70% of HE staff are over-stressed at work

Louisa Kuehme

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest educational trade union recently found that Scotland’s university lecturers face heavy workload pressures, high levels of work-related stress and are concerned about management and leadership in their institution.

The analysis by the EIS found that 70% of higher education (HE) staff would classify themselves as ‘extremely stressed.’  Meanwhile, teaching staff in the university sector are less satisfied and show lower levels of wellbeing than others working across all other sectors of education.

It found that 42% of university lecturers indicated that a high workload was a significant stressor while 23% of HE staff claimed that ‘dealing with management’ was a stressor in their work life. This was compared to 10% of EIS members in all sectors. Other potential stressors that were identified by the EIS was a lack of opportunity for professional development and cases of bullying or unequal treatment of staff by the management. However, the report highlights that this might be due to the relatively smaller number of HE institutions using collegiate practices and a distributive leadership model compared to other educational institutions.

Dr. Nick McKerrell, the President of the EIS University Lecturers’ Association emphasized the magnitude of the findings and commented: “Stress-related illness is one of the most significant risks to lecturers’ health and wellbeing, with serious consequences for both individual lecturers concerned as well as for the institution and the students that it serves.”

Professor Dr. Margaret Martin from the School of Psychology at the University of Glasgow disagrees with the findings of the analysis. She stated to the Glasgow Guardian that while HE staff may have a higher workload than staff in other educational sectors, they are very autonomous and in control of their work.  Dr. Martin stated that: “One of the indicators of a stressful job is high absenteeism but you will find that our absence figures are very low compared to the ones in other jobs such as in government agencies.”

Dr. Martin also identified frequent changes that are introduced by the administration and which lecturers are expected to implement and work with in their departments as a possible stressor.

When asked for the comment on the findings of the EIS report, a spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “The University of Glasgow has a duty of care to all of our staff and students that and we operate various free and confidential services, accessible through our Counselling and Psychological Service and Occupational Health for any member of staff experiencing high levels of stress.”


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