New report

The higher up the ladder, the more overtime

Professors are the ones likely to work overtime. At the opening of the academic year in 2018, they wore a red square on their lapels to protest the workload. Photo: DUB

The data emerges from a questionnaire, sent out every four years, on the driving forces moving lecturers and researchers working in higher education in the Netherlands. This time, a total of 2,300 people answered the survey.

More than half of the PhD students surveyed work more hours than scheduled. Among professors, that figure is 90 percent. About 64 percent of the lecturers and teacher-researchers working at universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) work more hours than stipulated on their contracts, as opposed to 71 percent of the managers and 81 percent of the professors.

Under pressure
Because of the workload, research is being put under particular pressure. Most of the respondents said they have less time for it than agreed with their employers. As a result, the majority of them would like to have more time for it. Management and organisation tasks are less popular.

As for teaching, opinions on that are divided. At research universities like UU, half of the respondents (51 percent) would like to spend less time teaching and a third (32 percent) wish they didn't have so many contact hours with students. “On the other hand, a quarter of the academics at universities would actually like to spend more time on those tasks”, Rathenau adds.

In higher education as a whole (research universities and universities of applied sciences), the teaching staff are the least satisfied with the time they can devote to research. PhD students, on the other hand, who mostly do little else, are generally happy with the amount of time they spend on research.

One in three of the respondents said that their family situation or care responsibilities put a spanner in the works. This answer is more frequent among women than among men.

More than 40 percent of the female respondents said that their gender is an obstacle to achieving their ambitions, whereas only 16 percent of the men said the same.

Mental or physical impairments are more of a hindrance to women than to men: 15 against 3 percent. In addition, a small number of men feel that their sexual orientation impedes their ambitions, while women rarely mention this.

Recognition and reward|

Dutch universities are looking to renew the way they recognise and reward sciences, starting to give more weight to activities like teaching and public engagement when assessing the impact of their employees. However, when the Rathenau Institute asked the respondents what they consider important in this assessment, the quality of publications remains the preferred criterium among research university staff. This goes for all ranks, from lecturers to professors. In the second place, comes "the satisfaction of the people I coach", such as undergraduates and PhD students.

When asked what they would like to be assessed on in practice, most of the respondents mentioned research performance. The number of publications appears to play a big part as well, although the respondents attach less importance to this.

Things are different at universities of applied sciences, which focus more on teaching. There the subject most often mentioned by respondents was satisfaction with the coaching, along with "the students’ progress". The researchers among them also mentioned creating a connection between research and teaching and the contributions to knowledge utilisation.

The questionnaires were completed between June and September 2021, when the coronavirus pandemic was still an important factor. Research activities were particularly affected by the crisis, forcing the respondents to spend more time teaching.