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Bullies out


A request for tales of bullying in academia has received a distressingly large response, and some significant patterns are emerging.

Shortly after retiring last year as principal and vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, I offered to provide mentoring for early-career academics. In the emails and messages I received in response, a surprising number of people asked for advice on how they could get relief from persistent bullying. All were members of academic staff of various institutions, but because of other work I had been doing I was also aware of some really tragic cases of bullying affecting students.

That bullying exists in universities is well known. The Guardian newspaper conducted an investigation in September 2018, based on freedom of information requests, that found in the five years from 2013 “nearly 300 academics, including senior professors and laboratory directors, were accused of bullying students and colleagues”. These figures did not include student-on-student bullying.

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