In contrast to other approaches, the AWET has been developed from the ground up. It is based on recent research into academic workloads (Kenny & Fluck, 2017; 2018; 2019; 2022a; 2022b) which drew on data from over 2500 academics across Australia. The long-term aim of this research is to establish professional standards of practice which recognise academics as professional scholars whose work is central to the effective operation of universities and who require a high degree of autonomy and freedom to conduct inquiry.
This work links strongly with the recently released Professional Ethical Framework for Australian Academics. This Framework, has been endorsed by the Australian Association of University Professors (AAUP) and specifically links academic professionalism to the effectiveness of universities in achieving their mission to deliver high quality teaching and research to benefit society and serve the common good.
The Framework identifies the work of academics as crucial to the proper functioning of our universities. In the cauldron of funding and accountability pressures on universities, to ensure the effectiveness of our universities, university governance based on shared decision making between managers and academic leaders is essential. This and other claims in the Framework are backed by a research article which is currently under review (Kenny, Bird, Blackmore, Brandenburg, Nicol, Wang & Wilmshurst, in review).
The Framework describes how academics are expected to be professional and scholarly, so they need to work with a high degree of autonomy and academic freedom. This requires clear recognition of the distinction between the values that underpin academic leadership and those that drive managerial leadership, and what this means for university governance.
Irrespective of the area of expertise, the expectation to be scholarly is what both unifies academia as a profession and distinguishes it from other professions. Thus academic policies concerned with academic workload and performance must be designed to support and protect the unique aspects of the academic role and implemented in accordance with certain principles as discussed below (Kenny & Fluck, 2022a).
Our research identified a wide-range of activities that are common to the work of all academics. While the emphasis on these activities can vary according to discipline or experience, these constitute the main focus of academic tasks. The AWET incorporates these activities and was validated against actual workloads. This makes us confident that, it will provide a realistic estimate of an individual’s workload and a sound basis for the development of comprehensive professional workload standards for academics.
The AWET solution
As a workload estimation tool, the AWET is designed to capture the range of activities an individual academic might undertake. Each activity has associated with it a time value (or allocation). The AWET aggregates these activities to provide a holistic estimate of an individual’s workload, inclusive of the research, teaching and service activities that make it up.
We have made the AWET freely available for individual academics to be able to obtain a realistic estimate of their work over a given year. This should enable them to negotiate a reasonable workload that suits their career aspirations and ensures their welfare.
Institutional use of the AWET
When used at an institutional level, it enables schools to more clearly and transparently compare workloads for equity purposes and determine their academic staffing needs and costs when framing budget submissions.
Prior to its use by an institution interested in adopting the AWET, a representative of the institution should contact us directly to negotiate appropriate consultation sessions, inclusive of information, training and support for the implementation of necessary policies based on the underlying principles as outlined in Kenny & Fluck (2022a) are followed.
The AWET assumes academic professionalism involves a high degree of autonomy and trust. In accordance with the principles in Kenny & Fluck (2022a), they have principle decision-making power in relation to policies that impact on their work and the standards of higher education.
Caution: The AWET is designed as a transparent, realistic tool to assist in discussions about an individual academic’s workload on a holistic basis. It is not to be used to atomise work activities. It works on an aggregate level as an estimation tool. The figures in the AWET are based on research and cannot be unilaterally changed.
How to use the AWET
Download the User Manual and the AWET file from the Downloads page. Once completed, it will provide you with a holistic estimate of your workload including research, teaching and service. This should form the basis for negotiation of an individual’s workload. The proportions of research, teaching and service that comprise an individual academic’s workload can be adjusted, using the AWET, in conversation during performance management, or as individual circumstances change, to account for particular changes in circumstances. This may occur, for example, where an individual undertakes an increased administrative load, or wins a significant external grant.
Any such adjustments to an individual’s research and scholarship workload allocation must be matched by a corresponding pro-rata increase or decrease in other duties to ensure the total allocated work time does not exceed the annual workload hours as set out in the Academic Staff Agreement.
Kenny, J., Bird, M., Blackmore, J., Brandenburg, R., Nicol, D., Seemann, K., Wang, B. & Wilmshurst, T. (in review). Academia in the modern context: A professional ethical framework for Australian Academics. (Details to be added on publication)
Kenny J. & Fluck A.E., (2017), Towards a methodology to determine standard time allocations for academic work, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 39(5), 503-523. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360080X.2017.1354773
Kenny J. & Fluck A.E. (2018), Research workloads in Australian Universities, Australian Universities’ Review, 60(2), 25-37. https://www.nteu.org.au/library/search/agreement_current/0/tags/AUR/publicationtype/Publication_Journal/method/ANY/startAt/3
Kenny, J. & Fluck, A.E., (2019), Academic administration & service workloads in Australian Universities. Australian Universities Review, 61(2), 21–30. https://www.nteu.org.au/library/search/tags/AUR/publicationtype/Publication_Journal/method/ANY/startAt/3/page/1
Kenny, J. & Fluck, A.E. (2022a). Emerging principles for the allocation of academic work in universities. Higher Education, 83(6):1371–1388. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-021-00747-y
Kenny, J., & Fluck, A.E. (2022b). Life at the academic coalface: validation of a holistic academic workload estimation tool. Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-022-00912-x