Three separate research reports over the past five months have documented the worsening state of Australian academe since the conservative government of prime minister John Howard was elected in 1996.
Each report has confirmed what academics already feel: their workload is now far heavier, hours on the job are longer, stress levels are higher, they feel less secure and they spend more time on routine chores and less on their research.
The latest study of academic and general staff at 20 universities across Australia found that more than a third of the academics had had to cut back on their research, writing and publishing over the past four years.
Moreover, 83 per cent of academics and 77 per cent of general staff said their overall workloads had increased. The majority of both groups are in departments that have lost staff as a result of the government's budget cuts.
Nearly nine out of ten academics said they spend more than 40 hours a week at their work and that their jobs are stressful.
The survey was conducted by Monash University researchers on behalf of the National Tertiary Education Union. A report on the study, Unhealthy Places of Learning: Working in Australian Universities, was published last week.
At the launch of the report, NTEU president Carolyn Allport said that unless the government and university managements took action on workloads, the institutions and their staff would be unable to contribute fully to the growth of the "knowledge economy" of the 21st century.
"As a result of funding cuts and management decisions, staff numbers have fallen by more than 3 per cent since 1996 and student-staff ratios have increased by 20 per cent over the same period," Dr Allport said.