September 30, 2023

Bullying in higher education: an endemic problem?


...The purpose of this article is to explore and examine the research evidence to see what it reveals about the extent and nature of bullying in higher education, the wider issues that this raises, and the possible solutions that have been put forward, trialled and evaluated.

These searches reveal an upswelling of interest in bullying in higher education over the last 20 years. For example, a search carried out on Scopus on 22/6/23 identified 698 articles with the words ‘bullying’, ‘higher’ and ‘education’ in their titles, abstracts or keywords, 48 of which had those three words in their titles, indicating a likely focus on the topic of interest. Similar searches using ‘bullying’ and ‘university’ identified 1361 (113) articles, while ‘bullying’ and ‘college’ found 593 (57) articles. This is a substantial and growing body of literature...

Within the intersecting hierarchies of institution and discipline, there operates the principle of ‘academic freedom’, albeit constrained by other expectations and responsibilities. In its ideal state, each academic member of staff is seen as having the freedom to determine what they teach and how they teach it, as well as what they research and how they research it. Of course, it rarely works quite like that in practice, particularly when it comes to teaching, which is today a much more collective and large-scale activity and constrained by the need to receive good evaluations and the recognition of professional bodies. Research often depends upon gaining specific funding, so is constrained by the funds available and the priorities of funding organisations.

Academic life and careers are also built upon competition. To build a successful academic career, each academic needs to get their name known, even if only within a relatively small field: through conference presentations, through article and book publications, through successfully obtaining research grants. Each of these activities, as well as the gaining of employment and promotion, involves peer review when a small number of academic peers are asked to make an assessment of your worthiness..."

Tight, M. Bullying in higher education: an endemic problem?. Tert Educ Manag 29, 123–137 (2023).