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Faculty Workload

January 17, 1992
by Susan Taylor
Professor of Nursing
University of Missouri-Columbia

The University of Missouri is a complex organization with “responsibilities in teaching, research, and extension as a part of the national/international academic and scientific communities. The University will also provide other services which are by-products of instruction and research or needed as the result of the University’s unique knowledge base.” (UM Mission) These responsibilities are carried out to a great extent by the faculties of the various schools and colleges which make up the University. Any position or statement on Faculty workload must recognize the multiple dimensions of the roles of faculty in meeting the diverse responsibilities of the University. It is traditional to divide faculty activities into teaching, research, extension and service. Furthermore, it is traditional to describe faculty workload in terms of percent of effort rather than time spent in each activity; this is in recognition of the facts that professionals generally engage in related activities an average of 50-70 hours per week and that many of these activities are related to more than one area of responsibility. Each of these areas has a broad spectrum of activities within it. A brief discussion of what is involved in each area is appropriate before examining the interrelationships.


Teaching consists of a variety of types of activities that occur within the classrooms, laboratories and studios, each of which requires vastly different types of previous training, modes of thought, communication and interpersonal skills. In addition, there are activities related to preparation for class, conceiving and developing experiments or creative teaching strategies, preparing materials. Add to this the very large amount of time which goes into reading, commenting on and grading essays, compositions and research papers, preparing and grading daily assignments, quizzes and examinations, and meeting individually with students to review class material, discuss other related ideas and listen to concerns about grades.

A great deal of teaching takes place outside of the traditional classroom. Careful supervision of individual research papers, laboratory experiments or clinical activities are major components of teaching. The ultimate example of individualized instruction, the direction of M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations, requires particular time and skill. Academic advising, along with personal counseling, of students requires major expenditures of effort for many faculty.

University professors devote considerable amount of time to maintaining their professional skills. Reading new books and studies in professional journals is the only way to maintain a minimum level of competence.

The majority of Extension activities are in the area of teaching. Short courses held on campus, various kinds of off-campus teaching, and continuing education programs are all major types of teaching.


Research activities can be subdivided into three broad categories: scientific research, humanistic scholarship, and artistic creativity. Scientific research is frequently subdivided into basic and applied research. Humanistic scholarship tends to be carried out by individuals whose major resources are time and books. Artistic creativity refers to the literary, artistic, musical, and theatrical works that are conceived, executed and performed for or presented to the public. The products of original research become, in turn, teaching tools and extend the University’s teaching mission beyond the boundaries of the local campus.


The purpose of Extension is to extend teaching, research, and service beyond the boundaries of the campus. Extension provides services to the public that involves continuing education and making available research information to individual citizens and clientele groups. Extension is part of the total team effort of faculty in research, teaching, and service.


Service activities can be grouped into two categories: institutional service and professional service. Institutional service includes all those activities that are not directly related to teaching and research but that contribute indirectly to these missions. University administration and committee work are forms of institutional service. The work is often difficult and time consuming and important to the well-being of the entire intellectual community. Professional service usually refers to work done in support of the various academic disciplines at large.

Faculty Workload

Faculty workloads should be determined in clear accord with an institution’s stated mission. Since teaching and research are the highest priorities of the University of Missouri, faculty activities should be directed primarily toward these areas. The traditional 40-40-20 distribution (i.e., 40 percent of effort devoted to teaching, 40 percent to research and 20 percent to service) has been long accepted as a norm. This does not mean that these exact percentages are strictly applied to each professor, but that an overall departmental or divisional effort should conform closely to these ideals.

There are a number of considerations in establishing faculty workload. The determination of faculty workloads should be an integral part of institutional planning, regular personnel decisions (particularly hiring, promotion and tenure), annual faculty evaluation, and salary deliberations. Individual professors should negotiate with their departmental chairpersons the division of their labors. There should be a clear and direct relationship between the percentage of effort devoted to teaching, research, service, and extension by faculty and the allocation of rewards by the administration based on supervisory and peer evaluation of merit in these specific tasks. The total workload for all regular faculty should be comparable. There is no reason to expect other than 100 percent from any individual. The individual’s workload distribution may legitimately vary considerably from the norm, as each individual may excel indifferent areas. However, the overall department effort adheres to priorities.

In general, each three-credit class taught is equal to 10% of an individual’s total effort for the year (20% per semester). Refinements of this principle are needed to reflect the differences in types of teaching, levels of students being taught, and other influencing factors. Certain types of adjustments must be made to take into account the realities of any specific department. For example, not all classes are equally difficult to teach. In some disciplines, it might be appropriate to adjust the model to take into account number of student credit hours, the number of students, or class contact hours per professor. Adjustments need to be made in order to recognize faculty roles in the direction of individualized studies and graduate theses and dissertations. Other adjustments have to be made for laboratory, studio, clinical, and apprentice supervision and teaching.

Research and service are more difficult to quantify than teaching and cannot be reduced to a convenient formula. This has led to a heuristic method of determining percentage of effort by calculating the percent of teaching, adding any formal or contractual allocation of research effort (as on federally funded grants), and dividing the remaining effort into research, extension and service, negotiated between each individual professor and his or her department chairperson.


All workload policies should be conceived and administered in accord with the mission of the institution. The mission of the UM includes teaching, research, extension and service. Research is the feature that most distinguishes the University from other institutions of higher education in the state. Every division and department must have a commitment to research that is equal to the commitment to teaching. Furthermore, the distinctiveness of each department and division needs to be considered in establishing guidelines or policies. The need to integrate the determination of annual workloads into a total personnel policy is essential.

(Taken from the report of the Faculty Council Task Force on Faculty Workload, 1983/1989).

Reviewed 2010-07-16.