Third of academics want to quit
Rebecca Smithers, education correspondent
Monday March 10, 2003
Nearly one in three of Britain's university academic and teaching staff is
seriously considering quitting the profession, because of a growing workload
and poor pay, according to a new survey out today. Eight out of 10 oppose
The workforce is under-paid, stressed-out, demoralised and demotivated, the
Association of University Teachers shows. Nearly half the academics said
morale had worsened in the past two years, while an overwhelming majority
complained that they suffered from work-related stress.
The news will be a blow to the government, which is relying on academics
to implement a series of wide-ranging reforms to higher education. The survey
is the first snapshot of the views of academics since the government published
its long-delayed white paper on higher education in January.
Last week, both teachers and vice chancellors expressed concern about the
financial settlement universities received from the higher education funding
council for England, with many institutions getting less money for teaching,
supposedly their core activity. The funding council will publish a paper
on the future of higher education on Wednesday.
Among the main findings of the survey revealed today, 26.9% of academics
- representing nearly 43,000 individual staff members - said they were "fairly
seriously" contemplating a career change, while 46% said morale had worsened
in the past two years. On pay, 72% were dissatisfied, while 66% were unhappy
with staffing levels in their area of work. The workload attracted a very
negative response - 86% felt it was heavy, and 80% thought it had increased
in the past two years.
An overwhelming majority, 93%, said they suffered from workplace stress and
62% from "excessive" stress. On this issue, 81.7% said work impaired the
quality of their life.
The government wants to break the link between teaching and research in order,
it claims, to let universities excel in areas they are best at. But 85.9%
of academics believe the link should be retained.
On funding, 81% opposed top-up fees, while 90% felt that additional income
for higher education should come from taxation. Only 36% felt they could
recommend working in higher education to an undergraduate.
The AUT's general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "This survey should start
a few alarm bells ringing in government circles. It clearly shows that university
staff are feeling underpaid, stressed and demotivated. The government wants
the UK's academic and academic-related staff to implement its reform agenda,
and yet most of them feel ignored and under-valued.
"The fact that more than 40,000 are fairly seriously considering leaving
the sector is not surprising - it shows how much work has to be done to get
staff back on board. One thing to which people feel particularly averse is
the government's proposal to break the link between teaching and research,
which many people feel is the defining characteristic of a university."
She said it was vital that subjects were taught within a research environment,
and that academic staff at less well-known institutions had the chance to
do research, if the flow of future researchers from less-established institutions
was to continue.
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