Code of practice on harassment - procedure for students

1. Application and Scope

1.1 The University aims to create a fair, welcoming and inclusive environment where all members of its community can fulfil their potential.

1.2 All members of the University are expected to treat each other with dignity and respect.

1.3 There is a requirement that staff and students and visitors will not harass or bully other members of the University community.

1.4 The procedure applies to all current students of the University.

1.5 The procedure may apply where harassment takes place off-campus.

2. General Principles

The following principles will apply:

2.1 Wherever possible allegations of harassment should be resolved informally without recourse to formal procedures.

2.2 Individuals involved in a case can seek advice and/or support from the officers outlined at Appendix A below at any stage in the procedure.

2.3 There may be occasions when it is not possible or appropriate for an allegation of harassment to be resolved informally. In such cases the Academic Registrar will advise in conjunction with the Equality and Diversity (E&D) Office.

2.4 Any steps taken under this procedure should be taken promptly, unless there is a good reason for delay.

2.5 There will be no assumption of guilt made in any complaint of harassment until it has been proven.

2.6 It is acknowledged that counter-complaints of harassment sometimes arise when a complaint is made. In the event that a complaint gives rise to counter-complaints these should be considered at the same time as the original complaint.

2.7 Other procedures may run concurrently to the complaint of harassment. If relevant, the results of investigations undertaken as part of harassment or other procedures will be considered.

2.8 At any stage in the procedure, appropriate intervention such as fact-finding or non-adversarial discussions with the aim of facilitating resolution of the case may be undertaken. The option of mediation may also be explored.

2.9 If, on investigation, the complaint of harassment is found to be vexatious, the individual making the complaint may be subject to disciplinary procedures.

2.10 Right to be accompanied - All parties involved in this procedure will have the right to be accompanied at any meetings held under this procedure by a YUSU or GSA representative or another member of the University community.

2.11 Right to support - All parties involved in this procedure can request support or advice if involved in a case - this could include support from a number of individuals or services - see list at Appendix B.

2.12 Confidentiality - All parties involved in these procedures must ensure that they maintain, as appropriate, the confidentiality of the process within and outside the University.

2.13 Timescales - Whilst every endeavour will be made to comply with timescales, due to the complexity and or specific circumstances of a case, timescales may be extended. In such circumstances the individuals concerned will be advised of the reasons for any delay.

2.14 Legislation - this procedure is in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act and Duty. Harassment is defined within the Equality Act 2010. There is no separate definition of bullying in the Act.

3. Definition of harassment

3.1 Harassment is behaviour that has the purpose or the effect of offending, hurting, degrading or intimidating a person or persons or violating dignity. It may be a single event, sporadic events or a continuing process.

3.2 Bullying is an aspect of harassment. It is defined as the persistent, intent to hurt or humiliate someone.

3.3 The defining feature of harassment/bullying is that the behaviour is unwanted by the recipient and unwarranted by the working or study/social relationship and would be regarded as such by any reasonable person.

3.4 Harassment/bullying may be verbal, non-verbal, physical or by other means of communication including electronic.

3.5 Victimisation is where someone is treated less favourably because they have taken or intend to take action under this Policy and within the scope of the Equality Act 2010, or are supporting somebody who is doing so.

4. Mediation

4.1 The University’s mediation service is currently offered to staff; student cases may be considered.

5. Informal Procedure

Also see supplementary guidance

5.1 There is an expectation that every effort will be made to resolve complaints of harassment through informal procedures.

5.2 The individual who is making the complaint may wish to consider one or more of the following 3 options depending on which they feel most comfortable with; the nature of the complaint and who is involved.

5.2.1 Talk/write to the individual who is the subject of the complaint to inform them of the unacceptable nature of the behaviour and request that they stop. Cessation of the behaviour and an apology (if there has been any unacceptable behaviour) may be sufficient to bring the matter to a close. The individual who is making the complaint may ask for someone to accompany them or speak on their behalf, and/or:

5.2.2 Arrange to talk to a Harassment Adviser or University of York Students' Union (YUSU) or Graduate Students' Association (GSA) Representative to explore options for resolution of the harassment and for support, and/or:

5.2.3 Seek a meeting with a Complaint Co-ordinator (Appendix A below) who is closest to the area of student life where the harassment is taking place. This member of staff may undertake to resolve the issue or advise the individual who is making the complaint on appropriate steps.

