Bullying at university or your part-time job

If you're experiencing bullying at university or your part-time job, take a look at some steps you can take to overcome it and the support available to you.

Are you a victim of bullying at university or work?

Bullying can seriously impact your health and mental wellbeing. This can lead to loss of self-confidence and self-esteem and feelings of anxiety, humiliation, frustration, and anger. It can also give rise to sleep or eating disorders, depression, alcohol or drug abuse and even suicidal thoughts. On this page, we’ll take a look at the meaning of bullying and ways you can overcome it if you are a victim.

What is a bully?

Bullies are often more senior than the person they are bullying, but this is not always the case. Sometimes a bully will be a co-worker, a junior colleague, or a customer or client.

At university bullies can be other students, your lecturers, or other student support staff. People may join in the bullying because they themselves are worried that they will become a victim of the bullying if they do not.

Bullying behaviour

Bullying can take many different forms. This might include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Social and emotional bullying
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual harassment
  • Name-calling
  • Discrimination
  • Racism
  • LGBTQ+ discrimination.


Cyberbullying can come in the form of:

  • fake profiles
  • negative comments intended to cause distress
  • sharing personal information without permission
  • stalking
  • harassment
  • trolling
  • spreading fake rumours.

There are also unique concerns as bullying on social media can be:

  • Relentless – Communication is possible at any time of the day or night, leaving you unable to find relief from bullying behaviour.
  • Permanent – You could be left with a permanent public record unless it is reported and removed. A negative online reputation can impact your life in unexpected ways, such as future job opportunities, and future relationships with friends and work colleagues.
  • Hard to Spot – Because others may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

Pause before you post

Your posts on social media create a unique record that can be viewed for many years to come. There are many public examples of people who have compromised their careers with ill-advised tweets or Facebook comments. Remember, the GPhC expects you to behave in a professional manner. So, although it may be difficult if you are the victim of cyberbullying, do think before you put out any posts on social media that could be seen as negative, unprofessional, or discriminatory.

If someone, or a group of people, are targeting you on social media, make sure you keep a record of all inappropriate comments/pictures. You should also report them to the relevant social media organisation right away.

Cyber bullying has unique concerns because it can be relentless, permanent and hard to spot

If you're experiencing bullying at university or your part-time job, take a look at some steps you can take to overcome it and the support available to you.

How to deal with bullying at university and work

Bullying can be gradual, and it may be a while before you realise what is happening to you. So, a first step is to accept that you are being bullied. All too often, people blame themselves for being bullied. It is too easy to feel that you have somehow caused it to happen. Remember that bullying is not your fault, and no one has the right to treat you like that.

Direct approach

In the first instance you could try the direct approach. Bullying is best dealt with at the earliest stage possible. If not the behaviour towards you could become entrenched and harder to stop. So, your first step could be to speak directly to the bully. Do make it clear to them that you find the behaviour unacceptable and want them to stop.

Often, a private, simple, and politely assertive approach is the best way to begin proceedings. Also, taking somebody with you may make you more confident about tackling the bully.

For example, a simple “don’t speak to me like that” or “I feel that you are undermining / humiliating /being offensive to me, is that your intention?” could be all it takes to stop the bully.

Keep a record

Record keeping is important and, in the event of a hearing or any court action, a diary can establish a pattern of behaviour. Make a written record of all incidents of bullying behaviour. This should include date and time, what happened and the name of anyone else who was present. Keep all letters, emails, texts, and any other correspondence. Remember, record keeping will show the pattern and extent of the bullying and will be vital if you decide to make a formal complaint. Also, make a note of any illness and/or absence because of the bullying and any medical help you have sought.

If the bully knows you are keeping a written record, it may cause them to think again. Sometimes, just knowing this may cause them to stop the bullying.

Do make sure that you keep your record at home or somewhere safe.

How can your university help you?

If the direct approach is not for you, you may want to speak to someone at the university informally first. This could be your personal tutor, student union representative, or any member of staff you feel comfortable with. Remember, your university must safeguard your interests so that you can learn and enjoy your time in a safe, respectful environment.

Formal action at university

You should ask your university for a copy of their anti-bullying and harassment policy. This will tell you how to make a formal complaint. Once you have made your complaint, your university should carry out a full investigation. This could result in disciplinary action being taken against the bully.

If you are still not happy you can submit a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. This is the independent body that deals with student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales.

For further information, visit the OIA website

How can your work colleagues help you?

Do not try to cope on your own if you are being bullied at work. You could talk to a work colleague or a union representative, or your manager. If your manager is bullying you, you could speak to their manager or someone in the HR department. By talking to others, you may find that you are not alone and that the bullying has also happened to other colleagues.

Formal action at work

You might want to make a formal complaint to your employer. Remember, your employer is responsible for your health, safety and welfare. Do ask for a copy of your employer’s policy on bullying. If your employer does not have a policy, you could look at the ACAS guidance on how employers should deal with bullying and harassment. You will also find information on how to recognise bullying and why it is important to act.

For further help, visit the ACAS website

University and any part-time job should be a positive experience. Please reach out for support if you need it.

If you're experiencing bullying at university or your part-time job, take a look at some steps you can take to overcome it and the support available to you.

Support from Pharmacist Support

Counselling (for psychological and emotional support)

If you would benefit from professional psychological support, we offer a confidential counselling service. Since we launched this service in 2021, our counselling provider has developed a deep understanding of the issues facing pharmacists and we are pleased to report much shorter waiting times to see counsellors via our counselling partnership than through many other routes. The counsellors are there to help you deal with a variety of issues. By seeking constructive helpyou may identify ways of addressing the root causes of your concerns to help you to cope. 

More counselling information

Listening Friends (for peer support)

Our Listening Friends service offers you the chance to speak in confidence and anonymously to one of our trained volunteer pharmacists. The peer support provides you with an opportunity to talk about the stresses or pressures working in or studying pharmacy may be causing you. Our volunteers do not provide advice, but they recognise the pressures of pharmacy practice. They can give you time and space to talk through those issues to try to find clarity.  

More Listening Friends information


Support from other organisations

British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA)

As an undergraduate student, you can become a joint member of the BPSA and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) for free and take advantage of a range of services offered by both organisations. The BPSA offer students support and representation. For further information, see their website.

Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH)

EACH is a charity for young people and adults affected by homophobia. They have a helpline for young people who are experiencing homophobic bullying. You can call them on 0800 1000 143.

National Bullying Helpline

The National Bullying Helpline is a nationally recognised advice centre. They aid individuals struggling with bullying issues, whatever the nature of the abuse. You can call them on 0300 323 0169.

National Union of Students (NUS)

NUS is a membership and campaigning organisation for all students. If you have a problem and you need guidance or advice, your local students’ union should be your first contact.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA)

The PDA is the trade union for pharmacists, trainee pharmacists and MPharm students. Students can join the PDA for free. Take advantage of free employment advice (including workplace bullying) and advice on fitness to practise issues. Sign up here.
This page was last reviewed in November 2023.

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