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Faculty Workload Norms

Miami University, Oxford March 2008
(reviewed by University Senate, March 22, 2010)

Miami University has developed a set of norms and expectations regarding faculty workload to ensure that we have the faculty resources necessary to support the teaching program that is at the core of the university, to increase transparency and equity in faculty assignments, and to recognize that faculty at different points in their career may benefit from varying mixes of teaching, scholarship, creative activity, and service.

The clear expectation and responsibility for all faculty is to contribute at the very highest levels of quality in the three domains of teaching, research/creative activity, and service. Determining how the balance among these three areas is struck must be done in the context of Miami’s unique expectations that do not mirror perfectly either those of research extensive universities or those of small liberal arts colleges. While observing boundaries, faculty may undertake different mixes of assignments and still be rewarded for helping to fulfill Miami’s mission.

Faculty time is the University’s most precious resource. Department chairs and program directors, working in conjunction with deans, are the key decision‐makers in the allocation of faculty time taking into account general University norms and expectations as well as the unique characteristics of specific departments and disciplines. This document is intended to lay out procedures and expectations at the university, divisional, departmental, and faculty levels.


  1. The Provost’s office will monitor credit hours taught by faculty in every department. Observations regarding trends in teaching will be discussed with deans and department chairs.
  2. The University will encourage, where sensible, applications to external grantors for course buy‐outs which appropriately compensate departments for the loss of faculty time committed to teaching.
  3. Whenever possible, programs internal to Miami University should encourage alternatives to course buy‐outs when formulating workload assignments. For example, the director of a new initiative should be given summer salary instead of a course release to get the program started.


A. Workloads

    1. The University norm for teaching load for tenured and tenure‐track faculty--assuming research productivity, teaching and advising, and service that satisfy expectations--is either three and three or three and two (using the three credit hour course as the unit of account), depending on disciplinary standards and benchmarks and labor‐intensive pedagogical practices. To the maximum extent possible, each faculty member is expected to teach across a range of courses.
    2. It is not the University’s intention for the teaching load norm to drive out valuable instances of faculty engagement (e.g., independent study) that are currently not easily counted. Indeed, we must develop new ways to account for the enviable amount of faculty interaction with students that does occur and to encourage even greater engagement with our students. For instance, conversations should occur both within and between departments to develop appropriate metrics to equate the extent of independent study mentoring with three credit hour courses.
    3. Similarly, metrics for equating an individual faculty member’s investment in advising doctoral students and graduate students in research‐intensive master’s programs to traditional three credit hour classes should be developed.
    4. No faculty should teach less than three regular three credit hour courses per year without explicit conversation and permission of the divisional dean and provost.
    5. There are legitimate reasons for individuals to have lower course loads than the University norm including:
      1. Production of high quality research above the norm, as determined by the department in consultation with the dean and based on disciplinary standards.
      2. Significant engagement with students outside of formal courses.
      3. Courses that are longer than three hours.
    6. Innovative pedagogies that require unusual time investments.There are also legitimate reasons for tenured faculty to have higher course loads including:
      1. The desire of an excellent teacher to make a more substantial contribution of time to teaching.
      2. Research productivity below the norm, as determined by the department in consultation with the dean and based on disciplinary standards.
      3. Courses that are shorter than three hours.
    7. Chairs must ensure that there is a legitimate reason for any faculty to have a teaching load lower than the university norm. There cannot be across‐the‐board exemptions. For instance, in departments that have doctoral programs, only those faculty who are actually directing or very significantly contributing to the work of graduate students should have reduced teaching loads for that purpose.
    8. For faculty with joint appointments, workloads shall be developed jointly by the relevant department chair(s) and program director.

B. Differential workloads

    1. Departments should have written differential workload policies to recognize the varying strengths of faculty. These differentiated workload policies must be approved by the divisional dean and the Provost’s office.
    2. Deans, in conjunction with chairs and the Provost, will establish expectations regarding each department’s total teaching contribution and some parameters with regard to distribution of teaching resources at various levels of instruction. Each chair should be made mindful of these targets when making individual teaching assignments.
    3. The research activity of faculty should be judged by production and quality. That is, colleagues cannot simply opt to be “research active” but must show on a consistent basis that they are producing above departmental norms.
    4. The research activity of faculty should be re‐evaluated on a regular basis (e.g., a rolling average over the last three years). It is not a one‐time determination.
    5. All faculty not on leave are expected to teach every semester.
    6. A critical component of differential workload policies is the ability to tie excellence in teaching, research and service to significant salary gains. In particular, faculty who are excellent teachers and whose teaching loads exceed department norms should be compensated at levels that recognize their important contributions, just as our most productive researchers should be awarded for their contributions.

C. Course reductions for administrative duties

    1. Chairs and program directors should receive a reduction in teaching load proportional to their responsibilities and their department’s or program’s size. The divisional dean must be consulted regarding the chair’s course reduction.
    2. Faculty fulfilling other administrative responsibilities in a department will normally receive a reduction in teaching load of up to one course per year depending on their responsibilities and the department’s size. The divisional dean must be consulted regarding reductions for administrative responsibilities.
    3. The University must reduce the recent tendency for the number of course releases related to service to increase even while total service requirements remain steady.

D. Low‐enrollment courses

Departments should be aware that low‐enrollment (i.e., fewer than ten undergraduates enrolled) courses are extremely expensive to staff. The Registrar now identifies low‐ enrollment courses throughout the registration process and transmits these data to deans. We will increasingly move to a posture that requires a positive justification for teaching a low‐enrollment course.


A. Probationary faculty: course reductions.

Departments will provide a reduction in teaching load of one course per year in each of the first and second years of the probationary period.

B. Probationary faculty: leaves.

It is the University’s intent to award all probationary faculty a research leave or the equivalent in course reduction spread out over multiple semesters during their probationary period.

C. Lecturers and Professionally Licensed/Clinical Faculty.

The standard teaching load for colleagues in these categories is nine to twelve credit hours per term.

D. Faculty on Retire/Rehire.

The standard teaching load for faculty on the retire/rehire program is nine to twelve credit hours per term.

E. Visitors.

The standard teaching load for full‐time visitors is nine to twelve credit hours per term.