Conference to hear of growing stress in colleges and universities

21 November 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

Disturbing levels of sleeplessness, anxiety and exhaustion amongst lecturers in colleges and universities will be revealed at a conference on tackling stress at work, in London on Thursday 23 November.

The conference has been organised by UCU in conjunction with the new College and University Support Network (CUSN), which provides confidential advice and support to staff in colleges and universities. It takes place at UCU's conference centre in Kings Cross, London.

Provisional findings from new research into the experiences of over 1000 staff in universities, further education colleges and adult education reveal high levels of stress as workloads increase. But only 16% of staff thought their institution was addressing the causes of stress. A full analysis of the research, conducted by TURU on behalf of UCU and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), will be jointly published in the new year by UCU and ATL.

The conference will focus on recognising stress, identifying the sources, learning about the tools available to tackle the problem, and developing an action plan to improve employer responses.

Staff from across further and higher education will share experiences, find out more about the Heath and Safety Executive regulations and discover areas of good practice from both a union and institutional perspective. Members of UCU will be able to tell the union how it can support them, and will learn what the new UCU/CUSN partnership has to offer.

Roger Kline, head of equality and employment relations at UCU, said: 'This new research reveals disturbing levels of anxiety and ill-health symptoms amongst the workforce in further and higher education. We shall hear more at the conference but it is clear that one cause is the diminishing control which academics have over their job. Another is the job insecurity amongst lecturers and researchers with part-time and short-term contracts.

'The conference will enable UCU to develop a national strategy to help combat stress and ensure that every employer is doing their bit. We need more enlightened management practices which will increase academics' autonomy and reduce excessive administration.'

Patrick Nash, Chief Executive, College and University Support Network, said: 'Thirty one per cent of calls from lecturers to our helpline in the last six months have been from people who were feeling anxious, stressed or depressed. Lecturers told us the main factors contributing to their high stress levels were money worries, harassment, problems with managers, difficulties with colleagues, workload, issues to do with performance and pay, and legal issues.

'We encourage anyone working in the further, higher and adult education sectors who may be experiencing stress to recognise that they don't need to suffer alone, and to seek support from CUSN's free, confidential services.'

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary said: 'Regrettably we expect the results of the joint UCU/ATL stress survey to highlight growing problems all too clearly. We both, unions and college managers, need to unite in combating this and improving working conditions in the sector.'

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