The Surge

I am sure you’ve all noticed that your classes (and email inboxes…) are fuller than ever. And that’s because the Faculty’s overall ‘load’ is the highest it has ever been,and is now the largest in the University (surging past just over 7000 ‘EFTSLs’).  What is even more extraordinary is that we are teaching this large group of students with roughly the same number of academic and general staff as we had in…..2000.  In other words, our load has grown by over 50% but our overall staffing level has remained roughly constant. Throughout this period we have also done very well in terms of the various ways in which we are measured for the quality of our teaching – ie. USE surveys, SECQ scores, Teaching Performance Fund etc. (although we have slipped in some key areas in the last round, not surprisingly).  On the other hand, our part-time teaching budgets have grown, along with our class sizes, and both of these developments mean we are constantly battling to ensure we provide our students with the best possible educational experience a research university like ours aspires to. All of this raises interesting questions for the future: Do we keep growing? Do we start to cap our classes? Should we be looking to increase our PG student load at the expense of the UG? And what about admin support? Have we got the kind of support we need to cope with these kinds of numbers? And then there is the legendary complexity of the Faculty…..our breadth is truly stunning – from American Studies to Yiddish, as it were – but is it time to think about consolidation instead of multiplication? About building our commitment to breadth in different ways, other than adding new programs and degrees? These are among the questions which I think we’re going to need to discuss, collectively, as we turn our minds to 2010 and beyond. Moreover, there is a very good chance that the University will undergo one of the biggest re-structuring phases ever in the coming months…hold onto your hats. More news on that front soon….

Congratulations to Paul Griffiths (Philosophy) who has been elected as the next President of the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB). <> Anyone who was able to get along to Paul’s Inaugural lecture a couple of weeks ago will have a sense of the fascinating work he and his colleagues are engaged in.


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