5.3 Once a complaint has been brought to the attention of the Complaint Co-ordinator it is that Complaint Co-ordinator's responsibility to ensure that the complaint is addressed or referred on to a more appropriate staff member.

5.4 The Complaint Co-ordinator may need to make discreet investigations in order to establish whether any harassment or inappropriate behaviour has taken place and to take appropriate action

5.5 Following an outcome to the use of the informal procedure, which is accepted by all parties, the matter will be considered resolved. The Complaint Co-ordinator should obtain a written agreement from all involved to this effect.

5.6.1 If there has been no accepted resolution via the informal procedure, the individual making the complaint should meet with staff of the Equality and Diversity Office to ensure that all options for resolution of the complaint have been considered and appropriate action to seek resolution has been taken.

There are two likely outcomes to this meeting:

  • Insufficient grounds for a formal complaint and the individual making the complaint is asked to reconsider informal options
  • Proceed to 5.7.1

5.6.2 To assist the individual making the complaint to be fully informed of the implications of proceeding to 5.7.1.

5.7.1 Procedure to address complaints by students about other students: if it has not been possible to resolve the matter informally and the harassment has continued, or where the alleged harassment is serious, students may be advised to refer the matter to the Police and/or suggest that the University consider disciplinary procedure against the alleged harasser.

5.7.2 Complaints against the University of an academic and/or non-academic nature including general matters arising at the University or in relation to a student’s studies can be raised formally using the Student Complaints Procedure: Policy and Procedure for Dealing with Complaints from Students, Student Applicants and Student Placement Providers

5.7.3 The University may at any stage consider the instigation of disciplinary procedures in relation to any student involved.

Note that within the Student Complaints Procedure, ‘the individual making the complaint’ is referred to as ‘the Complainant'.

Appendix A

Complaint Co-ordinator for Student Complaints

A senior member of staff, as part of their role, may be approached by a student with a complaint of harassment or bullying. This member of staff should undertake to ensure that the complaint is dealt with appropriately, thereby taking on the role of "Complaint Co-ordinator". If the person to whom the complaint has been brought does not feel they are the most appropriate person to deal with it they should ensure that it is referred to someone who is.

Students making a complaint should raise it with a Complaint Co-ordinator who is as close as possible to the area of life where the alleged harassment is taking place. Depending on the situation the appropriate Complaint Co-ordinator may therefore be:

Within a College setting, which could include a social setting or electronic means:

  • The Head of College or Assistant Head of College

Within an academic setting:

  • An Academic Supervisor
  • A Head of department or senior member of staff
  • A Staff member’s manager where the individual who is the subject of the complaint is a member of staff

Within other areas of student life:

  • The Manager of the relevant service area

Note: A student may bring someone with them for support when they approach a Complaint Co-ordinator.

Appendix B

Support and Advice for students in relation to harassment


College welfare team

Welfare support can be accessed through College Welfare teams.

Student Hub

This is the first point of contact for the central Student Services.

Harassment Advisers

Trained members of the University who act as a first contact for students experiencing harassment or bullying. They can give support and identify options to facilitate resolution.

University of York Students’ Union Advice and Support Centre

Provides information and help to students who have to overcome problems at University.

Graduate Students’ Association

The GSA provides a variety of welfare services for graduate students, co-ordinated by a dedicated team; an elected student officer and an experienced staff member; with the support of fellow GSA Officers and Representatives.

Student Support Services

Provide a range of professional support services for students

Open Door Team

Provides a single point of access for any student experiencing emotional, psychological or mental health difficulties

Chaplaincy and faith contacts

York Nightline

A confidential listening and information service; run by students, for students.


Equality and Diversity Office

Provides information, support and advice on equality matters.

Health & Wellbeing

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680