Two-thirds of academics want to quit, poll shows
Nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK academics have considered quitting Britain to work overseas or leaving academia altogether for a better job in the private sector, new research reveals.
The biggest gripe among lecturers is bureaucracy, with one in three respondents saying they spent at least 16 hours a week on paperwork, the research by the University and College Union (UCU) shows.
The survey of more than 1,000 lecturers in UK universities also revealed that 47% have suffered ill-health because of their job and 55% would not recommend a career in higher education to their children.
The UCU said the report, released today, was proof that universities needed to act now to ensure that current and future lecturers were not forced out of the sector or put off altogether.
The union warned that clear agreements on addressing excessive workloads were required in order to protect lecturers’ “fragile autonomy” and stop the unnecessary administration and overregulation that force many to work excessive hours.
Earlier this year, a TUC survey revealed that lecturers came second in a list of professionals that work the most overtime.
Lecturers work, on average, an extra nine hours of unpaid overtime every week. If they were actually paid for the unpaid overtime they would earn an extra £10,216 a year, the UCU estimates.
The UCU says the survey paints a worrying picture about the amount of time lecturers are now able to spend with their student. Half of all lecturers now spend 10 hours or less a week with students and 15% spend just five hours or less with students per week.
The union says that in the past, lecturers’ contracts would typically detail the maximum proportion of time to be spent on administration rather than research and teaching. Newer contracts are no longer as prescriptive, the union says.
The UCU’s joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Lecturers are highly motivated and committed professionals who do an incredible job that rarely gets the recognition or respect it deserves. For years increasing student numbers have not been matched by increases in teaching staff or by resources available.
“This poll shows that bureaucracy is feeding a serious crisis of morale in our universities that should worry all those who value higher education. Universities must take the lead on this issue of excessive workloads or we risk losing a generation of talented academics to the private sector or abroad, as well as struggling to fill future vacancies.
“The extra duties many are forced to take on are creating excessive workloads. Government and employers have provided extra staff and signed up to agreements aimed at reducing excessive workloads for doctors and nurses and universities must do the same. Staff can no longer be asked to not bear the brunt of the expansion of student numbers and the explosion in bureaucracy of the last decade.
“Lecturers are rightly proud of their jobs and the work they do, but this poll reveals that many feel enough is enough. This is hardly surprising when almost half of them have suffered ill-health because of their job. Lecturers want to be able to get on with their jobs, but unnecessary outside influence, arbitrary targets and an excessive admin overload are having a devastating effect.”
A spokesman for Universities UK, the group which represents vice-chancellors, said: “Universities, with government departments, agencies and the funding councils, have already taken major strides to address bureaucracy in the sector with the launch, last year, of the HE Concordat. But this survey does remind us that that there is still work to be done in this area.
“It is important to build on this work to achieve genuine reductions in burden particularly through reducing duplication, whilst ensuring that institutions remain effectively accountable to these stakeholders.
“Reducing bureaucracy is a major way to gain efficiency in higher education as in business. The new HE Concordat promises to do just that. It is one of the first major gains from the work of the Higher Education Regulation Group and is a step in the right direction for the sector.”
The Concordat – between government departments, the funding council and the Quality Assurance Agency on tackling bureaucracy in higher education, was launched in May this year.
However the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association criticised the report. “This is an extremely limited and vague survey and the findings need to be treated as such. Employers always support the development of a healthy work-life balance and continue the highly successful joint working with unions in all aspects of employee relations. The changed skill mix needs to be taken into account when trying to draw inaccurate comparisons to other sectors with regards to excessive workloads. Nurses and other NHS professionals are now trained to take on workloads previously assigned to doctors only.”
The UCU commissioned YouGov to survey 1,000 lecturers in UK universities.
The poll was released as a new charity was set up to offer support for lecturers in colleges and universities. The Teacher Support Network, in partnership with UCU, has launched the new College and University Support Network.
The service includes round-the-clock telephone counselling, a website of fact sheets, online coaching, money advice and needs-based grants and loans. Autor: Alexandra Smith