Shaping our University Together: Staff Survey actions



The Working Group on Academic Workload chaired by Professor Scott Arthur has been meeting over the summer to develop recommendations regarding a common approach to academic workload across the University.

Much of the focus to date is on staff diversity (personal situation and contractual), the need for uniformity across Heriot-Watt and the desire to establish external benchmarks.

Key considerations under discussion include:

  1. Temporal bottlenecks – The notion that viewing workload is a yearly number may not account for peaks  (e.g. a high teaching load may be manageable until it comes to marking exams).
  2. Breadth of activity – We should accept that teaching \ research tasks may come with additional  workload such as outreach/public engagement.
  3. External benchmarks – We need to understand how our the Strategy 2025 benchmark institutions view/manage workload.
  4. Team work – We need to consider how this can smooth workload peaks in the longer term (e.g. by supporting sabbaticals).
  5. What and How – We need to reduce total workload by looking at what tasks academic staff undertake (are they all aligned to Strategy 2025?) and how they do them (e.g. appropriate use of technology).
  6. Strategic Resource – Total staff workload capacity should be viewed as a finite strategic resource. This means that university level initiatives should consider the impact on that resource.  

The Working Group meets again on 24 September and will bring forward its recommendation in Spring 2020 for implementation in the 2020/21 academic year.

Following feedback from the last Staff Survey, the working group is conducting a cross-university review of the current workload allocation models to gain an understanding of how the effort associated with tasks is estimated and how they are then allocated.  The group also research how workload is allocated in other universities and determine whether Heriot Watt is effectively allocating resource to achieve its target of matching performance in research and teaching. 

For more information about the work of the group or to contribute to the discussion please contact Scott Arthur