Debate on teaching load dies away in numerical mess


MAASTRICHT. Where is the extra staff meant to relieve the pressure of work but especially ‘teaching load’ for academic staff? Members of the University Council are racking their brains over the continually changing figures and are bickering with the Executive Board about ‘standard hours’ and ‘task loads’. A workgroup will be set up to provide some clarity in the coming months.

There have been few University Council meetings in which the subject was not discussed in the past few years: the UM’s academic staff is overloaded with work, especially because of the intensive teaching tasks. The Executive Board took the complaints serious and invested in additional teaching staff. At least, money was provided for the faculties to get to work. Exactly how they did this was not always clear, not even to the Executive Board. The faculty boards eventually produced figures on the deployment of academic staff in education. But the discussion has not ceased. Because what do these figures mean exactly? Who counts as teaching staff and who doesn’t? The latest long-range budget for the next five years that the number of such staff members will grow by 129 FTEs in the period from 2013 until (the forecasts for) 2017. That is an increase of more than 20 per cent, two times larger than the number of students, which is expected to grow by just under the 10 per cent. That would mean a slightly more favourable staff-student ratio, with fewer students per lecturer, and that indeed appears to be the case. The fact that the trend is undisputed does not mean that the figures are too. The figures on the student-staff ratio provided by the Executive Board three weeks ago, now appear to be obsolete again. Where, for example, SBE initially showed a favourable ratio of 1:15 and the Faculty of Law double that, with 1:30, it now appears that after the faculties have redone their homework, three of them have supplied significantly different figures. Economics now has a rate of 1:27, while the figures from Psychology and FHS deviate considerably from their previous versions. Are these calculations correct? The University Council is also wondering if this is the case. Evidently the calculating methods are not unambiguous.

According to the Executive Board, the teaching load has decreased anyway, also because a number of measures taken have not been included in the figures. Additional support staff, for example, is lightening the load for lecturers, as do fewer exams, although this is not reflected in more staff.

The University Council is nevertheless dissatisfied. Complaints about the heavy workload are still coming in from academic staff, reports Mark Govers (FHML). Dirk Tempelaar (SBE) is again hammering away these days at the discussion that has been going on for years about standard hours. As it was impossible to agree on uniform standard hours for all faculties – how much time and therefore money is assigned to particular teaching tasks – a different methodology was used, named ‘task load’. Exactly how this works, is unclear, Tempelaar feels, all the more so because in his faculty senior staff is only experiencing a greater workload related to testing, while the teaching load should have been reduced. The Executive Board is referring to measures already taken by faculties: at FPN the teaching load has been reduced from 45 to 40 per cent, at Law from 65 to 60. “Something is being done,” said Executive Board member Nick Bos to a University Council committee. But the written answers from the Executive Board to questions asked by the University Council contain different figures again. At the Faculty of Law, the teaching load is supposed to have gone from 70 to 65 per cent. The Taskforce Educational Workload is in for a busy time.

Author: Wammes Bos
Categories: News,
Tags: work pressure

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