An Exploration of Job Stress among Academic Heads in Taiwanese Universities

Article excerpt

In recent years, the higher education system in Taiwan has experienced significant reform that not only challenges how universities are governed but also pushes teachers to grow or make the transition to new endeavors. This development has resulted in faculty members leaving situations that had become rather cozy and unchallenging. Such educational reform has also raised job stress to unprecedented levels, rendering the lives of faculty members comparatively difficult. Moreover, these individuals hold multiple administrative positions in addition to their teaching responsibilities, which increases their workload. When academic heads perform administrative work, they are required to take multiple and burdensome roles not only following the law and satisfying the dictates of the administration but also processing a wide variety of demands emanating from teachers and students. Although an appropriate workload facilitates work performance, excessive pressure can cause job stress that influences not only the teacher her/himself but also the development of the intellectual environment. Inappropriate management environments that create job stress also produce negative sequelae, such as unhealthy bodies and minds, diminished motivation to work, decreased pedagogical quality and high turnover among staff (Lee & Chen, 2006).

According to data supplied by the Ministry of Education, the idea of a science and technology university emerged during the period 1996 to 2005, resulting in the establishment of 29 of these institutions in Taiwan. Furthermore, the number of these institutions has continued to increase, and the number of vocational and technical schools has also increased rapidly, making it easier for students in the vocational and technical system to enter institutions of higher learning. Assuming that supply (number of students) exceeds demand (available schools), and that the national school-age population continues to decrease, academic heads (deans, superintendents and directors) at each of these schools will face increasingly rigorous challenges and more competition from other educational institutions offering higher levels of vocational and technical education.

It is increasingly important that faculty members perform administrative duties to promote the efficient operation of schools. As a consequence, job stress represents a key contributor to whether such schools operate successfully. Thus, the job stress experienced by academic heads constitutes an important and timely topic.

It has been found in previous studies that personal characteristics are the key variables affecting job stress. In particular, it has been shown:

(a.) There are no significant correlations between sex and job stress (See, for example, DeFrank & Stroup, 1989; Pelsma, Richard, Harrington, & Burry, 1989; Russell, 1987).

(b.) However, significant correlations between sex and job stress were reported by Kyriacou and Sutcliffe (1978) who found that male faculty members experienced more job stress related to administration and archives management than did female faculty members, but that female faculty members experienced more job stress related to student behavior and teaching than did male faculty members. These results were supported by studies conducted by Moracco and McFadden (1982) and Chen (2003).

(c.) There are associations between age and job stress. Some researchers have reported significant associations between age and job stress. For example, Chiu (2004) found that younger age was correlated with higher job stress and that older faculty members experienced higher job stress with regard to interpersonal relationships.

(d.) There are no significant correlations between marital situation and job stress.

Relevant studies have not shown significant relationships between marital situation and job stress (e.g., Chen, 2003; Lin, 2001; Lin, 2003; Russell et al. …