WORKING ON WORKLOADS: THE CHANGING CONTEXT OF RESEARCH FOR ACADEMICS IN AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES
University of Tasmania (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:In Australia, the past few years have seen the industrial relations of universities focus on the workloads of staff. For academics, this is largely about achieving fairness and equity in reaction to rapidly escalating workloads. For management, it reflects a concern to achieve accountability and productivity because the institutions are being required by government to deliver both quality education and a visible return on the investment of research dollars. Irrespective of the motivation, the preoccupation with workloads has culminating in 2010-2011 in the formalisation in the Enterprise Agreements of many universities of a requirement for a transparent and fair workloads model. This is not unusual in industry and for many years, academics and their schools or departments have struggled to achieve such workload models, largely because of the complex and highly variable nature of their endeavour. For However, it has been interpreted to mean a process necessitating the detailed quantification of workload. The process has involved close scrutiny of all aspects of the academic workload. A total workload has been quantified at approximately 1700 hours per annum in most Australian universities, Teaching and Learning has been scrutinised, analysed, dissected and quantified and research activity is being subjected to that same deep scrutiny though it does not lend itself so readily to being rendered into an hourly figure.
The enterprise agreements governing the employment conditions and remuneration of academic staff have sought to quantify the research workload of academics in terms of the percentage of their workload, what will constitute research inputs and outputs, and what is an acceptable level of inputs and outputs relative to percentage of total workload and level of appointment. These changes are being driven to a large extent by the exigencies of Excellence in Research in Australia (ERA) and the contemporary competitive environment of higher education. In many respects they replicate those that have already occurred in countries such as the United Kingdom which has, over time, provided the model for many of the developments in Australian higher education. This paper explores the implications of the current developments in academic workload models for academics, for universities and for research. There is some considerable convergence between the various universities with respect to the nature and quantity of the research workload expected of an academic, but it is the differences on these important parameters between the different disciplines within universities, and between the different institutions themselves, that afford insight into what the life of a university academic might look like into the future.
Keywords: Academic workloads, research workloads, Australia, universities.