Stressing the irrelevant

The results of the Association of University Teachers stress survey (THES, May 1) confirm the futility of these exercises and their role in trivialising the problems faced by many staff in higher education and other institutions.

Why is it useful or interesting to know, for example, that most of those surveyed think that there have been too many changes in higher education and that these changes have been a bad thing? How can the fact that almost a quarter of respondents report they have taken time off in the past year because of what they believed was a stress-related illness contribute to any sensible debate about policy?

There is also little evidence that such surveys achieve their aim of persuading employers to improve working conditions. Trade unions which use the stress rhetoric in this way are more likely to be met with the offer of stress counselling or relaxation classes.

Rob Briner Department of organisational psychology, Birkbeck College

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Universities to scale back liberal arts and social science courses

  • David Humphries illustration (24 September 2015)

A Russell Group tagline rap is further proof that we need to reform the academy’s approach, argues Philip Moriarty

  • World University Rankings

US continues to lose its grip as institutions in Europe up their game

  • protest, street, march

Even in the academy, your class background will always be a factor in how you are seen, says LSE’s Lisa Mckenzie

  • Emotive faces drawn on lecture hall chairs

Academics offer advice on how to turn glumness into enthusiasm