Changes in the academic environment make considerable demands on staff: more responsibility, pressure to publish papers and to apply for research funding, a better command of spoken and written English, the digitalisation of teaching and greater supervision of students. In addition, financial uncertainty is making it increasingly difficult to offer staff a permanent contract. Universities are looking for ways of alleviating this pressure and uncertainty.
What are universities doing to reduce the perceived workload among researchers and the ever greater pressure to perform?
Universities are taking the concerns over work pressure seriously. In 2015, for example, the parties involved in negotiating the collective labour agreement agreed that researchers on a temporary contract would be given time and training to write grant applications during their usual working hours. And if they are suited to a career as a university lecturer, and indeed aspire to become one, researchers are also given sufficient scope within their usual working hours to acquire the teaching qualifications that they need. In 2016, an exploratory report (Dutch Only)on work pressure was published on behalf of SoFoKleS (the Social Fund for the Knowledge Sector).
Research was also carried out into the factors that influence the pressure to perform that is felt by academic staff. This report (Dutch only) was published in 2017 and offers universities tools for tackling the workload of staff and the pressure that they feel to perform.
A local approach at each university
In tackling the workload problem, the individual circumstances of the university, faculty and department in question must be taken into account as much as possible. Parties therefore made an agreement in the CAO that by the end of 2017 at the latest, every university would draw up a plan to address work pressure and long-term employability in consultation with local employees' organisations. These plans can be found on the right side of this page.
From quantity to quality in research
Since 2015 the new research evaluation protocol (SEP) has also been in force, in which ‘productivity’ is no longer listed as a separate criterion. More is not better. Quality and impact of academic research (socially, scientifically and economically speaking) must be the guiding principles. This can also help to reduce workloads.