All-in-One Academics: Mental Workload in Turkish Academic Employment

All-in-One Academics: Mental Workload in Turkish Academic Employment

Nazlı Ayşe Ayyıldız Ünnü (Ege University, Turkey) and Burcu Şentürk (Ege University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1052-0.ch004
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The changing nature of higher education systems and academic work all around the world generally and in Turkey specifically highlight the need for academics to use, analyze, and process so much information simultaneously, and deliver results at a specific period of time, which cause them mental workload. Thus, this chapter addresses the problem of understanding and exploring the dynamics of mental workload in Turkish academic setting. The main data for the analysis comes from a wide field research, including 505 questionnaires and 45 in-depth interviews with academics in various universities of Turkey. The mixed methods research revealed that growing publication pressures, administrative work, teaching and supervision hours, the unpredictability of academic positions, the curse of flexibility, and the bureaucratic nature of universities are some of the factors, leading to mental workload in Turkish academia. The other dynamics, such as academic incentive system, demanding nomination/promotion criteria, lack of family-work life balance, were also explored.
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Watson's (1968) account of the intense competition surrounding the discovery of DNA-structure, have tended to portray academic life and science as intensely competitive (Sullivan, 1975, p. 223). Since the time of Watson, the competition even get worse as it has been reported that there is keen competition among academics for positions, promotion, tenure, research grants, patents, benefits, academic prestige via peer reviewed publications and international scholarly awards such as the Nobel Prize (White, 2001, Ortaş, 2011; Dill, 2014).

Additionally, there has been a change of paradigm in higher education systems (Bruckmann & Carvalho, 2018; Hsieh & Huisman, 2017; Pinheiro, Geschwind, Ramirez, & Vrangbæk, 2016; Dill, 2014; Huisman & Kaiser, 2002; Huisman, Adelman, Hsieh, Shams, & Wilkins, 2012; Pavlenko & Bojan, 2014), leading to increase in rivalry among academics. Humboldtian idea of the university (see Humboldt, 1970), where knowledge seeking and sharing was a value on its own, has been questioned and transformed from traditional model into various university ideas, such as “research university model” (Perkins, 1973), which focuses mainly on research activities and “the entrepreneurial university model” (Clark, 2001, 2004), which strives for professionalized management, diversification of activities, proactiveness rather than “reactiveness” to changes and opportunities (Pavlenko & Bojan 2014, p. 99). This transformation has ended up with a model, clearly closer to private sector organizations (Bruckmann & Carvalho, 2018, p. 630).

Public research funding is now increasingly allocated through competitive processes, rather than long-term institutional block grants (Heinze, Shapira, Rogers, & Senker, 2009, p. 610). Thus, most of the leading OECD countries are allocating some portion of their general university funds competitively for designated purposes, such as research doctoral students, distinguished faculty chairs, grants for research infrastructure, research centers of excellence, graduate or research schools and funds to achieve institutional “world-class” status (Dill, 2014, p. 4).

In the light of this growing evidence, universities no longer provide the low stress working environments that they once did due to increase in and variety of workload. Stress in university staff in different countries are widely researched, such as Winefield & Jarrett (2001); Winefield et al. (2003) in Australia; Tytherleigh, Jacobs, Webb, Ricketts, & Cooper (2007); Bradley & Eachus (1995) in England; Essiam, Mensah, Kudu, & Gyamfi (2015) in Ghana; Ahsan, Abdullah, Fie, & Alam (2009) in Malaysia; Taris, Schreurs, & Van Iersel-Van Silfhout (2001) in the Netherlands; Biron, Brun, & Ivers (2008) in Canada; Akinmayowa & Kadiri (2016) in Nigeria; Blix, Cruise, Mitchell, & Blix (1994); Richard & Krieshok (1989) in the United States; Yeşiltaş & Ekici (2017); Akın, Baloğlu, & Karslı (2014); Yıldırım & Taşmektepligil (2011); Üzüm, Yalçın, Özen, & Yüktaşır (2014) in Turkey. Most of these studies have found that work-related stress has become a cause for concern as a result of increased competition, workload, work pressures, and reduced support.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mission Differentiation and Specialization Aimed at Regional Development: A project of CoHE and the Ministry of Development to increase the regional contribution of universities and promote them to specialize in specific fields by transforming into research-based universities in Turkey.

Norm Cadre: The quantity and quality of the optimal staff that a university and its units need in order to carry out its tasks.

Mixed Methods Research: A form of research, which combines quantitative and qualitative research as such combinations enable confirmation or corroboration of each other through triangulation.

MAXQDA: A program designed to facilitate and support qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research projects. It enables to import, organize, analyze, and visualize various forms of data such as interviews, surveys, tables, pictures, etc.

Triangulation: The use of multiple methods, theories, data and/or researchers in the research process.

Council of Higher Education: The main body, which is responsible for higher education in Turkey. It decides and coordinates the administrative and financial issues (e.g., student intake, appointment and dismissal of academic staff, supervision of university budgets, disciplinary issues, etc.).

Ministry of Development: An organization, which plans and guides Turkey’s developmental processes with a macro approach and focuses on the coordination of policies and strategy development.

Academic Incentive Allowance: A financial support system, which was prepared in accordance with the Higher Education Law and put into effect since 2015, to increase the productivity of academic staff at different levels in Turkey.

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