The widow of a Cardiff University lecturer who died by suicide has demanded action over workload pressures
Diane Anderson wants to save other families from having their ‘dad taken away’
The widow of Cardiff University Lecturer Dr Malcom Anderson has demanded action over workload pressures, after her husband died by suicide in February 2018 after being under pressure at work.
Diane Anderson was aware that her husband was under significant pressure, she has stated that he would work a considerable amount of overtime, often in the evenings, on weekends and in the holidays to keep on top of preparing lectures, marking and answering emails.
Around the time of his passing, Malcom was responsible for over 600 students, and was marking 418 exam papers, as well as preparing for lectures.
He had also recently accepted a promotion within the business school as Deputy Head, as he feared that turning it down could count against him in the future.
Diane Anderson has said: "He didn't want to apply for that job because he knew he was really going to struggle and the stress involved. It was just too much."
She has also stated that the university should have known he was struggling with his workload as annual work appraisals show Dr Anderson had informed the university previously about his concerns over not being able to take annual leave due to his work in 2015, 2016 and 2017. She added: "He did tell them. In his appraisals he told them that his workload was massive and it was unmanageable but nothing ever changed, there was no account taken for it."
Since Dr Anderson’s death, over 500 members of staff at Cardiff University have signed an open letter to Vice Chancellor, Colin Riordan, the university executive board and Cardiff University Council saying they’re at risk of physical and mental injury over their workload. And from internal surveys over a third of staff have said they are forced to work unreasonable hours to fulfil their job requirements. The University and College Union in Wales has stated that new demands such as online marking and National Student Surveys have increased these workload pressures on staff in institutions.
The letter reads: "We are acutely aware there are many others at serious risk of physical and mental injury. Simply, our workloads are too high across the board."
Professor Victoria Wass who worked alongside Dr Anderson at Cardiff University Business School has signed the letter and has said that the university’s current work allocation model should be replaced because it underestimates how long it takes to complete the duties required as part of the job. She has said: "Staff have no confidence in the model and no confidence in management who keep trying to implement it.
"We ought to be acting on it. We ought not to be leaving staff thinking they are alone in being unable to manage their workload and that there's some particular weakness on their behalf that they can't do it. Because in the end that is what you are left feeling."
Cardiff University said they take the welfare of staff extremely seriously and are reviewing the work allocation model. A spokesperson said: "We are committed to working with all the members of the university community, including the recognised trade unions, to ensure the welfare of our staff. Over the last four years we have been seeking to establish a fair and transparent framework for allocating workloads."
However, Professor Wass believes the additional financial pressures brought about by Cardiff University’s plans to cut up to 380 jobs will further hurt staff and will also impact students and has added that the decision to cut staff whilst still accepting the same number of students will cause an “impossible situation.”
Featured image credit: BBC