Students’ accounts of grooming and boundary-blurring behaviours by academic staff in UK higher education

Anna Bull, Tiffany Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on data from qualitative interviews with students who had attempted to report staff sexual misconduct to their higher education institutions in the UK, the article analyses interviewees’ experiences of ‘grooming’ and boundary-blurring behaviours from academic staff where the possibility for consent was affected by the power imbalances between staff and students. The term ‘boundary-blurring’ is used to describe behaviours that transgress (often tacit) professional boundaries, and ‘grooming’ refers to a pattern of these behaviours over time between people in positions of unequal power. This article analyses the power imbalances interviewees described that created the context for these behaviours. These were constituted by social inequalities including gender, class, and age, as well as stemming from students’ position within their institutions. The article also explores how heterosexualised normativity allows such behaviours to be minimised and invisibilised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1072
JournalGender and Education
Issue number8
Early online date19 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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