The unhappy undergrads... and the academics who feel betrayed

September 25, 1998

A survey among academic staff by the chaplaincy at Nottingham University has uncovered "worrying responses", including feelings of betrayal and the erosion of collegiality.

It examines the personal values of academics and how their beliefs relate to those of the university. Rev Roland Riem, author of An Examination of Values in Higher Education, said his report aims to listen to academics to help the university reflect on the values by which it lives "and make prudent changes". It suggests how to develop a culture where "staff feel more closely related to the centre of decision-making and to the goals of the institution as a whole".

When asked what they valued about working in higher education the positive aspects were the relative autonomy, the congeniality of colleagues, the pleasant working atmosphere and the facilities and resources on offer.

Nearly all the 40 respondents made positive comments, but there were also less flattering statements. Some mentioned "massive pressures in the higher education system" and the "nasty approach to management of people at Nottingham" creating conflicts between the instinct for self-preservation and personal value systems.

On relationships with students, respondents said they wanted to be available and approachable to students who were treated as equals.

But when asked about personal values and their influence on relationships with the university "the responses were characterised by a sense of frustration that the quality of the work and the values that motivate people cannot be matched with the values of the institution as a whole".

Nottingham said it was disappointed that the final report reflected the views of a small and self-selecting sample of opinion in the university.

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