“To have the most complete picture of these phenomena”

In Institution Research Student Life

BEHAVES is the first large-scale survey in French-speaking Belgium on well-being, harassment and discrimination in higher education.

The online survey is currently being conducted among students and members of all categories of staff in higher education institutions in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

Interview with Prof. Fabienne Glowacz who, with the UR ARCH team at ULiège, is conducting this survey initiated by Minister Valérie Glatigny.

What is the BEHAVES study specifically about?

The BEHAVES study (Bien-Être, Harcèlement et Violences dans l'Enseignement Supérieur) focuses on discrimination and all forms of harassment and violence, whether moral, sexist, sexual or discriminatory, between all persons affiliated to an institution of higher education, whether they are students or members of the academic, scientific, administrative or technical staff, whether on campus, off campus or online.  The aim of this research is to take stock of situations of harassment, discrimination and violence in full-service higher education and of the measures and actions taken in the higher education institutions of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.  The research includes several stages using quantitative and qualitative research methods. We have already conducted interviews with 'actors' in each institution to learn about the systems and actions carried out. Following the online survey, focus groups with students will be conducted, and in the final stage of the research, a Delphi survey will be carried out with key stakeholders in the higher education institutions. It is from all of this data that we will be able to have a more precise knowledge of the phenomenon as well as the needs in terms of prevention.

How is the survey conducted?

It is conducted online, via a single link and QR code for students and staff. Just click to enter the survey site with information and a request for the participant's consent. It is indeed essential that participants are guaranteed confidentiality and anonymity of data.

Why is it important that as many students and staff as possible participate? 

It is essential that as many students and staff as possible participate and respond to the entire survey in order to have solid and reliable data, so as to have as complete a picture as possible of these phenomena.  We want to quantify but also understand the situations experienced as victims and or witnesses (which may concern both incidents between male and female students, as well as incidents involving members of staff and between members of staff), their repercussions and the reporting trajectories. The survey also looks at the perception of the institution's policies, the climate, and knowledge of existing mechanisms. It invites participants to share their ideas and suggestions for prevention. Thus, we are asking all students and staff members, male and female, whether or not they have been victims or witnesses of these situations, to participate in the study. In this way, we will be able to better reflect the multiple realities and needs for prevention.

What is the motivation for this survey?

This study is fully in line with the research I am conducting with my research team on interpersonal violence and more specifically on sexual violence. In 2018, we have already conducted a quantitative and qualitative study on the issue of violence in romantic relationships, the consumption of pornography and cyber-violence of a sexist and sexual nature among young people aged 12 to 21 (at the request of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and the Directorate for Equal Opportunities). The issue of violence, harassment and discrimination in higher education has been under-studied, and it is only recently that scientific research has been conducted at the international level. This research, which mobilises all the higher education establishments in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, seems to me to be essential for understanding the extent of the phenomenon and the dynamics, determinants and contexts that contribute to the emergence of these phenomena. The aim is also to identify areas for recommendations. 

Is higher education more prone to these phenomena than the rest of society? Is it a more "at risk" environment?

Discrimination, moral and sexual harassment are present in our society and in many organisations. Higher education's primary mission is to disseminate knowledge, but it is not spared. It is a space for work and exchange between people of different status and age, a space where hierarchical relationships in terms of status, prestige and knowledge can be established. Peer relationships, festive events and the professional environment can all be places where violence can occur, which is difficult to reveal.

Are there equivalent studies in Belgium and other countries?

The results of the EU-funded UNISAFE study on gender-based violence (GBV) in the academic and research world were recently published. ULiège participated in this study and the data are quite interesting. Our research does not have quite the same framework but it has similar objectives. The Behaves study concerns all higher education institutions, universities, colleges and art schools in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, which will provide a map of the different forms of harassment and discrimination.

Why is the ARCH research unit particularly competent to carry out this study?

The ARCH Research Unit has as its general research framework the analysis of adaptation, resilience and change processes at the individual, social, societal and organisational levels. The research carried out in the unit is intended to contribute to changes and transitions (clinical, organisational and societal) and most often have a societal impact. We also have real methodological expertise in quantitative and qualitative research. I have recently conducted several large-scale surveys in relation to the Covid crisis on the mental health of the population and of students in higher education, as well as on intimate partner violence. Within the Behaves research consortium, in addition to the psychological and social approaches, Catherine Fallon and Aline Thiry, researchers in political science, are very much involved in the study and bring their expertise on the evaluation of public policies.

BEHAVES: survey on well-being, harassment and discrimination in higher education


Photo : ULiège © Jean-Louis Wertz

Share this news