VC calls for end to fixed-work staffing allocations

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Academics should be able to choose each year how much of their time is spent on research and teaching rather than relying on an one-size-fits-all formula, says University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Warren Bebbington.

"Prescribing a formula for dividing academic time between teaching, research and administration makes rigid something which should be flexible and responsive to change," he said.

Speaking at the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National Conference in Melbourne today, Professor Bebbington said the standard 40:40:20 formula (research:teaching:administration) for academic time allocation needed to be replaced with a more flexible approach.

"In my experience, academics' work-life focus will change over the years--they may have a few years in which they are very productive in research, and should then be encouraged and supported to really concentrate on that research output," said Professor Bebbington.

"This might be followed by a period in which their research capacity is less prominent or prolific. Individual staff members, and the university as a whole, may well be then better served by those academics focussing their energies on teaching at that time," he said.

Professor Bebbington said that academics should be able to individually negotiate their work allocation with their supervisor at the start of each year.

"This allows staff and managers to set a balance that matches both the particular needs of the school or faculty and also their own productive emphasis," he said.

"We should think not of fixed fractions for research and teaching, but of positioning each academic on a continuum between them."

For the same reason, Professor Bebbington is reserved about the value of teaching-only contracts.

"In a research-intensive university, all teaching staff should always have some standing and involvement in research," he said.

"I prefer to have staff whose teaching and research work allocation can be adjusted each year by agreement."


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