Relationships between staff and students

Wolfson College policy regarding personal relationships between staff (academic and non-academic) and students

1. A personal relationship of a sexual or other intimate nature between a member of staff and a student, with whom that member of staff also has a professional connection, gives rise to an actual or apparent conflict of interest. In particular, such a relationship creates, or may reasonably be perceived to create, a risk of favouritism or abuse of authority. It also undermines the relationship of trust and confidence that is integral to interactions between staff and students. Personal relationships may damage the teaching and learning environment for other students and staff, and they pose a risk to the College’s reputation.

Staff obligations

2. Members of staff are under a duty to act with integrity and not to place themselves in a position of actual or apparent conflict. A personal relationship in the circumstances described above should consequently be avoided.


3. In the event that:

3.1 a personal relationship arises between a member of staff and a student with whom that member of staff also has a professional connection; or

3.2 there is or has been a personal relationship between a member of staff and a student with whom that member of staff is due to have a professional connection;

  • the member of staff must disclose the relationship immediately to the appropriate College Officer. Academic staff (and those in analogous roles) should inform the Senior Tutor; non-academic staff should inform the Bursar.
  • If a member of staff is unsure whether or not a relationship with a student should be disclosed under this policy, the member of staff should disclose it. The disclosure can be made orally or in writing (including by email). If it is provided orally, the Senior Tutor or Bursar will respond in writing to confirm the disclosure.
  • In the event that any member of staff is, or becomes, aware of a relationship that ought to be, but might not have been, disclosed under this policy, they are encouraged to draw the relationship to the attention of the Bursar or Senior Tutor as appropriate.


4. Following disclosure, the Senior Tutor or Bursar will ensure as appropriate that the student is aware of the disclosure, and they will assess the best means of protecting the interests of both parties, consulting in confidence as necessary for this purpose. Wherever practicable, the member of staff will be removed from any direct professional responsibility for and contact with the student and alternative arrangements put in place. A written note of the action adopted will be agreed between the College Officer and the member of staff and retained by both.

5. A personal relationship between a member of staff and a student is not in itself a disciplinary matter; but failure to inform the College promptly may be grounds for disciplinary action.

Students' obligations

6. Reciprocal obligations apply to students not to enter into any personal relationship with a member of staff with whom they have a professional connection. Students finding themselves in such a relationship should consult a Tutor, Director of Studies or Supervisor, particularly if they are concerned that it may not have been disclosed by the staff member. The person to whom disclosure is made should inform the Senior Tutor. If students do not consider their involvement in such a relationship to be entirely consensual, they can take action under the College’s policy on harassment.


7. For the purposes of this policy:

7.1 ‘member of staff’ includes the following:

  • Staff (ie anyone on the payroll)
  • Fellows
  • Directors of Studies
  • Supervisors (both graduate and undergraduate)
  • College Research Associates
  • Senior Members
  • Visiting Academics (Visiting Fellows and Visiting College Research Associates)
  • Graduate students undertaking supervision or mentoring

7.2 ‘student’ includes any person pursuing a course of study leading to the award of a degree, diploma, or certificate of the University; any person with the status of ‘visiting student’ in the College; and any person with associate student membership (or equivalent) of the College;

7.3 ‘professional connection’ means any arrangement where a person in their capacity as a member of staff has any academic, pastoral or administrative or similar responsibility for a student, including teaching, assessment, selection, academic guidance and mentoring, tutoring, providing references, protecting or safeguarding.

7.4 ‘personal relationship’ means any association, however brief, of a sexual or other intimate nature, either in person or remotely (eg, via social media, email, instant or text messaging).

January 2018