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A recent survey by the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) revealed that seven out of ten tertiary workers think their wellbeing is worse than it was ten years ago.
Out of a pool of 1000 people, those working in universities, polytechnics, and wānanga are increasingly stressed about their day-to-day jobs and their futures in the tertiary sector. An average of 70 per cent of those surveyed felt stressed in their job.
Abnormally high stress levels in the tertiary sector have been recorded in previous TEU surveys. In a 2013 survey the mean level of stress felt was 64 per cent, compared to the 2013 national average of 50–55 per cent.
TEU president Sandra Grey says that the result of the survey shows that “people in tertiary education are facing bigger workloads, longer working hours, and larger class sizes.”
She says another reason for stress is that tertiary sector workers have “no influence over the decisions that affect them and their students,” and that teaching and learning is compromised as a result.
When asked about the TEU survey Victoria University’s Director of Human Resources, Annemarie de Castro, said the university run their own annual survey to identify priority areas for the university to work on covering “workload, and diversity and wellness.”
de Castro said the survey shows that academic staff in particular “want to see action on workload and ensuring they are well in terms of job stress and other factors.” She added that staff interested in these issues have been invited to join a working group “to investigate the causes of workload and wellness issues, and to make recommendations to address them.”
de Castro said the working group will continue through this year and actions would be implemented in early 2017 to address the priority areas.
VUWSA President Jonathan Gee said, in response to the TEU survey, “it’s sad to hear that stress levels for lecturers are increasing. It in part represents the continuing underfunding of the tertiary sector by the government.”
“We need to support lecturers to be excellent teachers, and their working conditions are a key part of that.”
Historical data from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research shows stress levels among academics have been steadily rising since the mid-90s.