Aggressive and poor management is one of the main causes of high levels of stress and illness among staff in both further and higher education according to Natfhe, the University and College Lecturers' Union.
The union commissioned a survey on the subject from the National Foundation for Educational Research. It shows that 20,000 lecturers were absent from work in the past year because of stress. Natfhe plans a political campaign to highlight the threat to education quality.
Natfhe may also take cases to industrial tribunals. It says that the survey shows that 80 per cent of lecturers find their stress levels unacceptable, with 45 per cent being stressed all the time.
Liz Allen, Natfhe's HE negotiating secretary, said that incorporation in FE and HE had allowed democracy and accountability to be undermined. This had led to constantly changing conditions of service and higher teaching and administrative workloads, which had raised stress levels beyond endurance in some cases.
"We plan to address the problems on a number of fronts, a campaign being one and industrial action another. We also intend to take the issue to both the funding and quality councils as well as to negotiate improved terms with employers," Ms Allen said.
Natfhe says that it had asked employers to participate in this recent survey following the results of an earlier inquiry which had revealed worrying levels of stress, but was turned down.
The survey, which shows that further and higher education staff report working an average of between 44 to 48 hours a week, comes only a few weeks after a "diary exercise" conducted by the Association of University Teachers which shows staff working an average of 55 hours a week.
Department heads are working the longest week -- an average 55 hours a week.