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Findings of National Survey of Staff Experiences of Bullying in Irish Higher Education Institutions

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has launched the findings of a 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, commissioned by the department, 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. A second survey on student experiences of bullying will take place in Autumn 2022.

Launching the survey report, Minister Harris said, “since taking up my role in a newly established department created to prioritise the tertiary sector, I’ve placed a real focus on ensuring third level is safe. In doing this, I have asked higher education institutions to answer my calls for change, and they have done so.”

“This survey together with the surveys of student and staff 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. I really want to thank staff across the country who took the time to engage with this survey and share their experiences of bullying with us.”

The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence and impact of workplace staff bullying and cyberbullying within HEIs. A complementary study is scheduled to take place in the third quarter of 2022 to survey students across Higher Education on their experiences of bullying and cyberbullying. The current report based on staff feedback will help to inform the design of the student survey taking place later in the year. This student survey will also be carried out by researchers at the specialist Anti-Bullying Centre in DCU.

Dr Angela Mazzone from the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre led the analysis and reporting on the survey, saying, “the findings provide an overview of the bullying experiences endured by staff within HEIs in Ireland. Providing HEI staff with awareness raising initiatives and training opportunities along with a sustained effort towards a more inclusive organisational culture are among the recommended strategies to tackle workplace bullying in HEIs”.

Dr Ross Woods, of the Higher Education Authority Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, stated, “this important research complements ongoing work in the higher education sector to end sexual violence and harassment. It will further advance the Higher Education Authority’s efforts to support institutions to take a holistic approach to the development of policies to tackle all forms of bullying and harassment.”

The survey findings show that:

  • 28% of the sample occasionally endured work-orientated negative acts
  • 26% were subjected to person-orientated negative acts
  • An average of 32.9% respondents in the whole sample endured cyberbullying at work
  • About one third of respondents (33.5%) reported having been bullied at work in the past three years, after being prompted to read the bullying definition contained within the survey

On a positive note, the majority of survey respondents (64.5%) were aware that their institution had an anti-bullying policy in place. However, only 20.8% of respondents agreed that the anti-bullying policy and procedures at their HEI contributed to effectively protecting all staff members.

The survey report includes a number of recommendations, which will inform future policy decisions to tackle workplace bullying within higher education institutions.

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