A new working group has been formed to root out “heinous” spiking attacks on students

The group will bring together vice chancellors, police officers, activists and victims to map out practical steps to keep students safe following a spate of attacks on UK universities.

Last year universities said the rising number of cases of injection spiking while going out was “incredibly worrying”.

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Women reported fearing they had been attacked by people who injected them with drugs in nightclubs, with reports from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scottish Police found no evidence of injection spiking north of the border.

A spate of drink topping cases reported to police and on social media has sparked renewed campaigns to encourage nightclubs to better protect people on night outings. Photo: Marcus Millo/Getty Images/Canva Pro. Media Photos/Getty Images/Canva Pro.

It was announced on Tuesday that Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, has been appointed to lead the working group and coordinate responses across the university sector.

Higher Education and Continuing Education Secretary Michelle Donelan said she would urge every university to adopt an anti-spiking policy by the end of the year.

“I think in order to tackle this terrible and heinous problem we need to work together,” she told the PA news agency.

“Most of these incidents happen off university or college campuses, but of course they’re important anchors in their community — we also know the night economy has a role to play here, the police have a role to play here.”

She added that the government “wants to hear from the voices of the victims” and praised the “extraordinary individuals”. [who] have the courage to come forward and use their harrowing and horrifying experience to try to help others.”

She said her priority is for students to feel “safe” so they could “enjoy that broader student experience that’s so important.”

Ms Donelan said she knows someone who has been personally affected by spiking and she wanted to highlight this to show that “spiking is something that happens to thousands of people, mostly women, every year – it’s not something that distances is and people don’t experience it”.

She added that the government wanted to “remove some of the stigma around the issue” by a study by Students for Sustainability showing that 70% of those who think they’ve been vaccinated don’t speak up about what “too results in the perpetrator actually escaping, free to attack another victim”.

Last month, a report by the Special Committee on Internal Affairs found that the true prevalence of spiking — which can include drink spiking, “veiling” rituals and needle attacks — remains unknown.

A recent poll by student magazine The Tab found that 11% of students believe their drink has been spiked, while research by the Alcohol Education Trust found that more than one in ten young adults has been a victim of spiking.

On Tuesday, Ms Donelan and Home Office Secretary for Protection Rachel Maclean met with victims, activists, senior police officials and university leaders to discuss attacks observed in different regions and explore how greater university-police cooperation could be an option could give a clearer picture of how widespread the problem is.

Ms Maclean said: “We have already reclassified drugs used to spike drinks and provided funding from the Safety of Women at Night and Safer Streets funds to support initiatives to prevent people from becoming victims of spiking.

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