Bullying and Harassment

What can constitute bullying and harassment.

Bullying and harassment can take place in any type of interaction between people, in face-to-face interactions, as well as in social media, email and written communications.

Bullying and harassment can range from obvious forms of intimidating behaviour such as physical violence or shouting, to more subtle forms that can be difficult to identify. If an action or behaviour could reasonably have been expected to cause offence then it is likely that bullying or harassment has occurred.


Examples of bullying and harassment include:

  • unwanted physical contact, sexual advances, sexual coercion;
  • disparaging, ridiculing or insulting comments, jokes and gossip;
  • offensive gestures, posters or graffiti;
  • isolation, non-cooperation, exclusion from social events or activities;
  • personal intrusion from pestering, spying and stalking;
  • failure to safeguard confidential information;
  • setting impossible deadlines, persistent unwarranted criticism.




Bullying is not defined in law but the University defines bullying as:

“Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour which intentionally or unintentionally undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient.”

Bullying is normally characterised by a pattern of behaviour but a single incident could be considered as bullying behaviour.


Harassment is defined by the Equality Act 2010 as:

“Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

The relevant protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Staff and students need not possess the relevant characteristic themselves but may be subjected to unacceptable behaviour because they are wrongly perceived to have a protected characteristic, or because of their association with a person who has a protected characteristic. In addition, staff and students have the right to complain of behaviour that they find offensive even if it is not directed at them.