Staff Wellbeing in Higher Education

A research report that looks at the positive and negative factors that influence higher education staffs’ wellbeing, and how it can be improved.

The research was carried out using in-depth interviews with 25 members of staff working in Higher Education institutions.  

The main findings from the report:  

  • Professionals in Higher Education actively consider their own wellbeing and that of their students.
  • Respondents do not feel they have expertise in the area of wellbeing or mental health but recognise its complexity.
  • Wellbeing is maximised when people feel valued, well-managed, have good workplace collegiality and can act with agency and autonomy.
  • Management approaches that prioritise accountability measures and executive tasks over teaching, learning and research tasks were cited as having a negative impact on staff wellbeing.
  • There was a perceived dichotomy between the priorities of teaching staff and administrators.  In some interviews it was seen as valuing money from student intake over providing high quality of teaching.
  • Participants overwhelmingly identified the consumer model as a driver of management priorities.
  • The drive for student numbers and the competition between universities – for example, Russell Group versus non-Russell Group – was seen as a generator of pressure that negatively affects wellbeing.
  • Bereavement and support associated with bereavement was mentioned by half of the respondents when discussing wellbeing.
  • Several respondents said they would actively choose not to use in-house processes and procedures to deal with their own wellbeing and mental health issues at a time when trust had been eroded.
  • In general, respondents did not feel empowered to make a difference to the way that Higher Education institutions deal with wellbeing issues and this generated some cynicism.
  • All respondents saw a clear, though hard to define, link between wellbeing and mental health.