"It is not hard to find scholars who feel that their workloads have reached almost unbearable levels as demands on them grow every year. But a study has poured cold water on the idea that the number of hours put in by academic staff is rising. A paper by Malcolm Tight, professor in higher education at Lancaster University's department of educational research, argues that there has been no substantial change in academic workloads in the UK - which average a hefty 55 hours a week - for nearly 15 years.
The study also looks at how academics' workloads are divided between teaching, administration and research. Although the burdens of administration have grown significantly, those of research have more or less held steady, it states. In the early 1960s, academics reported spending 11 per cent of their time on administration; by 1994, this had climbed to 33 per cent.
"The contemporary academic perception that workloads are increasing, and are indeed at untenable levels, may be directly linked to the increased amount of time spent on administration," Professor Tight's paper concludes.
"It is not that workloads as such are increasing ... (but rather) that the balance of the average academic's workload has changed in an undesirable way. This puts pressure on personal research, the aspect of the job that most academics appear to like most, and also makes it more difficult to pay as much attention to teaching.""