Cardiff plans review after suicide of ‘overworked’ lecturer

Malcolm Anderson, a lecturer in accounting, was said to be ‘struggling silently’ with new work responsibilities

June 8, 2018
mental health

Cardiff University has said that it will review the support available to staff after it emerged that a lecturer who took his own life had complained about his heavy workload.

Malcolm Anderson, a 48-year-old accounting lecturer, fell through a glass roof soon after arriving at work on 19 February this year and died of his injuries, Wales Online reported.

An inquest at Pontypridd Coroner’s Court heard of Dr Anderson’s “rigorous” approach to work and his tendency to respond to questions from his students at any time of day or night. He had been asked to mark 418 exam papers in a 20-day period, the hearing was told.

Colleague Louis Vallis said that Dr Anderson had “complained to management a number of times about the allocation” but “received the same response year after year”.

Dr Anderson had been struggling with his new job and extra responsibilities as deputy head of section, but had not asked for help from his line manager, Mr Vallis added.

Dr Anderson’s death comes at a time of growing concern over a perceived culture of over-work in academia.

Dr Anderson’s wife, Diane, said her husband “spent many hours with his personal tutees”, worked long hours and would often take his marking to family events out of work time, according to Wales Online.

“He would always give the very best to everything that he did but was silently struggling,” she said.

A police statement said Dr Anderson left two notes in his office on the morning of his death – one for his family and one referring to his unmanageable workload.

Detective Sergeant Lauren Wells confirmed that there were emails found on Dr Anderson’s computer which “refer to work expectations not being manageable and the number of students going through the roof, but there’s been cuts”.

Coroner Andrew Barkley recorded a verdict of suicide. “I’m satisfied at that time he intended to take his own life. There was huge pressure in terms of work and other things,” he said.

A Cardiff spokesman said the university would take further action “in order to ensure the future well-being of our staff and students”.

“The sense of loss his university colleagues feel at his passing cannot be measured but is insignificant next to that felt by his family and close friends. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with them,” a statement read.

“As a university we take the wellbeing of all our staff extremely seriously. All staff can access support, information, advice and specialist counselling through our employee assistance programme, which is a free and confidential service available 24/7, 365 days a year.

“We urge anyone who has any concerns regarding workload to raise them with their line manager, in the first instance, so all available advice and support can be offered.”

Dr Anderson graduated in economics and economic history from Cardiff in 1991, and took a job as a research assistant immediately afterwards, remaining at Cardiff for almost 30 years, a tribute on the university website read. He left his wife and three daughters.

If you're having suicidal thoughts or feel you need to talk to someone, a free helpline is available round the clock in the UK on 116123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

rachael.pells@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

Until work-related suicides are required by law to be recorded and reported as workplace deaths (they currently are not in the UK), nothing will change.
Cardiff should also review workloads. Urgently. All employers have duty of care to their employees. It’s not good enough to claim that Malcolm Anderson did not ask for help, his manager and the university are culpable. Shame on them

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