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Minister Harris launches national survey on student experiences of bullying in higher education institutions

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today launched a national survey on student experiences of bullying in the higher education sector.

The survey, commissioned by the department, will be conducted by researchers at the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre, and it will be sent to higher education students in Ireland by their institutions.

The online survey will ask about the experiences of bullying among higher education students across Ireland and will remain open until 30th November. Respondents will be asked to reflect on their experiences of interacting with other students within higher education institutions.

The primary goal of the proposed project is to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of bullying among higher education students across Ireland. Insights from this study will be used to implement new or updated policies, processes, training and resources to support higher education institutions in addressing these issues. 

This survey will add to our understanding of issues of bullying and other forms of unwanted behaviour in our higher education institutes. It will provide the evidence base to inform future policy decisions.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I have been very clear that the tertiary education and training sector must lead the way in changing cultures, behaviours and practices across society to ensure that bullying, sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated.”

“I want to bring about institutional change where all forms of unwanted behaviour are eradicated. We need to listen to survivors and work in collaboration to ensure that students and staff have a safe environment to study and work; free from bullying, harassment or other forms of unwanted behaviour.”  Dr. Ross Woods from the Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Higher Education Authority welcomed the release of the survey saying: “I look forward to working with the group that will review the survey findings and develop actions based on the survey outcomes. This is another step in the right direction to tackle bullying in HEIs.” Dr. Michael Goldrick, from National College of Ireland, who is leading on the research in collaboration with the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre said: “This survey will help in the understanding of bullying and cyberbullying among and between higher education students in Ireland.


“I look forward to working with my team on the findings and I would encourage as many students as possible to respond to the survey.”




Notes to the Editor



Programme for Government

There are a number of Programme for Government (PfG) commitments aimed at addressing sexual harassment and bullying. Specifically the PfG commits to “Ensure that every Higher Education Institution commissions a survey for all staff and students on harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying, with a view to informing their equality, diversity and inclusion action plans.”

Staff Experiences of Bullying in Irish Higher Education Institutions

In August, Minister Harris Launched The Report on the National Survey of Staff Experiences of Bullying in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) conducted by the specialist DCU Anti-Bullying Centre. This report presents the findings of an anonymous online survey, examining the prevalence and impact of workplace bullying among staff in 20 publicly-funded HEIs in Ireland. The survey of staff experiences of bullying in higher education was conducted in late 2021. A total of 3,835 HEI staff responses were analysed. The survey report includes a number of recommendations, which will inform future policy decisions to tackle workplace bullying within higher education institutions.


Surveys of staff and student’s experience of sexual violence and harassment in Irish higher education institutes

In August 2020, the Minister wrote to HEI Presidents indicating his intention that national surveys of student and staff experiences of sexual harassment and violence would be developed and implemented, to create a robust evidence base for further policy on these issues.

The surveys were conducted in April-May 2021, with the survey link being sent to some 245,000 students and some 30,000 staff members in higher education. A total of 11,417 responses were analysed (7,901 students and 3,516 staff) and inform the findings. The response rate to the staff survey was c.a. 11.7% and to the student survey c.a. 3.2%.

The Minister launched the two survey reports on January 27 last.

National Survey of the Experiences of Students in relation to Sexual Violence and Harassment | Policy | Higher Education Authority (


Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Higher Education Institutions - IMPLEMENTATION PLAN 2022-2024

Since the publication of the survey findings, DFHERIS has been working with the HEA and key stakeholders to develop an implementation plan which represents a comprehensive and ambitious response to the recommendations contained in the two survey reports. Minister Harris launched this implementation plan on Thursday 13th October. It contains 19 actions which will be delivered between 2022 and 2024. Details of an additional €1.5m in funding to appoint Sexual Violence and Harassment (SVH) Prevention and Response Managers in our HEIs were also announced at the launch. These new posts will lead on the important changes we are making. - New higher education sexual violence and harassment implementation plan and additional funding announced by Minister Harris ( 



The aim of the current student survey is to gain a deeper understanding into the experiences of bullying and cyberbullying among and between higher education students in Ireland, including the current prevalence, nature and effects of these issues.The survey aims to collect data on the following domains:

  1. a) Demographic variables, including gender, age, ethnicity and sexual    orientation;
  2. b) Respondents’ awareness of bullying in higher education;
  3. c) Exposure to online/offline bullying in the institution, as targets, witnesses (i.e., bystanders) and perpetrators;
  4. d) Individual variables that - based on previous literature - may be related to bullying in the workplace, including empathy, emotional intelligence, leadership and prejudice towards minority groups;
  5. e) Contextual variables, including institutional culture,conflict management and implementation of anti-bullying policies.


The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre is located in DCU. The Centre is known globally for its research excellence in bullying and online safety, and is home to scholars with a global reputation as leaders in the fields of bullying, cyberbullying, and digital harassment. Over the past 25 years, researchers attached to the Centre were the first in Ireland to undertake research on school, workplace, homophobic and cyber bullying, and many other issues related to bullying and digital safety. The Centre hosts the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace and the International Journal on Bullying Prevention.

Dr Michael Goldrick (National College of Ireland) and his researchers at the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre, are leading this study with support from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. DCU Anti-Bullying Centre - Dr Michael Goldrick (National College of Ireland); Dr. Debbie Ging (DCU), Dr. Tijana Milosevic (DCU); Dr. Irene Connolly (IADT); Mr Éamon Jones (DCU); Prof. James O'Higgins Norman, UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace / DCU. 


Working group


A working group will be established under the auspices of the HEA’s Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The working group will have representation from the department, the HEA and the higher education sector. It will review the survey findings and develop actions to achieve our shared goal to develop a more inclusive organisational culture for both staff and students in Irish higher education institutions.


Get help if you’re impacted by any of these issues

Anyone impacted by these issues should contact their higher education institution for help. There is also a list of organisations, listed below, which may be able to help.

Text 50808

  • free 24/7 support in a crisis
  • text “HELLO” to 50808


Health and Safety Authority


Employee assistance programme (EAP)

If you need professional advice, please refer to your institution’s employee assistance programme (EAP) for further support and counselling.

If you are not registered with your institution’s EAP, or you are not sure if your institution has an EAP, please contact your human resources department for further information.

LGBT Ireland

  • national LGBT helpline - 1800 929 539