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School of Social and Political Science: About the school


Harassment and bullying

Working Group on harassment

A sub-group of People+ has been established which is charged with examining issues around harassment and bullying, how these might be defined and identified in relation to the School, and how People+ might best respond to such issues.

The working group is currently developing an action plan with regard to how best to identify the existence of harassment and bullying as it relates to SPS, and how best to address such issues through the specific application of a dignity and respect agenda that complements that promoted as a University-wide policy.

This section of the People+ webpages will be updated with the outputs from the harassment and bullying sub-group in the near future.  Until such time, information to help staff and students identify what constitutes harassment and bullying, together with detials of  resources presently available from the University to help address these issues, is set out below.

University of Edinburgh – dignity and respect policy

The University has a strong and long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to promoting a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness.  The Univerity considers its staff and students to be its greatest assets and believes that all members of the University community should expect to be able to excel, and to be respected and valued for their unique perspectives and contributions.

The University is committed to providing an environment in which all members of the University community treat each other with dignity and respect, and where bullying, harassment and discrimination are known to be unacceptable.  The University regards any incident of bullying, harassment or discrimination as a serious matter and will respond promptly and sensitively to formal complaints, and where appropriate take disciplinary action.  Full details of the University’s dignity and respect policy are available at:

Harassment (including sexual harassment)

Under the Equality Act 2016, harassment is defined as:

“Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic (including age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation) 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.”

Such unwanted behaviour can involve:

  • Spoken and written words
  • Threat or abuse
  • Offensive emails, tweets, or comments on social media
  • Physical behaviour – jokes, teasing and pranks.

Under the auspices of the same act, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted conduct towards a person that is of a sexual nature, and can include:

  • Jokes
  • Physical behaviour – including unwelcome sexual advances, touching, and various forms of sexual conduct
  • Displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature
  • Sending emails with a sexual content.

Any reports of sexual harassment or assault of students should be reported by staff to the University Secretary (

Academic Services provide assistance where misconduct allegations raise immediate concerns for the safety and wellbeing of students.  Academic Services are also happy to answer general questions or offer advice regarding the handling of student misconduct allegations.


Whilst not defined legally, bullying may be characterised as:

“Offensive, malicious or insulting behaviour, and abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” (Definition by ACAS).

Resources relating to harassment and bullying

A number of online resources exist across the University for students, staff and who may experience either harassment and/or bullying, or managers who may have to respond to issues resulting from these.


- EUSA The Advice Place guide to dealing with harassment

- EUSA The Advice Place for anonymously reporting harassment

- EUSA The Advice Place website on issues relating to harassment

- University of Edinburgh code of student conduct

- EUSA/UoA No One Asks For It campaign to challenge sexual harassment/violence on campus


- UoE guidance for raising concerns about harassment/bullying informally

- Contacting UoE Dignity and Respect Advisors, and the help they can offer

- EUSA/UoA No One Asks For It campaign to challenge sexual harassment/violence on campus

- Guidelines for staff: what to do if a student tells you they have been sexually harassed or assaulted.


- Dealing with an initial complaint under the dignity and respect policy

- Building a culture of respect and dignity