WASHINGTON - The US Department of Education on Friday changed its guidelines for university sexual assault investigations and dropped recommended standards from the previous administration that critics said could be discriminatory.

This guidance on sexual assault probes took effect in 2011 during the Barack Obama administration to help universities fight the widespread problem. It instructed schools to use a "preponderance of evidence" standard.

The old guidelines came up against considerable resistance from universities, many of which complained of increased pressures on investigative procedures. Legal experts also pointed to the lack of fairness between the accused and the accuser.

President Donald Trump's administration has maintained that using a lower standard of proof in sexual misconduct cases in fact suggests a discriminatory aim.

The new guidance allows schools to choose a standard of proof consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases.

More than one in five students in US universities are victims of an unwanted sexual act, surveys show. But students rarely report the crimes to authorities or to their universities.

In 2015, California passed a law called "Yes, means yes", prompting institutions to focus their investigations more on the issue of sexual consent than on the evidence of rape.

Eleven women accused Trump, a developer and reality television star with no prior political experience, of sexual harassment in the last weeks of the presidential race.

That unprecedented controversy for a presidential candidate swirled after a 2005 "Access Hollywood" video surfaced in which Trump bragged about grabbing women.