Lecturers face 'intolerable' levels of work

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The Independent Online
UNIVERSITY lecturers are being 'tested to destruction' by the hours they are forced to work, a report out today says. The Association of University Teachers, AUT, says intolerable pressure is being put on its members because of rising student numbers.

The most industrious are female professors, who spend 64 1/2 hours each week on their work - 5 1/2 hours more than their male counterparts. On average, academics work a 53 1/2 -hour week during both term time and vacations, spending a third of their time on paperwork.

The findings are based on a random sample of the AUT's 32,500 members. More than 2,600 completed diaries recording their working lives.

The survey says that the workload of university academics has increased enormously over the last decade. Student numbers have increased by 64.4 per cent while the number of staff has gone up by only 11.4 per cent.

David Triesman, general secretary of the association, said: 'Universities are in danger of losing their way. Teachers spend more time at administration than teaching . . . The teacher's week no longer has boundaries which foster quality.'

The Government's efforts to check the quality of universities and to make them more accountable meant that academics now spent up to 18 hours a week on administration, the survey found. The report said: 'While meetings and paperwork are a necessary part of the running of universities, the level of administration indicates the increasingly unreasonable demands being made on academics' time . . . by research assessment, teaching quality assessment and quality audit.'

Staff in medicine and allied subjects worked the longest hours, followed by those in creative arts. Forty per cent of academic research is being squeezed into evenings and weekends, the survey found.

Meanwhile, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University has warned ministers not to introduce further changes into the higher education system for the time being.

Dr Peter North, making his annual oration to the university's staff, said a promise by Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, of a period of consolidation had been swiftly followed by reports of a full-scale review of the higher education system.

'That is hardly consolidation, and I sincerely trust that she was misreported,' he said. 'The whole university system has been subjected to a decade or more of upheaval with changes of course, of structure and of financing following hot on each others' heels.'

Dr North warned the Government it should be wary of interfering with the universities too frequently. 'Contemplation of our navel by external bodies is going to unjustifiable extremes,' he said.