Employment contracts in Australia typically stipulate that academics should divide their time between research, teaching and administration according to a 40:40:20 ratio.
But Warren Bebbington told the National Tertiary Education Union’s national conference in Melbourne on 4 April that the formula should be more flexible, reflecting academics’ current priorities.
“In my experience, academics’ work-life focus will change over the years. They may have a few years in which they are very productive in research, and should then be encouraged and supported to really concentrate on that research output,” he said.
“This might be followed by a period in which their research capacity is less prominent or prolific. Individual staff members, and the university as a whole, may well be then better served by those academics focusing their energies on teaching at that time,” he said.
He suggested that each academic should be able to negotiate their allocations of teaching and research at the beginning of each year.
But he was wary about the value of teaching-only contracts: “In a research-intensive university, all teaching staff should always have some standing and involvement in research,” he said.