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Four-fifths of staff in universities and colleges are struggling with an increased workload and poor mental health because of the Covid pandemic, a poll shows.
More than half (57.5%) of the staff surveyed said their workload had increased a lot, while more than a fifth (23.3%) were working a bit harder, according to a survey by the University and College Union.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic women, LGBT+ and disabled staff were all more likely to report higher workloads and resulting stress, possibly reflecting their tendency to take on more pastoral responsibilities (pdf).
The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “Staff were already stressed and overworked before Covid, and over the past year they have had to deliver ‘blended learning’, while being forced to endlessly readjust their teaching plans. With spiralling stress levels and unmanageable workloads, the current situation is simply not sustainable.
“The pressure on education staff is being compounded by having to take on lots of unpaid pastoral work as university counselling services struggle to cope.”
The survey of more than 12,000 lecturers and professional services staff in universities and further education colleges also showed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of staff were unhappy with the level of support from their employers, and more than a fifth (22%) were not receiving access to mental health advice.
The UCU is calling on the government to invest more in mental health support, and for employers to reduce workloads and prioritise wellbeing, or risk industrial action from staff.
The survey also showed that a quarter (26%) of staff at universities and nearly half (46%) at further education colleges said they did not feel safe at work because of coronavirus. The survey was conducted in December, just after the second lockdown.
Throughout the pandemic, the UCU has been campaigning for most teaching to be online to protect the health of staff and students and provide them with greater stability.
Raj Jethwa, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said: “UCEA has worked collaboratively with trade unions, including UCU, to agree a risk assessment-led approach to the safe reopening of campuses and a safe return to work for staff, taking account of equalities considerations. UCEA has also made concrete proposals to manage workload and support the mental health and wellbeing of staff.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Four in five university and college staff struggling because of pandemic, union says | Higher education