Time allocation survey

The dreaded time allocation survey strikes again. This is the first one I have had to do at St Andrews, though I have grumbled enough about this at Queen Mary.

Several things already seem more positive. They warn us in advance, so that we can record information as it happens rather than trying to make an estimate some months down the line. Also, they ask us to check that the overall total hours do not exceed 168 per week, whereas at Queen Mary the figure not to be exceeded was 37 (until we grumbled so loudly that they changed it to percentages). Actually, I fear that this survey will be “per-168-ages”, but at least the basic idea is more sensible.

Then we come to the categories: Teaching, Teaching support, Research, Research support, Other, Other support (!) [see below], and Leave. The definitions here clearly show where the University’s priorities lie. For example, the definition of “research” reads

… research should have a source of funding (Institutional, Research Council, or any other external source), and/or should potentially lead to the production of outputs and/or should relate to training and supervision of PGR students.

In other words, the primary criterion is funding. But there is an ambiguity here. According to my contract, I am supposed to do teaching and research. So anything I do is funded by my salary from the University and therefore counts as research.

Similary, the definition of “other” begins

Please note this has a specific meaning under TRAC. It does not mean “other” as in “miscellaneous” but refers to activity which is not Teaching or Research but generates, or could potentially generate income for the institution …

The notes also say that travel comes under the heading which is the reason for the travel, so if I go to London to give a seminar talk I count 12 hours of travel time towards whatever seminars are (I think this is “research”). If I am on study leave, or at a conference which counts as research, all my time is research (168 hours per week?). On the other hand, working with colleagues in other places doesn’t generate income for the University, and so presumably doesn’t count at all (unless it is research, in which case even travelling to visit them counts).

I foresee some difficulties in filling out this diary!

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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One Response to Time allocation survey

  1. A very busy day today. Twice my usual teaching load in the morning, then I found out that my exam checker is going away so I have less time than I thought to set my exam, and had to spend all afternoon frantically designing exam questions and writing out solutions.
    Late afternoon, I had an email from a university bureaucrat “reminding” me that it is time to fill in the first week’s diary. Even though 2 days 7.5 hours of the week remained at that point. (Clearly the sender had finished work for the week and would not reappear or think about work until 9 on Monday morning.)
    The outcome was a microcosm of the way universities work now. My natural reaction to such a crass email was to say, OK, that is the last bit of time I waste on this nonsense. But of course, if I did that, my colleagues would suffer and the bureaucrats would not. So of course I will continue to keep records and fill them in. I did allow myself the luxury of replying to point out that, although I couldn’t foresee exactly what I would be doing in the next 2 days and 7.5 hours, I felt pretty confident that some of it would be spent reading pointless emails.

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