Closure of common room leads to isolation

January 26, 2007

Academics are suffering from "chronic levels of isolation" as collegiality is eroded by rising workloads and a shortage of good-quality staff common rooms, researchers have warned.

The standard of research is likely to suffer if universities fail to support staff teamworking or protect common rooms where academics from different disciplines can meet informally, they say.

A study led by Gloria Moss, a research fellow at Glamorgan University, has found "evidence of severe isolation" among sampled academics, with many suffering feelings of stress, demotivation and anxiety.

Another possible cause could be an individualistic culture in higher education, suggested the research, which was conducted by Ms Moss, a former human resources executive and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; Marion Hersh, a senior lecturer at Glasgow University; and Rod Gunn, a principal lecturer at Glamorgan.

Dr Hersh said feelings of isolation could be more pronounced among staff working in certain disciplines.

She said: "In the arts there seems to be a lack of sufficient mechanisms for encouraging teamwork and, as a result, staff feel more isolated."

The findings, which contrast with universities' desire to encourage interdisciplinary working, also reveal that an absence of staff common rooms can exacerbate feelings of isolation.

Separate research by Emmanuel Ogbonna, professor of management and organisational behaviour at Cardiff University, found that even if common rooms were available to staff, rising workloads often prevented them spending any time there.


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