Wellbeing in the higher education sector: A qualitative study of staff perceptions in UK universities

Vida Douglas, Natalie Pattison, Kerryn Warren, Maria Karanika-Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Higher Education (HE) sector is beset with mental ill-health, stress and burnout, negatively impacting staff productivity and retention. These challenges are due to a reduction in financial support for HE coupled with a growing number of students and increased workloads, as evidenced by recent strike actions in the UK. While research on mental ill-health in HE is extensive, our understanding of wellbeing in higher education is limited. Yet understanding wellbeing in the workplace can foster positive experiences and resilience, counteracting more negative experiences. This paper presents findings from 21 in-depth semi-structured interviews with employees (academic and professional staff) in UK universities to understand staff perceptions of wellbeing and the impact of the HE context. Five themes were identified: (1) factors contributing to staff wellbeing, such as colleague support; (2) fragility and duality of staff wellbeing, on how wellbeing can be damaged as well as its changing nature; (3) the dichotomy of collegial peer and organizational support, on university and staff actions toward wellbeing; (4) outsider from within, on an experienced lack of belonging; and (5) creativity and growth, on opportunities for staff development. Gaps in our understanding of Black, Asian, Minority, and Ethnic staff experiences were also identified. Implications for bolstering wellbeing in practice and future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2341741
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Workplace Behavioral Health
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Wellbeing in the higher education sector: A qualitative study of staff perceptions in UK universities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this