skip to main content

Music Students Experience Bullying and Discrimination in Higher Education Finds the Musicians’ Union, Equity and the ISM

Joint research by the Musicians’ Union (MU), Equity and the ISM reveal one in two music, dance and drama students are at risk from bullying and discrimination, including sexual harassment.

Published: 19 July 2018 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM

Joint research by the Musicians’ Union (MU), Equity and the ISM reveal one in two music, dance and drama students are at risk from bullying and discrimination, including sexual harassment.

Out of the 600 students who responded to the survey, just over half the students said they had experienced some sort of incident in the course of their study, with over 50% choosing not to report their concerns.

The reason for the high level of non-reporting ranged from students taking the view that they would not be believed, to fearing that the complaint would not be handled appropriately.

There was also a belief that the inappropriate behaviour was culturally acceptable, and a worrying lack of awareness of processes and procedures in place.

The research revealed the gap between the aspiration of the policies and procedures put in place by higher education institutions and the reality of the student experience.

Comments from students included "so much of what happens is brushed under the carpet", policies in place are "just tick box exercises" and that "heads of departments need to deal with issues rather than ignore them".

Download the full report ‘Dignity in Study’.

We’re here to support students as well as professionals

Naomi Pohl, Assistant General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union said:

“The MU is committed to tackling harassment, bullying and discrimination wherever it occurs in the music industry, including within educational establishments.

“The Union has a dedicated email account – safespace@theMU.org – to provide a safe space for all workers in the entertainment industries to share instances of sexism, sexual harassment and sexual abuse in particular.

“We've received many reports, including some that highlight ongoing issues in colleges, conservatoires and universities. We want to make it clear that we are here to support students as well as professionals and that we want to affect a positive culture change in arts education, as well as in workplaces.

“Our research demonstrates that a number of students are dealing with inappropriate behaviour from fellow students and staff who hold a position of power over them.

“In some cases, we're told that complaints from students have been ignored or mishandled. Within the report, we make several recommendations which we hope will be considered.”

Get MU membership today

From gig players to part-time teachers and professional instrumentalists, MU members can access specialist insurance for musicians. This includes accident cover, health schemes, travel insurance and car insurance add-ons through the Musicians’ Union.

Explore our member services

  • Get public liability insurance for musicians
  • Access expert legal support
  • Be represented in your profession
  • Access expert career advice, resources, and training events
  • Connect, network, and get to know the community of musicians

Learn about all membership benefits

Get MU membership today

Continue reading

Exterior of Caird Hall in the city centre of Dundee, Scotland.

Representing Our Scottish Members at STUC Congress 2024

This week we attended the annual Scottish Trades Union Congress with MU Delegates Christine Cooper and Ben Lunn, who discussed the importance of music education, community arts in Scotland and establishing a Music Expo Office for the country. All three of our motions were passed unanimously.

Published: 18 April 2024

Read more about Representing Our Scottish Members at STUC Congress 2024
Two young female street musicians, one playing acoustic guitar and the other an accordian.

Deadline Approaching for Funding From Alan Surtees Trust 

The Alan Surtees Trust makes up to four awards of £2,000 annually to support performers aged 16 to 30 with projects rooted in, or influenced by, folk or traditional music of all cultures. The deadline for applications is April 30.

Published: 15 April 2024

Read more about Deadline Approaching for Funding From Alan Surtees Trust