Lecturers in Scotland stressed by workload and management

A recent report has found that ‘workload’ and ‘dealing with management’ are contributing to heightened stress levels among Scottish higher education lecturers.

The findings were partly collated by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and its associate organisation, the University Lecturers’ Association (ULA). They found in their survey on stress levels that 70 per cent of respondents gave a score corresponding to the “extremely stressed” section of their scale.

The main reasons for high levels of stress among university lecturers were found to be “workload” (42 per cent) and “dealing with management” (23 per cent). The results on management were particularly stark, as only 10 per cent of the Scottish education sector as a whole find this a major worry.

When reviewing the 114 EIS-ULA member cases regarding staff support since 2009, 77 (68 per cent) of these cases were found to involve allegations of management treating the complainant less favourably than colleagues, or of outright bullying.

The EIS-ULA Workload and Workplace Stress Report’s findings have led to a call for the issue to be directly addressed by staff representatives.

Larry Flanagan, the EIS General Secretary, said: “The EIS would urge all employers in the higher education sector to work constructively with staff representatives to tackle the problem of excessive workload and to reduce instances of work-related stress.

“It is in everyone’s interest, staff, students and the institutions themselves, to create a work environment that is conducive to learning and teaching for the benefit of all students and staff.”

Dr Nick McKerrell, EIS-ULA President, also commented: “These findings demonstrate the pressures that many lecturers find themselves under during their everyday working lives. Heavy levels of workload, coupled with increasing concerns with university management practices, can lead to increased levels of work-related stress.

“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.”

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland responded to the findings with a request that “the results of this survey [be] framed in the proper context.”

She stated that while “today’s universities are very demanding places given the high expectations placed on them by their student, Government, business and other stakeholders” it is important to note that the survey also “found only 68 people say they were ‘occasionally stressed’ out of more than 17,000 academic staff in Scotland’s universities. That is less than 0.4 per cent.”

The University of Edinburgh currently provides counselling for staff and students experiencing high levels of stress.

The Staff Counselling service states that: “The University of Edinburgh provides a free confidential counselling service, of up to six sessions, for all members of staff. Counselling offers the opportunity to discuss a problem or situation which is causing you concern or distress, either at work or home.”

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