Statistics on bullying in higher education
Traditionally, bullying has been associated with the school environments of comprehensive and secondary levels as well as working life. Bullying in higher education as a phenomenon is less well recognised and little studied – discussion on it has only begun in recent years. In this material, we consider it possible for bullying in higher education to occur in study environments and organisational activities, at student events and the University’s events, and on social media.
Bullying may occur in relationships both among students and between students and personnel. Students experience bullying by staff members less frequently, and the bully is usually another student.
According to the Finnish Student Health Survey (2016), 7.5% of students reported having been bullied during their studies, while 5.8% stated they had experienced bullying by staff members. Women had experienced bullying more often than men, with women studying in universities of applied sciences having experienced it the most (10.2% in universities of applied sciences and 7.9% in universities). 2.5% of the respondents reported having bullied other students themselves.
Bullying carried out by other students consisted primarily of baseless criticism related to studies, disparagement, humiliation, verbal attacks, mocking or criticism related to personal characteristics and damaging another person’s social relationships. Physical damaging targeting oneself or property as well as technologically mediated insults or harassment were rare occurrences. Bullying carried out by staff members consisted primarily of baseless criticism related to studies, disparagement and humiliation. 83% of those who had experienced bullying reported having been the target of this kind of treatment (12% frequently, 71% occasionally, N=177). Mocking or criticism aimed at personal characteristics as well as verbal attacks were also reported to some extent.
According to the same survey, 7.3% of students at the University of Helsinki, or slightly under 2,000 students, have experienced bullying by another student either occasionally or frequently. 7.4% of women and 5.7% of men stated that they had been bullied. 5.4% (or around 1,400 students) have experienced bullying by staff occasionally or frequently – 6.1% of women and 3.4% of men. 2.5% of the respondents in the Finnish Student Health Survey reported having bullied another student themselves, with 1.9% of women and 3.4% of men reporting this. This means that around 650 students at the University of Helsinki recognise themselves as a bully.
Almost half of those who reported having been bullied in higher education in the 2012 Finnish Student Health Survey had experienced bullying previously in their school days, 20% for a period of several years. Around half of those who had bullied others in higher education reported that they had bullied others previously during their school days too. In other words, bullying and being bullied exhibit a certain continuity, and there is a significant number of students in higher education institutions who have experienced bullying at some point.