London: Cambridge University is planning to introduce an official register to record relationships between academics and students as part of its crackdown on harassment and misconduct cases.
While there is no law forbidding university tutors from engaging in a relationship with students over the age of 18, it is generally frowned upon as part of the code of conduct of most British universities.
Now Cambridge University, one of the world's best-known universities, plans to go a step further.
The prestigious university in England will unveil a new policy that will make it compulsory for professors to register any sexual liaison with a student that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
They could then be barred from teaching those students or marking their work.
In a statement, the university said that "as part of a series of new initiatives to encourage behavior change around sexual misconduct", it will publish new guidance "on consensual staff-student relationships", the Daily Telegraph reported.
"The policy, designed to ensure the quality and clarity of every student's academic experience in Cambridge, discourages such relationships, particularly where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest. For example, where the staff member might be involved in marking the student's assessments.
"The policy stipulates that any such relationships have to be disclosed by the staff member to the university and the staff member must withdraw from any professional duties that could lead to accusations of unfair or preferential treatment," the statement said.
The policy is officially titled "Breaking the Silence", and also includes "Good Lad Initiative" workshops that aim to tackle chauvinist attitudes, particularly among sporting and social societies. It forms part of a so-called "zero tolerance" campaign, the first major initiative of Cambridge University's new vice-chancellor professor Stephen Toope.
Personal relationships covered in the policy could also include "remote" contacts between staff and students such as text messaging and other social media.
The university has indicated that the scheme has been a long time in the planning but was given a boost this year when it received a funding worth 87,000 pounds ($114,767).
It hopes the decision to officially record "consensual" relationships between staff and students will help combat concern that academics can use positions of power to seduce students, male or female.