Frequently asked questions about Academic Workload Management

Workload Allocation Management Service (WAMS)

What is WAMS?

WAMS stands for Workload Allocation Management Service and is the online web-based system which supports the UWE academic workload model.

Who is the owner of WAMS at UWE and where does the accountability lie?

The Workload Model Governance Group, chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Resources), owns WAMS.

WAMS was the key deliverable from a separate project to develop an online system to manage the workload model. The system is operated by those who manage workload and by academic staff, and is supported by the Planning Partners.

Further developments to WAMS are being coordinated by Noel Burchell, Associate Dean (Resources) within the Faculty of Business and Law, and a User Group is being set up to take these developments forward. There has been a very collaborative approach to the design of WAMS, and there is a large sense of ownership within the IT development team who worked on the project.

What approach did UWE use to develop the WAMS?

A DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method) approach was taken to running the project involving time-boxed activities to address prioritised functionality. The project team had representatives from IT, Planning Partners, academic representatives from each faculty, Timetabling, HR, Finance and Transformation Services.

The DSDM approach seeks to deliver prioritised requirements and functionality with the understanding that the project will be delivered by an agreed date. It was considered that the four years of experience of having a workload model before developing the system had been very beneficial.

In the UWE WAMS, is it possible to see other individuals’ workloads?

This depends on an individual’s permission level and there are various levels as follows:

  • Faculty Administrators (these are the Planning Partners) have unlimited permissions
  • Department Administrators have similar WAMS functionality available as the Faculty Administrators but at departmental level. They are often Heads of Department.
  • Allocators have access to the allocation and reporting areas within the system
  • Viewers can only view reports and their own individual workload
  • Academics have access to view their own workload, but don’t currently have permission to view other academics’ workloads.

There are data protection considerations around the issue of visibility and UWE has sought legal advice on this.

How does UWE manage training in the workload model/WAMS?

As well as holding face-to-face training for staff on WAMS in association with UWE’s Staff Development team, there are also online training videos available. The Planning Partners work very closely with faculties and it is likely that they could provide face-to-face training for faculty staff as required.

What are the benefits of the workload model and the new web-based system (WAMS)?

  • The workload model provides a fair, transparent and consistent UWE wide university approach for managing academic workload.
  • The model manages the allocation of each activity (teaching, research, postgraduate supervision etc.)
  • The model allows the university to manage members of staff who are over or under committed in terms of workload, and even out the work
  • TRAC data has become more reliable because it is measuring managed time. It no longer relies on subjective views which were occurring with the Time Allocation Survey (TAS) process.
  • The model has started to help the university with a variety of management processes and support the review of academic management roles.
  • The model helps UWE look into the details of institution owned funded research, particularly postgraduate research.
  • It has started to provide an input into activity costing such as postgraduate taught activities.

What are the key points for implementing a workload model and system?

  • Senior management and sponsorship has been crucial in the way in which we introduced and successfully managed the introduction of the workload model.
  • The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Resources and others in the senior team were committed to see through the introduction of a consistent workload model across the university. The senior team has had a crucial role.
  • The workload model involves a lot of disciplines across the university: Human Resources, Finance, Planning, IT, Academic managers, Directorate etc. A cross-university team is important.
  • Developing and implementing a workload model is complicated and requires expert and professional project management.
  • Constant consultation and communication with staff as a whole and unions is essential and this cannot be stressed enough.
  • Strong academic management in the departments of subject areas is paramount, ie managers who interact with the individual staff, allocate workload, negotiate and discuss their roles.
  • The training which managers and allocators are provided with, the ways in which managers communicate and their commitment to the workload model has been crucial. The training has been improved over time. It has not always been perfect.
  • The workload model is only as good as the managers and the managers’ process on which it is built.
  • We have had a critical professional structure which UWE calls Planning Partners. They are professional administrative roles who have played a key role in interfacing between the model and each of our four faculties and 15 departments.
  • It has been important to have a single model with no variants for faculties or departments. Special cases have been considered with close scrutiny to maintain fairness and equity.
  • WAMS has not been integrated with other systems (or not yet) such as staffing or course lists. The reasons being that integration is complex and would not make the UWE system as transferable as it is currently. Instead of focusing on system integration, UWE chose to draw information with the help of Planning Partners. Planning Partners play a key role in extracting data from systems and entering accurate information into WAMS.

Model questions

How did the UWE workload model start?

A project was kicked off in 2009 to develop a UWE-wide academic workload model.

