One-In-Four University Staff ‘bullied At Work’

Students march alongside their lecturers on the UCU strike on March 24 this year
Students march alongside their lecturers on the UCU strike on March 24 this year

The University and College Union (UCU) published a report yesterday warning that one in four university staff say they have been bullied at work and that more and more staff (now 81%) are finding their job stressful.

The statement said: ‘A survey of UCU members working at UK universities revealed that four-fifths (81%) found their job stressful in 2010 compared to three-quarters (74%) in 2008.

‘Staff said a lack of time to undertake research and excessive workloads were the main reasons behind the increase in anxiety. Around half (45%) of those quizzed 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 higher education was considerably lower than recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in a number of key areas, including support from managers.

‘UCU’s survey comes as the government prepares to cut public spending on higher education by 40% as it introduces a market in fees.

‘The union said it feared that uncertainties over funding would add to stress levels in the future.’

Key findings from the study include:

• Four-fifths (81%) of staff surveyed said they found their job stressful

• Three-quarters (73%) said they had unachievable deadlines sometimes, often or always

• Just one in 10 (10%) said they seldom or never had to neglect some task because of high workloads

• Two-thirds (66%) said they sometimes, often or always were unable to take sufficient breaks

• Only a quarter (24%) said they were seldom or never pressured to work long hours

• Fewer than half (45%) said they were never subjected to bullying at work.

The UCU statement continued: ‘The growing epidemic: Work-related stress in post-16 education marks the launch of UCU’s 2011 anti-stress and bullying week which runs from 7-13 November and will 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 four-fifths of university staff find their jobs stressful or that only half can say they’ve never been bullied at work.

‘Universities 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 higher education we need universities 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.’

In the light of the government’s crackdown on bogus colleges, the UCU union has also made a statement urging the government to re-examine its plans to allow for-profit universities greater access to taxpayers’ money.

Their statement said: ‘As the immigration minister Damien Green reported on Wednesday on the crackdown on bogus colleges, the University and College Union (UCU) called on the government to review its own plans to allow for-profit universities greater access to taxpayers’ money.

‘The union said if the government is genuinely concerned about the UK’s proud international reputation for educational excellence it must re-examine its proposals to allow for-profit companies a larger share of public funds.

‘UCU said the US provided a worrying example of what could happen when higher education was handed over to those with an eye on a fast buck, and warned that many of the same companies who had been embroiled in scandals in the US for miss-selling degrees and questionable degrees were now targeting the UK.

‘The union highlighted recent comments by Steve Eisman, the US short-selling investor, who said: “I thought that there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive and morally bankrupt as the sub-prime mortgage industry.

“I was wrong. The for-profit education industry has proven equal to the task.”’

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘If the government is serious about maintaining our proud tradition of excellence in higher education it must urgently re-examine its plans to allow for-profit companies greater access to taxpayers’ money.

‘Ministers must not turn a blind eye to what is happening in the US, where the for-profit sector has become embroiled in a series of high profile scandals over miss-selling degrees and dodgy recruitment practices.

‘Thousands of students have been ripped off and the same must not be allowed to happen here or it will do lasting damage to our international reputation.’

• Meanwhile, schools’ admissions policies are being changed by the Tory government, favouring privately controlled ‘Academies’ and ‘Free Schools’.

The Tory government have published a revised admissions code that announces that primary schools in England are to have a single, co-ordinated day for offering places.

Free schools and academies will be able to prioritise applications.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb claimed: ‘The new admissions codes are slimmer, less repetitive and easier to read and use.

‘But the new codes also remove the restriction on good schools being able to expand if they wish – a freedom that will provide more good school places.’

His new admissions policy comes at a time when comprehensive schools are being threatened with budget cuts, staff sackings and even closures, while ‘free schools’ and ‘academies’ are being given extra funding.

• Adopted children who have previously been in care will also have greater priority in applications, affecting about 3,000 children each year.

• The revised code will make it easier for individual schools to increase their number of places, without needing the permission of local authorities.

• Schools will also be able to give greater priority to the children of staff at the school.

• Free schools and academies will be able to prioritise applications from children eligible for free school meals.