Insecurity tops the list of job woes

July 18, 2003

University staff are more stressed than people in comparable jobs, such as those in the police force or county councils, according to new research.

Job insecurity heads the list of troubles, followed by colleagues not pulling their weight, a lack of time to do the job well, work interfering with personal life, not being kept informed and not being involved in decisions affecting people's jobs.

The study from the University of Plymouth is the first to include all categories of staff from a wide range of institutions. More than 3,800 people took part, including academics and research staff, administrative and clerical workers, academic support staff and facility support personnel.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "This should come as no surprise. We've all known that stress in higher education has been a major problem for years. It's about time vice-chancellors showed more concern for the conditions under which staff are forced to work.

"Higher education has been chronically underfunded for two decades - about 50 per cent of academic and academic-support staff are now on short-term contracts; and workplace relationships have come under increasing pressure as workloads have greatly increased."

Researchers Christine Webb and Michelle Tytherleigh also uncovered concerns over levels of commitment - both staff's to their organisations and vice versa. Most people reported low levels of loyalty, far lower than the norm outside universities.

The study, which was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, found distinct differences between the occupational stress levels in old and new universities.

In old universities, staff reported higher levels of stress owing to a work-life imbalance and job insecurity. However, they had lower levels of physical ill-health resulting from stress than their counterparts in new universities.

In new universities, staff had higher levels of job-related stress overall.

They also reported lower levels of commitment to and from their institutions, and greater physical ill health.


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