The purpose of the project was to implement a common, university-wide academic workload management model which went live from 2010/2011 in the form of a spreadsheet which was built in-house. The spreadsheet method was operational for around three years.

What is the UWE model based on?

The model is based on activities (such as module teaching, PGR supervision, management roles and externally funded activities).

The local currency in UWE is “workload bundles”. These “bundles” are notional units (not hours). They are allocated to staff who can be academics, researchers and associate lecturers.

How many bundles does an academic staff member receive in a given year?

An academic member of staff can receive 550 bundles, which notionally equates to 1,375 hours.

How does the workload model relate to the national employment contract?

There is a connection between the 550 bundle figure and the contract in that the national post ’92 contract specifies 550 hours of contact time in any given academic year as a maximum. Each hour of teaching contact time is assumed to require a further 1.5 additional hours of time for preparation, assessment and other activities associated with student-based teaching and learning.

Other activities attract different tariffs in terms of bundles. Whilst the workload bundle generates an overall resource based upon a typical and widely used form of delivery and assessment, there is no pedagogic driver intended in the calculation. This is because the modern interpretation of a contact hour can vary significantly with the different approaches (some subject based) to learning and teaching in modern universities.

In the model, how do you generate the resources that are needed?

The teaching resource that is needed is generated at module level by a formula based on student numbers, credit size and weeks. It is then split into delivery of teaching (such as lectures and groups), assessment and management roles.

For other activities (other management roles, PGR supervision, other activities such as placements, field trips, etc.), UWE has a set of tariffs which have been set by the University as a whole. These tariffs have been set after consultation and review by the Workload Model Governance Group. They are revised on a regular basis or when the need arises. Within the model, there is provision for discretion and special cases.

How is research calculated and allocated?

Research and knowledge exchange (externally or internally funded by the university) is converted from time into the notional currency, “bundles”.

There are two types of research:

  • Externally-funded from research councils or other funding sources. Information is gathered by the Faculty Planning Partners, converted into workload currency and then put into the workload model. Actual time is covered by the research contract which also goes into TRAC.
  • Internally-funded by UWE. Each faculty gets a certain time resource in bundles for this type of research, which is locally managed. It is recorded in the workload model as ‘internally-funded research’.

How do you obtain data from academic staff in terms of actual research workload?

Information goes through a Project Approval Support System (PASS) and is allocated a project code. Principle Investigators update data on a SharePoint site and the Planning Partners (or Faculty Administrators) receive alerts via e-mail when this data is available. In the main, academics actively do this, but there is still some work to do. The data is then entered into the workload model adding accuracy within the research data streams.

Are changes made throughout the year in terms of generating and allocating workload at UWE?

Student numbers change and are updated at specific times throughout the academic year, and workload allocators make changes as necessary in consultation with staff. UWE starts with planned numbers in the workload model and then replaces them with actuals once they are confirmed.

There are three planned number occasions (beginning of the academic year, after clearing and January) and two actual number occasions (December and the end of the academic year). Other changes to individual workload may occur throughout the year for a variety of reasons and the recorded workload will be revised to show this.

Are there discussions between the academic member of staff and their line-manager?

Yes,  this negotiation is very important. If there is disagreement, this is escalated to the Associate Dean (Resources) for that faculty to adjudicate.

Are there links with the workload model and other systems at UWE?

Not at the moment. The Planning Partners are the integral interface into other systems. There are some well proven reasons why UWE chose to operate in this way.

Does the UWE model generate TRAC time data?

Yes. It forms the basis of TRAC time data and replaces the requirement for TAS (Time Allocation Survey).

Is it consistent with the HEFCE requirements?

KPMG undertook an audit of the new web-based system (WAMS) and the proposed process for generating the TRAC data. The compliance review was satisfactory and provided “partial assurance” in the areas reviewed.

Six recommendations were made (two medium priority and four low) and these are being addressed.

For post-92 university employment contracts, do you include the 5 weeks of scholarly activities and the 2 weeks of teaching admin?

Not in workloads published to academics, only in the data used to report TRAC.

Who needs to be involved in the development and deployment of an institution-wide workload model?

Please refer to the Human Architecture of the workload model.

What or who is a key success factor in operating the model?

A presentation, 'UWE Operating a WLM - Prezi', was provided by the Planning Partners at UWE. Please e-mail transformation.services@uwe.ac.uk for access.

Do the WAMS roles of Faculty Administrators (also known as Planning Partners) and Allocators (often Associate Heads of Department) overlap?

No, Faculty Administrators generate workload, whereas ‘allocators’ undertake the allocation of workload – allocators are academic managers.

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