Stable workload for Norwegian researchers

These are some of the main conclusions in a report on time use in the university and university college sector that the Work Research Institute has prepared on commission from the Research Council of Norway on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Research. The report was designed as a follow-up to previous studies on the same topic.

Stable time use

According to the report, academic employees at universities and university colleges in Norway worked an average of 47.6 hours per week in 2010. This is in keeping with results from previous studies.

Shutterstock The academic employees’ use of time on teaching and research has been remarkably stable from 2000 to 2010, even though a major educational reform focusing on student and teaching-related tasks was implemented during this same period. The amount of time employees spend on teaching has only risen from 30 to 32 per cent, while the time spent by employees on research has declined from 29 to 28 per cent.

While academic employees state they feel that administrative duties steal time from their research, the study shows that the amount of time they use on administration has not increased since 2000.

Time use decisive for careers

The report shows a clear correlation between the length of the employees’ workdays and the amount they publish. The more employees work, the more they publish. Since the number of publications is a decisive factor in promotion in the research sector, this suggests that much of the employees’ career development takes place outside of regular work hours.

Professors and associate professors have the longest work week, and they have the highest publication rates. At lower position levels the work week is four hours shorter.

Gender differences

Young researcher In Norway, twice as many men as women are employed at professor and associate professor levels. Both genders work an equal number of hours. At lower position levels, too, there are only small differences between the genders with regard to the number of hours spent on the job.

The amount of time women academic employees work is influenced more by whether or not they have children than is the case for men. Women with children perform more of their job duties during normal work hours than men.

Te study shows a significant difference in the number of hours worked by the partners of associate professors with children under 10 years of age. Fifty-seven per cent of the men at this level have partners who work regular hours, while only 27 per cent of the women have partners who do so.

Time dedicated to research

clock Frustration over the lack of dedicated time for research has been a recurring problem in the sector for many years. The report shows, however, that academic employees have very different ideas about what it means to have dedicated time for research – from a free afternoon to an entire semester. The report also shows that academic employees feel they have some degree of control over how they schedule their teaching and research during the course of a year. Individuals who are able to decide how to schedule their time are more satisfied with the conditions under which they conduct research.

Questionnaires and interview

The Work Research Institute combined four methods in the study:

  • A questionnaire sent to all academic employees.
  • A journal study, in which a sample of employees kept a journal of their time use over two days.
  • A study of administrative systems used within the sector.
  • Interviews with selected employees.
     

The questionnaire had a response rate of 24 per cent, which means that the quantitative results of the study should be interpreted with caution.

Conference

The results in the report will be presented and discussed at a conference being organised in Oslo by the Research Council on 15 February 2012. The conference, which will be opened by Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland, will put special focus on leadership challenges in the sector.

 

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