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Leaked staff survey reveals high workloads and harassment at Cardiff University

Improvements to be made: Cardiff University pledges to improve staff working conditions and experiences. Source: Stan Zurek (via Wikimedia Commons)

By Muskan Aurora

Recently, Cardiff University’s 2019 staff survey was leaked by Academic Freedom Watch. The report’s findings suggest that a significant proportion of Cardiff University staff feel overworked and discriminated against at work.

The University distributed the survey on November 4, 2019, and it ran until November 27, 2019. It was sent out to approximately 7,000 staff members at the University, out of which 4,058 individuals completed it.

Cardiff University’s staff survey seeks to assess the overall experience of staff members and identify areas of improvement and is intended for internal use only.

This academic year’s survey reported that when it comes to the working conditions Cardiff University staff are under, they are not ideal and rather, University staff face an “unhealthy workload”. What’s more, 11% of staff reported that they were subjected to “personal bullying and harassment in the past year” at the University, which is 6% higher than the benchmark set by the Higher Education Institution, thus the report concludes that this is an area which needs improvement.

Speaking to Gair Rhydd about the bullying and harassment results, a spokesperson for Cardiff University said: “We operate a zero tolerance approach to behaviours of harassment, bullying and victimisation. This means that any reports of bullying, harassment or victimisation will be treated and dealt with seriously.”

When the 2019 survey was compared to the staff survey conducted in 2017, overall, there were six “statistically significant” improvements and twenty-one “deteriorations”, according to staff responses.

Some of the “statistically significant” improvements include 6% more staff reporting that they believe their line manager listens to their views and ideas; 3% more staff feel they have the opportunity for career development; and 3% more staff reporting feeling personal accomplishment from their work.

As for the twenty-one “deteriorations”, however, these include 22% less staff reporting that they feel senior leaders of staff provide “effective leadership”; 10% less staff reported that decision-making processes “work effectively” in the University; and 7% less staff agreed that the University is committed to sustainability. This is all compared to the 2017 survey.

Speaking to Gair Rhydd about the report, one Cardiff University lecturer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “It throws up a picture of people working long hours to deliver good outcomes for students, but not receiving requisite support from senior leadership.”

However, the survey also brought to light more positive aspects of working at the University. For example, the majority of staff members, on the whole, found their work interesting and 84% reported that they are treated with respect by their colleagues.

What’s more, 55% of staff reported that they are clear about the University’s strategic aims and objectives, 50% reported the pressures they experience at work are “reasonable”, and 76% reported that as long as they get their work done, they have the freedom to work in whatever way suits them.

Speaking to Gair Rhydd about the survey, a Cardiff University spokesperson said: “We value our staff responses and take them very seriously. The results of the Staff Survey are challenging for the University. Mindful that we need to listen, we are reviewing the survey results further. We are looking carefully at the differences in returns between different groups of staff. We will set up groups to fully understand what the survey tells us and to identify appropriate actions.”

These surveys are conducted every two to three years to check and regulate the working conditions at the University. The full survey can be accessed at Academic Freedom Watch here.

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