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Stress levels on the rise in further education

4 November 2011

Stress levels in further education are on the increase according to a new study published today by the UCU.

The survey of UCU members working at colleges in England, Northern Ireland and Wales revealed that 84% found their job stressful in 2010 compared to 80% in 2008.

Staff blamed excessive workloads as the main reason for the increase in anxiety, with two-fifths (39%) reporting they were often or always set unachievable deadlines. Just a third of staff (37%) said they were never subjected to bullying at work.

UCU's report, The growing epidemic: Work-related stress in post-16 education, also found that the well-being of staff in further education was considerably lower than recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in all its key areas.

UCU's survey comes just a month after a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned that spending on 16-19 education is set to fall by around 20% in real terms over the next three years and UCU said it feared that uncertainties over funding would add to stress levels in the future.

Key findings from the study:

  • Four-fifths (84%) of those questioned said they found their job stressful
  • Three-quarters (73%) said excessive workloads were the biggest contributor to stress
  • Two thirds (65%) said that unreasonable expectations from colleagues, students and managers had increased anxiety levels
  • Two-fifths (39%) of respondents said they were often or always set unachievable deadlines
  • Just a third (37%) said they were never subjected to bullying at work.

Fewer than one in ten (6%) said they were never pressed to work long hours

The report marks the launch of UCU's 2011 anti-stress and bullying week which will run from 7-13 November and see UCU branches at colleges and universities throughout the country hold events on how to combat stress and bullying in the workplace.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'It is not acceptable that over four-fifths of college staff find their jobs stressful or that just a third can say they've never been bullied at work. Colleges are getting a reputation as stressful places to work and this report reveals that the problem is getting worse.

'As we enter uncertain and challenging times in further education we need colleges to start taking the problem seriously. We hope institutions will engage with UCU branches during our stress week with a view to tackling the issues raised in the report.'

Copies of The growing epidemic: Work-related stress in post-16 education are available from the press office.

In March 2012 UCU will be carrying out an all-member stress survey to highlight the best and worst university and college employers in the UK.

Last updated: 11 December 2015