Minister Harris launches report into bullying in higher education
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has today launched a report on the findings of the National Survey of Student Experiences of Bullying in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The report, conducted by the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre and commissioned by this Department, presents the findings of an anonymous online survey of 2,573 students. Some of the survey findings include:
- Just under a fifth of higher education students (18.4 per cent) endured negative acts (such as bullying online or offline) over the last academic year.
- Overall, 16.6 per cent of respondents reported experiencing real life negative acts “now and then”, whereas less than 2 per cent (on average) were subjected to these negative acts monthly, weekly and daily.
- The most commonly experienced type of negative acts experienced “now and then” in offline scenarios were “being gossiped about in real life” (37.5 per cent).
- In comparison, the most commonly experienced type of negative acts experienced “now and then” in online scenarios were “gossiped about on social media by another student” (11.9 per cent).
- Overall, minority groups, such as ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ respondents and respondents with a neuro diversity or disability were more likely to endure negative acts at college or university, such as bullying and cyberbullying compared to majority groups (i.e., those who identified as heterosexuals, ethnic majority groups and respondents with no disabilities or no neuro diversity).
- With respect to witnessing incidents of negative acts, 31.6 per cent of respondents indicated that they had witnessed bullying at their college/university in the past year. 59.1 per cent of those that witnessed bullying reported that they had taken action to help the target
- On a positive note, 42.4 per cent of survey respondents were aware that their institution had an anti-bullying policy in place and 35.8 per cent “strongly agreed” that bullying is against the values of their college/university.
- 16.5 per cent “strongly agreed” that their college makes an active effort to tackle bullying (e.g. through awareness raising initiatives and anti-bullying programmes) and only 11.5 per cent of respondents “strongly agreed” that bullying goes unnoticed in my college.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “As Minister for Further and Higher Education I’ve placed a real focus on ensuring our third level institutions are a safe place for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from. In doing this, I have asked higher education institutions to answer my calls for change, and they are answering it by applying an evidence-based approach. "This survey together with the staff bullying surveys and student and staff surveys of experiences of sexual violence and harassment in higher education, have provided a rich source of evidence which will inform further actions to address these issues and make higher education a safe place for staff and students. This is the most effective way to tackling bullying long term. “We live in a society now where bullying is taking place increasingly online and I want to make sure that the third level sector is sufficiently equipped and informed to making every institution a safe place to work and study in. "I really want to thank all the students across the country who took the time to engage with this survey and share their experiences of bullying with us." This report examines the prevalence and impact of bullying among students in twenty-four publicly funded HEIs across Ireland who were invited to participate. The survey of student experiences of bullying in higher education was conducted during the first semester of 2022/2023 academic year, as students were returning after remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report on the findings of the survey will add to the Department’s understanding of issues of bullying and other forms of unwanted behaviour in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Dr Mike Goldrick from the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre and National College of Ireland, who led the study, said: “The survey findings provide an insight into bullying-related experiences endured by students within HEIs in Ireland. “Providing students and staff with awareness raising initiatives, and development opportunities alongside a continued effort towards a more inclusive learning culture are among the recommendations to further tackle bullying in HEIs." Dr Jennie Rothwell, Senior Manager of the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion said: "This report is a valuable addition to the evidence base that higher education institutions can draw from in their work to end bullying and harassment. “Reflecting on the findings of the report will support institutions in developing a campus culture that is inclusive and respectful for all." The survey report includes a number of recommendations, which will inform future policy decisions to tackle bullying within Higher Education Institutions. These include:
- Awareness, Education and Training
- Supports for Faculty
- Implementing evidence-based support programmes.
- Supporting targets of bullying and bystanders.
- Developing and promoting anti-bullying policies in consultation with all Stakeholders.
- Ongoing research to further explore and monitor the prevalence of bullying in HEIs.
- Ongoing research to further explore the typologies of negative acts experienced in person and online.
Next steps will include the findings being referred to the EDI Committee of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for its consideration and suggestions. They will report back to the HEA's Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and DFHERIS for next steps which will help us to achieve our shared goal to develop a more inclusive organisational culture for both staff and students in Irish higher education institutions.
Notes to editors
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.
- free 24/7 support in a crisis
- text “HELLO” to 50808
- national helpline – 116 123
Health and Safety Authority
- HSA - What to do if you feel you are being bullied
- What to do if you're being bullied - HSE.ie
- national LGBT helpline - 1800 929 539
- (01) 7099300
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 2022.
National Survey of the Experiences of Students in relation to Sexual Violence and Harassment | Policy | Higher Education Authority (hea.ie)
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.
- gov.ie - New higher education sexual violence and harassment implementation plan and additional funding announced by Minister Harris (www.gov.ie)
The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre
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, led 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.