National study on gender-based violence in academia - Selection and design

The research study is conducted in cooperation with Statistics Sweden (SCB). The Swedish higher ecucation sector includes more than 410 000 students and 78 000 employees (2019). In discussion with SCB, the Research and Collaboration Programme has decided that a selection of a total of 125 000 individuals will provide good coverage of the sector, with small margins of error on a sectoral and higher education institution level.


Thirty-eight higher education institutions around the country, all members of the Swedish University and College Association, are covered in the study. 

The selection is made separately for students, doctoral students, and employees – both researching and teaching staff as well as technical and administrative staff. The selection takes the varying sizes of the higher education institutions into account, with the aim of conducting a census of smaller higher education institutions. Smaller institutions are defined as those with less than 5000 students, less than 1000 doctoral students and less than 1000 staff members, counted as separate groups.  

SCB is responsible for the mailing of questionnaires and collection of data. Via SCB’s higher education register, questionnaires will be sent out to a random selection of individuals according to the following variables:

-        Students: sex, age, university or college, country of birth, foreign/Swedish background, group of subjects, level, distance, year, and term.

-        Doctoral students: sex, age, university or college, research subject, country of birth, foreign/Swedish background, year, and calendar half-year.

-        Personnel: sex, age, university or college, country of birth, foreign/Swedish background, employment title, employment category, type of employment, research subject group.

Broadening the analysis of vulnerability

The selection is made to gain an idea of the exposure to sexual harassment among active students, doctoral students, and staff in the Swedish higher education sector. The selection also aims to investigate bystander phenomena, i.e. people who in various ways witness others being subjected to harassment. Focus will also be on perpetrators. Earlier research shows that it is more common for women to be subjected to sexual harassment, and that there are differences between women and men in terms of what form the harassment takes and the consequences for the person subjected to it. 

Within the scope of the study, we wish to broaden the analysis to include other power structures than gender. Conducting intersectional analyses of, for example, gender, age, country of birth and foreign/Swedish background is therefore central to investigating differences in exposure between and within different groups. The choice of variables also aims to create an overview of whether the victimization differs and to answer whether certain categories of individuals are overrepresented or more exposed than others. 

The questionnaire

The questionnaire has been developed in discussion with experts at SCB and with researchers and other representatives of the higher education sector, inter alia at a number of dialogue days hosted by the Research and Collaboration Programme where views on the design of the questionnaire were collected. The questionnaire has also been reviewed by SCB’s measurement engineers. SCB has also tested the questionnaire on a number of people active within the Swedish higher education sector. The interview subjects were asked to fill out the questionnaire and then interviewed in depth about their thoughts on the questions and the instructions. Thereafter, the questionnaire was modified to refine its accuracy.

The questionnaire is web-based and prepared in Swedish and English in different versions for the three different groups: employees, doctoral students, and students. The questionnaire includes questions about personal experiences of being subjected to, learning of others being subjected to, and subjecting others to sexual harassment. In addition, there are questions on gender-based violence and victimization beyond sexual harassment and how this relates to health and workplace climate. 

Pilot study

During November 2020 SCB is conducting a pilot survey aimed at 8 000 respondents (6 000 students, 500 doctoral students, and 1 500 staff members).

The pilot study examines response rates to answer whether the selection needs to be weighted differently in the main survey and/or whether the questionnaire needs to be adjusted further in the main study. In its entirety, the pilot study is a way of ensuring the quality of the questionnaire prior to the national study and to ensure that the results will be as useful as possible.


Read more about the study