Credit: Nairne Clark

Staff left feeling ‘exploited’ and ‘burnt out’ after semester one

By Luke Chafer

We talk to members of staff at the University who have been feeling burnout as a result of rising workloads and a lack of welfare provision.

Going into the academic year the issue of staff burnout was a concern. The issue was flagged at the University court session in September, where the minutes note that there was a concern “about staff welfare, particularly in the areas where there had been a large January intake, which had meant that a number of academic and support staff had been unable to take a break over the summer holidays. The impact of blended learning was also noted to be causing acute problems for staff.” The Principal went on to acknowledge the “unusual levels of tiredness” and stressed the importance of the institution’s recognition of this, going on to thank the staff. Yet, going into the second semester, it appears little has been achieved by the University in this regard. 

A senior lecturer at the University has told The Glasgow Guardian: “It’s fair to say that blended learning has led to an increase in staff workloads. It takes time to learn to use new platforms and think through how to adapt teaching to an online environment, or at least it does if you want to do it well. However, there are two much bigger problems. 

“One is that throughout the pandemic the University management has consistently failed to consult teaching or professional services staff in Schools before making decisions about teaching and learning. This is a problem because it means decisions are taken without recognising and trying to address the difficulties involved in implementing these decisions. The amount of work we’ve had to do to fix problems created by management is not insignificant.

“Another is that management has failed to communicate their decisions in a timely manner, meaning we’ve had too little time to implement those decisions without working way beyond our contracts. To be fair, communication has slightly improved recently but the damage has already been done. The impact on staff workload, stress and morale are significant. 

“Sadly, aside from some training sessions on Zoom and ‘thank you for all your hard work’ messages, University management doesn’t seem to understand how overwhelmed many of us feel. We don’t feel supported by University management – we feel betrayed and exploited.”

This sentiment has been echoed by another lecturer who has told The Glasgow Guardian: “I don’t feel there has been adequate support. There is just expectation that you will get the job done. There is a lot of lip service that support is available but there is no clarity as to what that support is. It has been a time where investing in more staff to ease workloads would have been the logical and helpful solution. That hasn’t happened which means workloads have risen extensively.”

They went on to say: “Workloads increased massively when we moved to fully online/blended learning. Entire courses had to be adapted for this type of delivery in a very short period of time which led to excessive workloads and high levels of stress in order to get the work complete in time for classes beginning. Staff are often coordinators of several different courses across different levels of teaching so this required working hours well in excess of what we are contracted to (averaging 50-60hr weeks just to stay afloat). There is no question this has led to burnout across university staff everywhere.”

The Glasgow Guardian has requested comment from the University of Glasgow but they are yet to respond.


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