Academic workload planning

What is academic workload planning?

The way we plan the use of our academic staff time is key to achieving our strategies for education, research, impact and innovation; this is the key driver for academic workload planning.

Academic workload planning allows us to plan for an equitable and transparent spread of workloads. It means that workload is distributed strategically to maximise capacity and share departmental workload in ways that build on the strengths of all staff.

Workload planning is not new in Higher Education, but more transparent policies and some recognition that similar activity across the University generates similar workload, meant that the University of Exeter was an early adopter of a universal system and common software for the managing the data. Within this the University recognises the need for flexibility for Colleges to adapt to differences in demands and needs.

The University of Exeter has established Workload planning policy guidance, which is reviewed annually by the Workload Planning Steering Group, and provides a framework to:

  • Ensure that, as a research-intensive institution, staff with a contractual duty to research are given time and opportunity to develop and publish their research.
  • Assist the University through Colleges to address its obligations to manage the health and safety of its staff, particularly with regard to stress, wellbeing and work-life balance.
  • Assist the University in meeting its equality and diversity obligations.
  • Provide for parity of treatment in the distribution of work to academic staff in each College, taking account of discipline-specific characteristics.
  • To provide a basis for the costing of the delivery of taught modules.
  • A system that fully articulates with TRAC, and is capable of replacing the manual completion of TAS by academic staff.

The College workload model identifies the different activities undertaken by members of academic staff and allocates an agreed allocation of time to each one. This allows academic departments to construct a clear and comprehensive picture of who is doing what. Each College is likely to have different ways of working, so there are differences between College workload models.

Workload planning evolves over time, but changes must be approved by the College Executive Group (CEG) and polices must be reviewed annually by CEG. For details of your College workload model, how it is developed and applied, who to contact for help and access the workload planning software (SWARM), please use these links

The Business School 

College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science 

College of Humanities 

College of Life and Environmental Sciences 

College of Social Sciences and International Studies

Medical School

The University’s Workload Planning Steering Group was established in January 2014, chaired by the DVC (Education) Professor Tim Quine, with membership comprising a senior representative from each College, HR, Policy, Planning and Business Intelligence of the University and College Union. The Steering Group meets once each term. As a member of VCEG, Tim Quine provides the link to the top level of management of the University.

Most Colleges have a Workload Allocation Action Group (WAAG) which meets regularly to discuss issues with Workload Planning and the use of SWARM; to find out more about the WAAG (or equivalent) in your College, please contact the key contacts for more information.

SWARM is the University's workload planning software. It is a web-based system and is an accessible way of showing how the College workload policy has been applied. It is designed to provide transparency in workload distribution and is a useful piece of software to help departments manage their academics’ workloads efficiently. SWARM also provides University data for the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) return, meaning staff no longer have to complete the Time Allocation Survey (TAS) each term, with the exception of the Medical School.

SWARM allows members of staff to see, at a minimum, details of their workload and a summary of the workload distribution across their department for the year. It is designed to show workloads for a full year and does not split workload over terms.

SWARM holds a summary of information held in other University systems and is regularly updated; PAC for Research Grants, SITS for PhD students and Trent for staff information. Teaching data and administration roles are inputted directly into SWARM. The data in is not intended to change during the current year other than to reflect exceptional changes to circumstances that affect the workload of one or more members of staff.

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