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NI universities' bullying shame

Northern Ireland’s two universities have been listed among the worst in a survey on bullying of university staff across the UK.

The University of Ulster and Queen's University feature in the “worst” category for staff being “always” or “often” bullied.

The UU was 7th on the national list compiled by the University and College Union (UCU). The union has named and shamed the universities with the worst reported levels of bullying ahead of Friday’s national Ban Bullying at Work Day. Queen's was 19th.

Of the 143 respondents from Queen’s, 11.9% said they were always or often bullied. At the UU, just over 10% of the 148 respondents said this was the case.

The University of East London had the worst ranking with almost 17% of the staff surveyed saying they were always or often bullied. In 19 institutions at least one-in-10 respondents to the UCU survey reported being ‘always’ or ‘often’ bullied.

A University of Ulster spokesperson said: “The University of Ulster has received a copy of the UCU survey and is in the process of assessing its validity and relevance.

“The university has a comprehensive bullying and harassment procedure agreed with the local trade unions. The aim of the procedure is to provide a safe and harmonious working environment and to provide mechanisms to address any issues raised.

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“All staff and students are expected to comply with the policy, and to assist in the promotion of a good working environment free from any form of bullying and harassment.”

Queen’s University said: “Queen’s University is a large employer and has an extensive range of policies to support staff in the workplace.

“The university views bullying at work as unacceptable and has procedures in place to fully investigate complaints of this nature and take appropriate and timely action.

“An analysis of the last two years indicates only three cases have been brought to the attention of senior managers for examination under the agreed procedures. The university has comprehensive consultative procedures in place with all its trade unions.”

Over 9,700 UCU members working in higher education across the UK were surveyed and the results reveal that 6.7% of members said they were always or often bullied at work and 16.7% said “sometimes”. Only half (51%) said they were fortunate enough to “never” be bullied at work.

Less than half of all respondents in higher education (only 45.1%) said they were never subjected to personal harassment at work, 7% said they were subjected to it “always” or “often” and nearly one-in-five (18.8%) said they “sometimes” suffered personal harassment.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Bullying at work can take many forms and all of them create stress for the victim.

“Everybody has the right to expect to work in a safe environment free from bullying. We believe bullying to be a deep-seated problem in higher education and we want to know what organisations such as the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) are doing to tackle the problem.”

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