No female staff were found ‘matching’ with undergraduates on the dating appMika Baumeister

Content note: Mention of sexual harassment 

Senior Cambridge academics are matching and messaging undergraduates as young as 18 on the Tinder dating app.

Following reports of dons contacting several students over the app, a Varsity investigation found 12 profiles claiming to be University staff engaging with undergraduates on Tinder.

To ‘match’ with another person on Tinder, both parties must ‘like’ the other’s profile, which is only visible to them if they fall within a desired age range. 

This was the case for some high-ranking academics who matched with undergraduates on the app. 

One such don is a former college Vice-Master, while another, who not only matched but also messaged two young undergraduate students, is a professor and a visiting fellow.

Profiles supposedly belonging to University staff include “Sam” who stated in his bio that he is an “Entrepreneur, Professor and Designer at Cambridge,” adding “I’m the guy your mother warned you about”.

Others, also claiming to be employed by the University, stated explicit sexual preferences in their bios, including “dom and kinky”, “ideally non-vanilla” and “You: MILF”. 

One Tinder user, "Spartacus, 44", who advertised his links to the University in his bio, confessed to having used a fake name on the app. 

What’s the University’s policy?

The University has made it clear that sexual or otherwise intimate relationships between students and staff create a conflict of interest, writes Esme Kenney, and risks situations of abuses of power or favouritism.

However, this only applies in cases where the member of staff has a “professional connection” with the student. This means that the member of staff has, or will have, any academic, pastoral and administrative responsibility for the student, for instance, supervising the student or writing their reference.

The University states that any relationships under these circumstances should be avoided.

If such a situation arises, the member of staff should inform the head of their department or a senior member of HR, so that arrangements can be made so that the member of staff and the student will not have any professional connection.

If the member of staff fails to do this, the situation would be treated as a disciplinary matter. The University’s policy does not comment on any relationships between staff and students that fall outside of this.

“Members of staff” includes employees of the University, as well as those who hold a University office or post.

The University also clarifies that these relationships, “however brief”, could include messages via social media, texts, or emails.

No female members of staff were found ‘matching’ with undergraduates on the dating app.

When creating a profile, Tinder users specify a preferred age range. Some professors' ages are hidden on their profiles, meaning that they pay for one of the dating app’s premium subscriptions. After ‘matching’, both parties are able to exchange messages and can ‘unmatch’ if they wish. 

Profiles can become ‘verified’ through computer vision technology, which determines whether the images attached to an account match with the one scanned in different poses on the app. Although these accounts may be impersonating staff members, the profiles purporting to be the senior academics above, as well as many other profiles, have passed this verification test. 

Tinder introduced its photo verification system in January 2020, to help prevent its users from being catfished. 

This requires daters to take a photo in real time, so that the team at Tinder can verify whether these photos match with their profile photos. If the photos match up, the profile will receive a blue check mark.

All academics concerned stated in their bios their connection to the University, citing it in their job title. The undergraduates they matched with also had their age and student status clearly visible in their bios. 


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SU welfare officer Ben Dalitz told Varsity that “it is deeply inappropriate for academic staff to interact with undergraduates on dating apps” claiming that the handling of misconduct complaints is “woefully inadequate”. They went on to allege that within Cambridge there exists “an institutional culture which allows staff to abuse their power.”

Dalitz continued: “We would like to see reforms to the Student Complaint Procedure such that cases are dealt with promptly and seriously, with real consequences for staff who have abused their power and position, and those who have experienced misconduct from staff are supported, not silenced.

“As is our position throughout our campaign work on disciplinary procedure reform, it is vital that the University’s response to these allegations is victim-centred, and that students who have experienced inappropriate behaviour from academics are able to come forward safely without fear of negative consequences.”

The University did not provide a comment to Varsity, but cited their complaints procedure on inappropriate student and staff behaviour. 

University policy does not explicitly forbid relationships – be they romantic or sexual – between undergraduates and members of staff so long as they do not have a “professional connection”.

Varsity has seen overwhelming evidence that profiles presenting themselves as Cambridge academics are attempting to initiate relationships with undergraduates. 

One anonymous student who had received contact from academics said: “Academics being on Tinder undermines the trust students place not only in the staff, but in the institution itself….As a young female undergraduate, these men appear powerful and influential, a fact which they are clearly using to their advantage on dating apps. There is already a power imbalance - and they are exploiting it.”

Varsity reached out to the academics concerned and their respective colleges