Workplace bullying and harassment in universities: the findings

As Ben already mentioned in a previous post, is a great example of how FoI data can be published well. One of the site’s latest reports is the findings of an investigation into workplace bullying and harassment in UK universities and higher education institutions. The results of the 132 FoI requests are published in an Excel document for ease of use.

What’s great about this investigation is that every aspect of the process is very public, very clear and well explained with notes covering key findings, incomplete data and even the threats received by Ian Benson from some institutions who did not want to disclose information.

So, what did the investigation aim to find out? In his FoI request, Ian asked a series of 14 questions related to bullying and harassment in the workplace between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2009. Interestingly, 132 institutions responded in full and 13 failed to do so. A number of institutions also cited privacy concerns as a reason not to disclose and two uni’s  – Bristol and Salford – claimed it would exceed the 18 hour time limit to address.

From the data received back from universities, the site was able to produce a summary of key findings:

 – 1,957 university staff asked for support or advice due to bullying or harassment during 2007-2009 (true figure likely to be higher do to informal complaints)

 – 998 formal investigations were made into complaints

 – Of those, 764 concluded that no bullying or harassment had taken place and the rest were upheld (23%)

 – Top 3 UK universities Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial had an uphold rate of 54%

 – 41 UK universities had a 0% uphold rate (430 staff sought help, 56 left citing bullying and 169 investigations found no evidence)

The findings also highlight that a total of £1.35million was spent on legal fees and Benson points out that an ‘astonishingly high number of instances where invoices from solicitors were not broken down by reference to specific case’ were found.

Only 20 staff were dismissed out of 234 proven cases.

So many stories can be found within this data; be it an overall look, a regional look or a specific university of choice. Regardless of the subject, the use of FoI and the presentation of findings in this case is exemplary and should be encouraged by other users and sites interested in the public process of investigative reporting.

The site also has two previous reports on employment and tribunal claims and TV interview permission rights which are equally worth a look.


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