Lecturers face checks on the amount of time spent teaching
UNIVERSITYacademics will no longer be able to get away with doing a few hours teaching and little or no research or other work.
The Irish Independent has learned that a forthcoming report will recommend the introduction of sophisticated work-load management models to monitor what staff actually do in terms of teaching duties, administration, counselling students and research, and it is certain to be accepted by the Government.
Last year former Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe said he had been told that some academics were teaching only four hours a week.
His comment annoyed many in the sector who claimed it gave a misleading impression. But now the person heading up the group preparing a new national strategy for higher education -- Dr Colin Hunt -- has stated bluntly that the new work-load models are "urgently required".
He said he was struck by the enthusiasm of academic staff to commit to the mission of higher education. But he was concerned this commitment did not always mirror the policies and practices for managing academic staff in the sector.
"A critical issue is the lack of transparency about how work loads are managed," he said.
"Aside from the very significant accountability issues that arise, this can give rise to perceptions that some staff contribute more and perhaps far more than others, giving rise to a sense of cynicism."
His statement at a DCU conference echoed other demands for greater public accountability. For example, the Croke Park agreement provided for staff co-operation with academic work-load management and the provision of an extra hour per week to be used by management for teaching and learning.
However, the agreement has been rejected by the Irish Federation of University Teachers whose general secretary Mike Jennings said authorities should be careful what they wished for.
"Do they want us to log every email we get and reply to at night time?" asked Mr Jennings, who said academics were increasingly spending their time filling in forms about what they were doing.
DCU president Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski said Mr O'Keeffe was not alone in believing the claim about academics teaching only four hours a week.
"Other key stakeholders, and members of the general public are also frequently reported to be sceptical about the extent to which university lecturers really earn their salaries," he wrote in his blog.
He said that, of course, the academic community would want to deny these assertions, and would rightly point out that they were made without any credible evidence other than random anecdotes.
While he knew academics who worked 60-70 hours per week, that was not evidence. Universities needed to collect robust information carefully and with safeguards built in.
"But I don't see the alternative, if we are to protect the universities' position and the reputation of academics," he added.