`Daddy's not at home. He's at work. He's always at work'

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The Independent Online
The Research assessment exercise is adding to the pressure on academics already working very long hours, both in term time and during the vacations. The Association of University Teachers surveyed staff in the "old" universities recently and found that most were working 55 hours a week, and some, particularly at senior levels, more than 60.

More than a quarter of academics' work load was being carried in the evenings and at weekends.

A mini-survey at Leeds University came up with the plaintive comment from a lecturer's child, answering the telephone: "Daddy's not at home. He's at work. He's always at work. Mummy says he loves that work more than he loves us."

Academics themselves commented:

"Five years ago I knew most of the students by name in the classes I taught and had informal discussions with my personal tutees and often with others. Now, with similar numbers of students but fewer staff and extra paperwork, I know less than a quarter of my students' names for sure, and tend to see my personal tutees only formally and rarely."

"I started work at 6.30 this morning and it is now 23.07. I have no time to give you more."

"Teaching quality should include careful marking and feedback to students. Where does that leave any time for research? Without some quiet, non-pressured time to think and read, how can one expect to do research in any serious way?"

"I have now given up all serious attempts to perform my own experimental work to support my research."

"I feel that it's about time we stopped running around in circles responding to whatever unreasonable demands are made on our time. I find it completely intolerable."

In the new universities, departments which have no previous research history are being put under enormous strain. As one maths teacher put it: "The universities know that the only way that they are going to get any extra money is through research.

"What happens is that those who are capable of producing publishable work are freed up from teaching, while the rest are made to carry heavier teaching loads. When new recruits are appointed, priority is given to research ability, so that the burden on the other staff actually increases. You get departments staffed by research high flyers and teaching drones."

Another academic complains that staff are being forced into publishing too early and not in enough depth, because of pressures which leave researchers insufficient time to think.

"Some of what is being published in the education field is not worth publishing; the quality is being lowered generally and there are devastating distortions"