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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 16:35 GMT
Lecturers 'made ill by workload'
Stressed lecturers will be able to call a free 24-hour helpline
Nearly half of lecturers have been ill because of their job, a poll suggests.

About 1,000 lecturers were asked about different aspects of their work in a YouGov poll commissioned by the University and College Union (UCU).

More than 40% said bureaucracy was the worst part of their job and nearly two-thirds said they had considered leaving the UK to work abroad.

The findings are published as a new charity is launched to help stressed staff in higher and further education.

The College and University Support Network (CUSN) is a development of the Teacher Support Network, which primarily helps school staff but had found that increasingly it was being approached by lecturers with problems.

It will be the first dedicated national counselling telephone support line for university and college lecturers, and their families.

The union survey also found just over half (52%) had considered leaving the profession for the private sector, while 55% said they would not recommend the job to their children.

Universities must take the lead on this issue of excessive workloads or we risk losing a generation of talented academics
Sally Hunt
general secretary

In response, the union has called for universities to do more to ensure lecturers are not forced out of the sector.

UCU joint general secretary Sally Hunt said: "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."

She wants universities to sign up to a similar agreement to that reached by the government with doctors and nurses to reduce extreme workloads.

Work-life balance

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which represents higher education employers, dismissed the survey as "extremely limited and vague".

It said employers always supported the development of a healthy work-life balance and worked with unions in all aspects of employee relations.

And the Higher Education Minister, Bill Rammell, said there was no evidence to indicate lecturers were leaving the profession.

He added that the government was committed to reducing externally imposed bureaucracy but stressed institutions should look closely at the balance of their employees' responsibilities.

Relationship difficulties

Universities UK, a group for vice chancellors, said universities were working with the government to tackle bureaucracy but admitted more needed to be done.

A spokesman for the group said it was important to reduce the administrative burden on lecturers, while also ensuring institutions remained accountable.

The CUSN also has a website of fact sheets, online coaching, money advice and guidance on grants and loans.

The charity's chief executive, Patrick Nash, said it would help with issues of stress, workload and difficult relationships.

It would work closely with the UCU which would provide employment advice, and representation where needed.


Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said academics might say they would consider leaving - as people in other walks of life might respond to a hypothetical poll - but the evidence was that most did not.

"Moreover, recent reports indicate universities are attracting Nobel prize winners from overseas to come and work in the UK," he said.

The government was committed to reducing bureaucracy.

"It is important that institutions look closely at the balance of their employees' responsibilities and provide good staff support and welfare.

"I welcome the development of personalised support services for lecturers, such as the new College and and University Support Network."

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