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Up to their eyeballs in teaching duties

Up to their eyeballs in teaching duties

Photographer:Fotograaf: Thinkstock

UM report: workload is a complicated and extensive problem

MAASTRICHT. They are exhausted, feel under-valued and miss the support of colleagues. These are some of the complaints by UM lecturers who suffer under their workload. The problem appears to be more multifaceted and complicated than thought, as appears from the report by the Taskforce Educational Workload.

The working group – consisting of deans, University Council members and faculty representatives – has not looked into how high the workload is in Maastricht, but shows in its report how complicated the problem is. This appears from discussions and written reactions from staff members from all faculties. A total of fifteen, not representative but certainly illustrative, says chairman Albert Scherpbier, dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences. Some of the reactions - especially from FHML and FASoS - have been added word for word in the appendix.

The juniors are up to their eyeballs in teaching duties, but the assistant professors and senior lecturers carry the heaviest load. What is remarkable is the fact that they don't feel supported by colleagues and those in charge. Appreciation is inadequate too. Teaching is seen as a burden, research as a reward. In the meantime, it is the quality that suffers. Lecturers find themselves in a “survival mode,” says an FHML senior lecturer. They make mistakes, which leads to “sloppy teaching material”. Many lecturers don't even want to think about educational innovation, because that would mean extra work.

A major problem, say lecturers, is the fragmentation of tasks and roles. This has to do with increased bureaucracy, but also the long academic year in Maastricht, in which course periods overlap and teaching-free periods are scarce.

According to the taskforce, there are no simple solutions for the workload problem, also because it is not a matter of one-size-fits-all. The report lists twelve recommendations, including an obvious one (review the system of standard hours), but also surprising tips: set up the teaching programmes around self-managing teams. This would prevent lecturers from feeling that they are on their own; it makes it easier to find a substitute; and it stimulates ‘learning from colleagues’.

The taskforce drew up a total of twelve recommendations, on the basis of which the faculties created so-called ‘implementation plans’. Measures such as a clearer division of tasks between teaching, research and other duties, less bureaucracy, and additional time for subsidy applications. The working group will also review the plans afterwards. Scherpbier: “A well-balanced set of measures is needed. Just creating extra hours for teaching won't get the job done.”

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