How many hours a week should academics work?

Chair’s blog No. 6

By Julia Charlton, Branch Chair, Northumbria University

How many hours a week should academics work? How many hours do you work in a week? Many academics feel overworked and exhausted by their jobs. But there is little evidence that long hours lead to better results, while some research suggests that they may even be counterproductive. The research on how long academics work is patchy, but on the whole it shows that scholars are putting in longer hours than the average worker, and certainly more than the 9-to-5 norm that in any case seems to be disappearing from Western workplaces.

A 1999 study by the US Department of Education found that full-time faculty clocked up 55 hours a week. A survey 15 years later at Boise State University in Idaho found an even more gruelling schedule: faculty worked an average 61-hour workweek, including 10 hours at the weekend. Junior academics do not have it any easier. A 2005 survey of science postdocs in the US found that they worked 51 hours a week (which meant that their hourly salary of $14.90 (£10.24) was not even a dollar higher than that of the janitors at Harvard University, the report pointed out). In the UK, more than a third of respondents to a 2012 survey by the University and College Union said that they worked more than 50 hours a week, with 8 per cent working more than 60 hours (although this survey included administrators as well as academics). More than half said that they were “always” or “often” pressured to work long hours. A follow-up survey two years later suggested that work hours had risen even further. Read more: Universities should ask whether their academics work too much The quote above taken from the Times Higher Education (14th January 2016) reminds us that our contact here stipulates 37 hours per week. If you find yourself regularly working more than you should you need to review your workload planning tool and see if your allocations are fair. Your local UCU rep can help with this. If you don’t know who your rep is please see our website http://www.ucu-unn.org.uk/2014-10-12-09-07-44/officers-reps . You can also find the UCU workload calculator here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/1865/Site-search?q=worload&go=search If you are a senior lecturer on £45,000 pa, and you work your contracted hours (37) your hourly rate is about £32.00 If you work 45 hours per week this falls to £24.00.

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