A career in higher education and research can be characterised as a stimulating and demanding challenge. Academic staff is highly motivated, as the contents of teaching as well as research projects reflect their own field of interest and commitment in most cases. But on the other hand problems arise in combining the demands of an academic career with other responsibilities, like family and child care. For example lectures in the evenings, or taking part in congresses on the weekend and high pressure to publish as many research findings as possible often make it hard to balance work and life. For several reasons the conditions for a satisfying work-life balance in higher education and research should be improved:
- All academics would gain from improved working conditions. Employment in higher education and research would become more attractive.
- Making it easier to combine an academic career with care and family duties improves equal opportunities. A better work-life balance helps to increase the share of women in academia, who are still markedly underrepresented in higher positions and in many faculties.
- Moreover, it would improve the outcomes of academia, because the loss of outstanding academics would be reduced. For well qualified staff with care responsibilities it would become easier to perform an academic career successfully.
In order to enhance the work-life balance in higher education and research institutions three European trade unions cooperate in the project “Work-Life Balance and gender specific career patterns in higher education and science”: Sveriges Universitetslärarförbund (SULF, Sweden), University and College Union (UCU, United Kingdom) and Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW, Germany). International cooperation should improve the knowledge and understanding of the differing national settings. Best practice examples may be identified and adapted in order to develop sufficient strategies concerning work-life balance and gender equality.