A survey conducted by the Universities and College Union (UCU) has led to the belief that a ‘toxic’ and ‘punitive’ management culture exists at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). This culture has led to many academic members of staff to leave the University. Read on for the full story.
The UCU carried out a survey based around staff that left QUB between 2015 and 2017 – with 85 people answering the survey, and 12 people providing interviews or written statements. The majority of respondents were permanent, full-time academic employees. Almost half of the respondents were from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, with a third emanating from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The survey offered a good mix of past staff members.
Onto the results – and worryingly, 90% of respondents stated that their current working conditions were better than what they had at QUB. Many reasons for leaving was given. Almost a quarter of respondents revealed they left QUB due to a different institution providing a better offer. Female respondents particularly noted the lack of promotion opportunities and career prospects as reasons for leaving.
Many staff members cited high workloads and poor relationships with management as reasons for departing the University. The survey suggested that ‘bullying’ was accepted as part of the management culture of the University. The culture of the management at the institution was also seen as ‘toxic’ and ‘punitive’.
It should be noted that many who leave their job do so with malice, and are keen to criticise their past employer wherever possible. It should also be noted that some comments were positive. However, the fact that so many themes recurred throughout the different opinions suggests there is a considerable management culture problem at the University – one that is having a detrimental impact on staff retention.
Queen’s University responded to the report. A spokesperson suggested that ‘Queen’s University is committed to promoting and providing a positive and enriching work environment’. They went on to state that the survey number was too small to obtain a full understanding. Although they did also mention that they were ‘implementing a comprehensive action plan’ due to a staff survey.
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It is important for a University to treat its staff well. The staff are key to ensuring that students fulfil their potential, and without happy students and staff, a University will struggle. It is therefore disappointing to see so many issues being reported at one of the most well-renowned institutions in Northern Ireland. Hopefully, steps will be taken to address this management culture, and improve the conditions for staff so that they can thrive.