A third of staff would like to leave, THE survey finds

Inaugural THE Best University Workplace Survey reveals discontent and fears over security of employment

January 30, 2014

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Exit strategy: a significant proportion of university employees would like to leave

Nearly a third of university employees are looking to leave their current job, and a similar proportion feel insecure in their employment, an in-depth analysis of the sector by Times Higher Education suggests.

According to the inaugural THE Best University Workplace Survey, which questioned more than 4,500 UK higher education employees, 31 per cent of academics and  per cent of professional and support staff are considering quitting their job, with 32 per cent of respondents saying they feel that their role is at risk.

“If I don’t leave, I will die of exhaustion” was one comment recorded in the survey, whose results are published in this week’s THE.

Academics working in education (39 per cent), the creative arts (37 per cent) and the social sciences (34 per cent) were most likely to say that they were looking to leave their current role, with engineering and technology scholars the least likely to do so (25 per cent).

“[My university] has sidelined, belittled and ignored me and left me isolated,” said an early career researcher in the education department of a Scottish university. “I cannot wait to leave…I have suffered from sexist behaviour on the part of a male peer in front of management and no action [was] taken.”

One social sciences scholar at a post-92 university in the Midlands complained that “top-down” reforms imposed without academic input had led to “huge levels of stress and an additional workload”.

“In spite of the satisfaction brought about by teaching and great relations with students and my immediate colleagues, several of my colleagues have left or are trying to leave, and I intend to do the same,” she said.

Meanwhile, among academics only, those who identified themselves as “education”, “creative arts” and “arts and humanities” scholars were most likely to disagree with the statement “my job feels secure”. More than 40 per cent in each discipline expressed concern about employment security.

At the other end of the scale, just 32 per cent of academics working in biological, mathematical and physical sciences felt insecure. That figure rose slightly, to 33 per cent, among those in medicine, veterinary medicine and dentistry.

“A lot of rumours circulated that we were required to get [high scores] in the research excellence framework, and if not that we might be seen as underperforming,” said one Russell Group scholar. “These threats were never made explicit…but they made for an insecure atmosphere.”


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