The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) has called for the appointment of dedicated officers to prevent sexual harassment in universities.

In a new report, the association said there needs to be increased funding and training before students return to university.

A survey of students across Ireland last year found that most had experienced sexual harassment in the form of sexual hostility by the end of their first year in third-level, and the percentage rose in their second and third years.

Today's report said additional resources are needed for the issue to be tackled.

It is calling for dedicated sexual misconduct prevention and response managers to be appointed to third-level institutions, along with trained investigators who would deal with complaints.

This would require extra State funding.

THEA said additional resources and training need to be provided as soon as possible and before students and staff return to campuses, as there is usually a spike in sexual assaults at the start of the academic year.

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Read more: Over half of first-year students report sexual harassment - survey

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris welcomed the publication of the THEA PROPEL (Promoting Consent and Preventing Sexual Violence) report towards tackling sexual harassment and violence in third level institutions.

"The preparation of the report was funded by my Department. In August 2020, I wrote to the Presidents of all publicly funded higher education institutions requesting that they develop and publish specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment," he said in a statement.

"These action plans will involve the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment."

Mr Harris added: "Our third level institutions have an opportunity to be leaders in this field. I am committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all staff and students in our higher education institutions.

"In order to create a robust evidence base for further policy decisions in relation to tackling sexual violence and harassment in HEIs, the HEA is working with stakeholders to develop and commission standardised national surveys of staff and students to monitor the experiences of students and staff.

"The HEA has established an expert advisory group to support this work and the surveys are expected to launch this April."