, undesirable behaviour and scientific integrity.

Diversity and inclusion

We encourage diversity and inclusion within education, research and the organisation. This contributes to the students, employees and guests feeling at home, as well as to their happiness in working and studying, but also to matters such as the quality of teams and scientific discussions. Our starting points in this are:

  • Students, employees and guests from a wide range of backgrounds feel welcome at Utrecht University.
  • Students and employees have the space to develop themselves.
  • A diversely composed staff offers the diverse student body recognisable role models.
  • Students, employees and guests approach each other without prejudice and exclusion.

We also founded the Diversity Task Force for this purpose. This task force is to boost the discussion on diversity, stimulate the diversity policy and support initiatives.

Recently, the task force supported various initiatives that contribute to social safety. Some examples are: