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Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Volume III, Work and Wellbeing by Peter Chen, Cary Cooper

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Chapter 17

Job Stress in University Academics

Evidence from an Australian National Study

Anthony H. Winefield

University of South Australia, Australia

Introduction

It is universally recognized that universities play a vital role in the economic and social life of all developed nations. They train the nation's scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals and produce much of its cutting-edge research. In order to fulfill this role successfully they need to attract and retain high-quality staff and provide a supportive working environment. Their ability to do so has been threatened over the past few decades by deteriorating working conditions resulting from cuts to their operating grants. In Australia, for example, the average student-to-staff ratio increased steadily from around 13:1 in 1990 to around 19:1 in 2000 (Senate Committee, 2001) and continues to rise, exceeding 20:1 in 2012. This has led to increased pressure and high reported stress levels that generally exceed those reported in normative data from the general population (Akerlind & McAlpine, 2009; Catano et al., 2010; McClenahan, Giles, & Mallett, 2007; Tytherleigh, Webb, Cooper, & Ricketts, 2005; Watts & Robertson, 2011).

University teaching has traditionally been regarded as a low-stress occupation. Although not highly paid, academics have been envied because they enjoyed tenure, light workloads, flexibility, “perks” such as overseas trips for study and/or conference purposes, and the freedom to ...

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