Two thirds of ethnic minority students who experience racist harassment do not report it to their universities, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.
In a 120-page report published on Wednesday, the public body suggested that a principal reason for the under-reporting was a lack of confidence that the university would act on the complaint.
The EHRC, which is currently investigating antisemitism in the Labour Party, found many student victims suffered “humiliation, isolation, loss of confidence, and serious harm to their mental health” as a result of abuse.
One student is quoted anonymously within the report as saying they were told by a fellow student that “they were baking Jews like cupcakes in Auschwitz” and that “they would like to put me in an oven”.
Several students reported seeing peers wearing white T-shirts showing offensive, racist, misogynistic and homophobic slogans and comments, often linked to student society events and ‘initiations’.
Just this week, a University of Leicester student was photographed wearing a T-shirt on which a fellow student had written “Hitler wanted my kind alive”.
The report said: “Racial harassment often goes hand-in-hand with religiously-motivated harassment. One of the most widely reported antisemitic issues was harassment experienced by students in and around protest events on campus, including physical intimidation.”
Urging the institutions to improve complaints procedures, the report said universities were “over-confident” that students reported harassment, and were more concerned with reputational harm.
“Not only are universities out of touch with the extent that this is happening on their campuses, some are also completely oblivious to the issue,” said EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath. “This isn’t good enough. More must be done to protect all students and staff on campus.”