Sue's Top Ten causes of Stress in British Universities

  1. Low pay. This year's rise was the first one above inflation for donkeys' years, and we had to go on strike to get that. It's a start but ONLY a start: there is still a massive deficit compared to other professions. See the AUT national website for all the facts and figures.

  2. Job insecurity, for 2 main reasons:
    1. Over half of all University staff are still on fixed-term contracts (this should now change due to a change in the law, but that won't show much effect until 2006); and
    2. many universities, including Birmingham, have set up Redundancy Committees which hang like a sword over people's heads.

  3. Assessment exercises, especially (for those of us on contracts which include research) the dreaded Research Assessment Exercise or RAE. But having one's teaching or administrative skills constantly monitored can be equally stressful.

  4. Bullying and harassment - which in my experience usually emanates from middle management, around the Head of School level.

  5. A constant culture of change for the sake of it. Staff who have been here for decades never feel that they know the job better than newer staff, because the structures of departments and courses change every year.

  6. Deteriorating staff-student ratios - more and more students are being crammed into the system without equivalent funding for staff to match them.

  7. Lack of consultation. At Birmingham the senior management decide on major changes which affect everyone else's working lives. Then they present it as a fait accompli to Heads of School, who then eventually filter it down to the lesser mortals. Any semblance of consultation with staff is just window dressing.

  8. General increases in workloads. Need I say more?

  9. Being expected to multi-task and be experts in everything - teaching, admin, IT, student counselling, etc. etc., often without the training or infrastructural support to make the work possible.

  10. A culture of "micro management" permeating through HE, which is deprofessionalising the sector and undermining acdemic freedom and our once open research culture.

Last updated: 9th November 2004