Stress levels too high among university staff

Stress levels among academics and researchers within universities and other higher education institutions are much higher than they should be, according to a study by the academics’ union, the University and College Union.


In the report, not a single institution polled achieved the recommended levels as set by the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) stress management standards for stressors around demands, managerial support, peer support, role and change.


On the stressor related to relationships – which includes areas such as bullying and harassment of employees – just one institution, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was higher than the HSE’s 2008 average, and none achieved its “aspirational benchmark”.


Union members at a large number of institutions reported stress levels considerably worse than the HSE average for the working population, the union said.


“Universities need urgently to do more to address the worrying levels of stress in higher education,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. “It is unacceptable that so few institutions are reaching the levels recommended by the HSE.


“An important factor contributing to stress among our members is a mismatch between demands and control. We have genuine concerns that if the problems are not properly addressed, then staff will be subject to burnout at earlier stages in their careers, and the most talented and dedicated staff will never be attracted in the first place,” she added.

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