The price of freedom: working without limits in higher education
The study describes the work situation for teaching staff as well as academic staff with managerial roles and analyses how the work situation can be changed. This will hopefully lead to a dialogue within higher education about the situation. A time study was carried out (one week) and the average working time for teaching staff and academic staff with managerial roles was 52-3 hours. The teaching staff tended to work in the evenings and weekends whilst the managerial staff spent longer hours at the workplace. Senior lecturers and professors spent 20 hours per week on teaching and 20 hours on research, the remaining time being spent on administration. Lecturers spent 30 hours on teaching and the rest on administration.
The managerial female staff spent 27 hours per week on management duties and administration, and the remainder on research. For male managerial staff, the figure was 22 hours per week.
Twenty-two focus group interviews were held and these showed that the majority of employees were proud of their work. Freedom over one´s working situation was considered to be very important but many felt that the scope of the required assignments forced them to be careless and compromise and this led to stress.
The question of finance dominated everything and all decisions had to be defended financially. Fewer teachers were employed and student groups were more heterogeneous. Teachers had to be constantly accessible. There were fewer administrators and, therefore, teachers had increased administrative duties. All these factors had led to an increased work load. Teaching and administration were prioritised at the expense of research, development work and professional development.
There were weaknesses in long-term planning and there were few guidelines and decisions that helped teaching staff to prioritise their assignments. The staff members with managerial duties were in a middle management position with a high work load and conflicting demands. They were working as teachers, researchers and managers at the same time. Repeated reorganisations meant that it was difficult to plan ahead.
The solution to these problems should be sought on several levels:
- The strategic planning of the departments/schools needs strengthening and the individual freedom of the teachers adapted to this.
- The academic staff taking on managerial roles need better organisational, administrative and, sometimes, financial terms.
- Management in departments/schools needs to be more professional.
- The connection between the national goals of higher education and the autonomy of individual higher education institutions needs to be clarified and the funding system adapted to this. Additional funding is required if the quality of education is to rise.
- Other agencies, e.g. the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education need to carry out their mandates in a way that involves the least possible additional work load for teaching and managerial staff.