Bullying and harassment can overlap as categories of unacceptable behaviour. We provide these definitions for your information, but please don’t worry about feeling you need to define what you may have experienced as one or the other. It might also be helpful to read support articles on other forms of unacceptable behaviour which can overlap with bullying and harassment, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and hate crimes.

What is bullying?

Bullying is unwanted behaviour which is intimidating, offensive or insulting. Anyone can be bullied, but it usually involves individuals or groups with more power (which might be physical, financial, or social), bullying someone with less. The person who is being bullied can feel humiliated, threatened or upset and it can become a pattern of behaviour. 

Bullying can include: 
  • Being shouted at, being ridiculed or mocked
  • Physical threats of violence 
  • Microaggressions on the basis of race/ethnicity, gender, religion or sexuality
  • Inappropriate or derogatory remarks about someone’s appearance, lifestyle, or culture
  • Actions or words which create a hostile environment, like deliberate exclusion or social isolation
  • Abuse of a position of power
What is harassment?

Harassment is unwanted actions or behaviour by individuals or groups which violates a person’s dignity and creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Sexual harassment is when these actions or behaviour are sexual in nature.

Harassment against a person due to a protected characteristic, is considered a hate crime. This means that the behaviour or actions are motivated by hostility towards age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership or pregnancy and maternity. There is more information about hate crime here. 

Harassment can include: 
  • Unwanted physical contact, even if this is presented as ‘joking around’. No one should ever touch you or have you touch them without your consent. 
  • Offensive comments or jokes, made directly or indirectly, about someone’s identity
  • Use of language which is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ageist, or ableist. 
  • Mocking, belittling, or humiliating someone. 
  • Deliberate social exclusion or isolation.

You can be harassed or bullied even if you aren’t someone’s direct target. For example, if someone is making racist jokes about an ethnicity which is not your own, they are still creating a hostile environment.

Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable to be themselves at University, and we expect all students and staff to treat everyone with respect and dignity. We take incidents of bullying and harassment very seriously. If you have experienced such behaviour there is more information here about speaking to an adviser, reporting anonymously, and/or access wellbeing support.


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