Faculty Workloads


  1. Document and compare our institutional goals with the status quo
  2. Compare our faculty work loads with those of similar institutions
  3. Provide data and a basis for discussion on ways to align the workloads with the mission of the institution


Work Load

Survey data reveals that the WPI faculty spend on average 35.6 hours per week on teaching and academic advising. With research it is about 50 hours per week. This number does not include administrative and service activities. About 80% of the faculty report that they feel overworked. Department heads confirm that they believe that the faculty in their department are working hard.

Teaching/Scholarship Ratio

Department heads state that increasing scholarship and funding is a top priority, and that the ratio of faculty activities should be about 40:40:20 (teaching:scholarship:service). This is in agreement with current tenure and promotion considerations. The actual WPI ratio is about 60:26:14. Survey data suggests that only very few faculty are spending more time on scholarship than teaching, and that faculty spend on average 14 hours per week on scholarship. Time spent on research is fairly even across the faculty ranks with the untenured faculty spending slightly more time on research than the senior faculty. However, the senior faculty tend to be more involved in service activities. 

Full Time Faculty Load

Comparisons with similar institutions indicate that WPI faculty spend about the same amount of time on class room teaching, but we invest more time than others on projects. Our overall time spent on formal teaching is greater than the “preferred teaching load” recommended by AAUP, and approaches the “maximum load” for universities with graduate programs.

Student Perceptions

WPI students report that they are generally satisfied with the student/faculty ratio and the attention WPI faculty pay to teaching and academic advising. Students feel that teaching and academic/project advising should be a higher priority for faculty than research.

Is the Problem Structural or Individual?

Time spent on teaching is compared to time spent on research for individual faculty members in Fig. 1. Buy-out was not accounted for. There is no systematic difference between the junior and the senior faculty. Additional comparisons between departments show no significant differences, but those results are limited by the number of responses from smaller departments. These indications make it very unlikely that the results are This is a confidential draft and is intended for WPI internal use only. This document is not to be released to the public or transmitted or distributed to third parties. Please do not cite or quote from this document. dependent on the individual but are a result of the structure of the WPI program environment.

Is the Workload at WPI Unique?

The escalating cost of higher education has prompted numerous institutions to look at the faculty salary pool and work load as a possible way to reduce operating cost. The WPI Plan, with its emphasis on projects and short intensive 7-week courses, is inherently labor intensive. Class room and project instruction, responsibility for more course content, and frequent starts and stops all add to the workload beyond the level recommended by the AAUP. At WPI a typical faculty member is responsible for 19% of the academic yearly content per student. This number is 10.5 to 12.5 % in comparable institutions (Figure in final report) or 30% less than at WPI. One study reports that adding just one course per semester to the faculty load decreased grant income by 45-52%. This additional work load cost is one reason we lag behind comparable institutions in the level of grant support per faculty.

Faculty and Program Development:

As faculty gain experience with teaching and develop their research program they should be able to spend more time on research. This is not discernable from our data. Department heads and faculty agree that there is no recognition for course development.

Longer term this will either discourage programmatic development or add to the load of those who develop courses on their own initiative. This is a confidential draft and is intended for WPI internal use only. This document is not to be released to the public or transmitted or distributed to third parties. Please do not cite or quote from this document.


Current and accurate work load data should be available to the administration and to department heads. These data should be aggregate data for the entire department. 

The 40:40:20 ratio for teaching/scholarship/service is currently not a reality, neither on the individual nor on the average level. ( Figure in final report) If research, and enhanced prestige for the university, is truly a top priority then a way must be found to reduce time spent on teaching. Adding faculty, reducing project loads, offering fewer courses, hiring master teachers, more teaching assistants or instructors, are a few possibilities for load reduction. Without these structural measures the workload will just be shifted on the individual level.

Departments should have some flexibility as to the relative weight of the academic activities. This should be determined in cooperation with the departmental faculty. The data indicate that it should be possible to reach a working consensus on these issues within broad institutional guidelines.

If an academic department has a loading model it should be transparent, and should be reviewed in open discussions with the department faculty on a regular basis.

The reward structure should incorporate recognition of teaching quality and quantity, program and facilities development, as well as research accomplishments.

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