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Students dating lecturers: Why, how, and what are the consequences?

dating lecturer
It is definitely not a wise move, nor one likely to prove successful. Source: Shutterstock.com

A quick Google of “dating my lecturer” brings up millions of results. And it’s no surprise; as long as there have been people in power, there have been those attracted to them.

Even with all the risks associated with dating a lecturer, students all over the world still find themselves doing it. Whether it’s the thrill, the money, the grades, or genuine love, relationships blossom between university students and their professors for many reasons.

Why would a student date their professor?

In an article for The Daily Monitor, numerous students in Uganda explained their unique reasons for entering into a relationship with their professor.

Student Samurah Namuggabe claimed it is not always love which drives students to become involved with their lecturers, but fear of negative consequences if they reject their advances.

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She offers money as another explanation. Students “all come from different backgrounds, but because [of] the competition in terms of having a smartphone, clothes and shoes, some students will prefer to go on a date with lecturers so as to keep up with the standards of living”, the final year Kyambogo University student said.

The hope or promise of better grades can be an incentive for some students.

One Ugandan student told The Campus Times they would be “proud” to date their lecturer but would “keep it secret because my classmates will know how I pass coursework”.

For many students, it is the thrill associated with chasing – or being chased by – someone who is “off limits” and often older, wiser and richer than themselves.

In Uganda, relationships between lecturers and students are fairly common. In the Western world, however, these relationships are less openly talked about but often form on-campus gossip as well as risky portrayals on television.

The not-so-desirable consequences

In many countries, it is illegal for a teacher to date or have any sexual contact with a student, no matter their age. However, in the majority of countries, it is not illegal once the student reaches university level so long as they are of consenting age in that country.

While legal, it is hardly professional for lecturers to date students. Lecturers are in a position of power and must maintain professional conduct and face losing their jobs due to a conflict of interest.

In the United Kingdom, the majority of universities have guidelines on navigating student-lecturer relationships. Professors are required to alert the university should a relationship develop between them and a student to ensure no unfair advantage is given to the student.

Universities are unlikely to look favourably upon the relationship, with protocol in place to minimise the professional’s contact with the student in an academic context.

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As with the majority of institutions, staff at The University of Exeter are “strongly advised not to enter into an intimate relationship with a student”.

And it is not just a potential minefield for the professor; the relationship is unlikely to be in the student’s best interests either.

Student-lecturer relationships are likely to be destructive 

Even in countries such as Uganda, where the relationships are not so taboo, they are still unlikely to succeed.

Namuggabe told The Daily Monitor if a lecturer faces rejection: “You will most likely win yourself a retake or he will make life at campus a living hell for you.”

One Ugandan graduate told The Daily Monitor she sorely regrets falling in love with her lecturer

“It ended shortly in my final semester,” she said. “However, this had already left its mark on my university experience.”

The student found she spent less time studying and more time focused on her lecturer. She even began missing class, especially the lessons her lover taught.

“Everything became of less importance as coursework [was] completed half-heartedly and I would spend time during lectures fantasising about a future with him,” she said.

“I did not take advantage of the fact that he was my faculty dean, but when I realised that my grades had declined, I had the confidence he would take care of my results as he had promised me.

“But it didn’t happen. I really loved him, even with his empty promises.”

The student was unable to graduate on time as a result.

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What about after the student graduates?

Even if the person a lecturer begins dating is no longer a student, if they used to teach their partner, universities may be concerned should they be notified of the relationship.

If a lecturer makes a habit of dating former students, it could tarnish their reputation, branding them as someone who uses their students as a potential dating pool.

One educator claimed on Academia Stack Exchange“The professor-student relationship does not end when the course ends.”

So, as dreamy as your lecturer may be, it is probably best to steer clear … even after you graduate.

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