Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
MAASTRICHT. How serious is the option of more students in PBL groups? What about the combination of additional sabbaticals and workload reduction? And how do we correctly mark theses? These were questions that arose during a meeting on the reduction of the workload at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences last Tuesday.
A UM work experience survey, held a year ago, showed that Fasos employees suffer more often (50 per cent more) than their colleagues in other faculties with the “need for recovery”: being so tired from a day’s work that they have trouble getting fit to show up for work the next day. The emotional strain also appears to be higher than elsewhere. On the other hand, Fasos employees scored highest on ‘work pleasure’. So it is not all sorrow and misery, said dean Rein de Wilde last Tuesday to the approximately 50 staff members present (30 per cent of the total) in the gymnasium.
Just before the summer, the faculty board – after consultation with the various departments – presented with a short-term plan: a lesson-free block period for all staff members with a research appointment, more room for sabbaticals, 10 per cent additional research time for lecturers with only a small percentage of research time (70 per cent lessons vs. 30 per cent research), and more time for the supervision and assessment of theses. “Despite the fact that the influx of first-year students is lower, we will appoint five temporary FTEs (full-time appointments, ed.) in order to incorporate all this,” said De Wilde this week. “As soon as possible.”
Aside from that, money has been freed up for the so-called improvement plans: the extra work that comes from the yellow cards that the education watchdog NVAO issued to six programmes. Investments are also being made, in the field of research, but also in the form of an Innovation Teaching Fund (“making teaching smarter and better”), and the appointment of two experts (for two years) in the field of education and academic writing. They can support the staff in their search of less time-consuming exams, but also in a more effective (read: less time and so less money) supervision of traineeships and final projects.
The latter is crucial, because the whole project is going to cost a lot of money. A lot more than the work pressure relief of €330,000 that the Executive Board is donating from this year (until 2019). Fasos will have to put up its own money and survive off its reserves. This cannot last too long, De Wilde emphasised. In three years’ time, the faculty wants the education programme to be set up in such a way that exceeding the budget is merely temporary. Two short-term task forces will contribute towards this. They will look into reducing bureaucracy and setting up a smarter scheduling.
Why don’t we have students write theses that are related to our research, a staff member spoke out? “Students like the idea of being part of a larger research project and it would greatly reduce the work pressure.” And why should one not differentiate between courses: very intensive and extensive. For the latter, one could have students do literature research. And as far as the larger PBL groups are concerned, some parts of a block can be done in larger groups, it was said. But another replied that we then have a practical problem, “our classrooms are too small”.
The faculty board will present a progress report during the Faculty Educational Day in June 2015.