Thoughts from Professor Threadgold on the PFA Academic Workload Management Working Groups
In addition to attending the regular Performance For All Steering Group meetings, I have had the pleasure of Chairing the PFA working groups around Academic Workload Management and Planning. The Working Groups were hosted by University of Northumbria at Newcastle and University of South Wales with a third running at City University this week. Over 30 universities are represented across the three groups with great participation and contributions from all.
Whilst those that attended the working groups included post-92 and research intensive universities, there was no common approach or even progress level amongst them, with every stage of academic workload planning and implementation represented. The experience spanned those that were just beginning to think about it, to those with many different models in schools or faculties that they need to consolidate, including the need to reach agreement on consistent university-wide policies and systems, and deliver full TRAC compliance and auditing.
There were many common questions including:
who should ‘own’ or lead an AWLM project?
how to garner senior level and/or staff and union support?
why you would do it?
how you would engage the necessary stakeholders?
what sort of model should it be?
All of these remain questions and issues for some, if not most, of those who attended these working groups. For many of those I have been talking to, the question is: ‘Where do we go from here?’ To quote one senior academic who has been working in this area for a number of years:
“I do kind of feel for those just setting out on the journey. A key message is that workload models touch on so many different issues of management, culture, communication etc. that it is inevitably a Pandora's can of worms if that is an acceptable metaphor ...”
We were fortunate to have representatives from universities currently implementing or working towards implementing the PFA WAMS solution present along with representatives of PFA. Their depth of experience and ability to respond effectively to the groups’ many and varied questions was also valued by participants and produced very useful discussions around issues and good practice solutions.
Following these discussions the working groups showed real interest in the Performance for All (PFA) ‘Workload Allocation Management System’ (WAMS), choosing to watch a demonstration in the lunch hour.
Terry Professor Emerita Former PVC Staff and Diversity Cardiff University