A survey of students and staff experiences of sexual harassment and sexual violence in higher education settings gets under way today.

The survey, which is the first of its kind, will be used to quantify the scale of the problem and to inform future policies.

Around 33,000 staff and 235,000 students will be sent the survey, which is being carried out by the Higher Education Authority.

They will be asked to detail any experiences of sexual harassment or sexual violence including cyber-bullying or the non consensual taking or sharing of intimate images.

The survey will also ask staff about their knowledge of policies, the availability of training and whether they feel safe reporting allegations.

Minister for Further Higher Education Simon Harris, who requested the survey, said the process will start a conversation which may trigger difficulties for many people.

HEA chief Executive Dr Alan Wall said they already know a problem exists and this survey will give a sense of the extent of it.

He said there is no longer a situation where reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment can be simply regarded as a bureaucratic issue or referred to external agencies and and staff and students need to be supported to ensure a national higher education culture that is safe, respectful and supportive.