HMC supports BUCS challenge to university initiations

Following the launch of a new initiative by the British Universities and Colleges Sport to crack down on dangerous initiation ceremonies, Kevin Knibbs, Chair of HMC’s Sports Sub-Committee and Headmaster at Hampton School, said:

“HMC, alongside the Youth Sport Trust, a charity which works to promote sport in the state sector, welcomes the efforts of British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) to challenge disturbing and degrading initiation ceremonies in higher education institutions.

“Teenagers who are leaving familiar and secure school surroundings for university find themselves in a very different environment, which they can find hard to navigate safely. Young people naturally want to fit in and can be pre-disposed to risky behaviour.

“Independent schools do a great deal to ensure our sixth formers are well prepared for university through teaching life skills, building young people’s resilience and educating them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  But school leavers need to know their university has a duty of care and that they will be fully supported if they refuse to participate in risky activities, so the new BUCS initiative to define what constitutes a dangerous initiation and to provide a safe space for students to report unacceptable incidents anonymously is very welcome.

“Our research* has found while sixth formers are excited about life at university, more than a third are concerned about the prospect of initiations.  We are also aware that high performing sportsmen and women sometimes give up sport at university because of their worries about student club initiations.  Such practices often seem to be modelled on similar behaviour at US universities and spread via social media, resulting in humiliation, possible injury and, in extreme cases, tragic consequences.

“Only through schools and universities working closely together can we ensure that university students are fully equipped to enjoy the freedoms of being young adults while remaining as safe as possible.”

Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver said:

“As a charity which works to remove the barriers that can stop young people enjoying the life-changing benefits of sport, the Youth Sport Trust strongly supports this initiative from British Universities and Colleges Sport.

“It is so important that every young person has a positive experience of sport, particularly as they transition from school to college or university. Sports clubs and societies should treasure the contribution they make to our Universities and communities being welcoming environments for all young people which foster positive social wellbeing.”


Note to editors:

BUCS is the national governing body for higher education sport in the UK. See Its new initiative on initiations can be found here:


The Youth Sport Trust is a charity that reaches around 20,000 schools across the UK and operates both locally and nationally. It aims to harness the power of sport, physical activity and PE to increase young people’s life chances through improved wellbeing, healthier lifestyles and greater attainment. The Trust leads in schools, partners in the community and supports in the home. See


HMC (the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference) is a professional association of heads of the world’s leading independent schools. HMC has 296 members in the British Isles educating more than 200,000 children, and a further 55 international members and 10 associates. Our members lead schools that are distinguished by their excellence in pastoral care, co-curricular provision and classroom teaching. Members of HMC have met annually in conference since the first meeting in 1869. Now celebrating its 150th anniversary, HMC is a thriving, pro-active Association of leading figures in school education. See




7 February 2020