Original Research

Burnout, work engagement and sense of coherence in female academics in higher-education institutions in South Africa

Adéle Bezuidenhout, Frans V.N. Cilliers
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 36, No 1 | a872 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v36i1.872 | © 2010 Adéle Bezuidenhout, Frans V.N. Cilliers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 October 2009 | Published: 19 November 2010

About the author(s)

Adéle Bezuidenhout, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Frans V.N. Cilliers, Unisa, South Africa

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Orientation: Female academics in higher-education institutions face numerous challenges in the continuously changing landscape of South African higher education. Mergers, increasing job demands, ever-increasing class sizes and role conflict inherent in the female role contribute extensively to the manifestation of stress and burnout in this population group.

Research purpose: This research was conducted from a salutogenic paradigm, seeking to find ways of avoiding the negative consequences of burnout and contributing towards the positive experience of work engagement for the female academic. The research also explored the effect of the individual academic’s sense of coherence (SOC) on her experience of burnout and work engagement.

Research design, approach and method: The research was quantitative in nature. A psychometric instrument was sent to all the permanently employed female academics at Unisa and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), measuring their levels of burnout, work engagement and SOC. The completed questionnaires were statistically analysed.

Main findings: The findings included average levels of burnout, with definite signs that the experience of burnout is on the increase. The cynicism sub-dimension of burnout showed increased levels, work engagement scores were just above average and SOC scores were low.

Practical/managerial implications: This article offers a psychological interpretation of the variables in the target group. The article contributes towards the body of research studies conducted from a positive psychological paradigm and, specifically, on the female gender.

Contribution/value-add: The main recommendations are that university management needs to take cognisance of the alarming symptoms of burnout present in the population under discussion. Strategies are recommended to address these and to nurture work engagement.


salutogenic paradigm; positive psychology; work wellness


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