PAWS (Planning Academic Workload System)

What is PAWS (Planning Academic Workload System)?

Broadly, PAWS is a project, initiated by Senate, to develop a consistent approach to academic workload allocation to provide the University with an agreed process for aligning the work of its staff by using a shared technical platform, a set of tariffs and principles to existing School workload planning processes. You can read the full proposal approved by Senate.

Many academics and wider University staff felt that a more transparent, fairer, equal and balanced distribution of workload needed to be introduced across all Schools, where variations exist.  A new system however would need to take into account of the different disciplines that exist and different career pathways, contractual arrangements and other relevant factors.

The guiding principles of a new workload planning framework include:

  • Support a fair allocation of work to meet a School’s needs and to play to the strengths of staff.
  • Manage the under- and over- allocation of work to produce balanced, equitable and transparent workloads.
  • Use a single workload template for each category of academic and research staff to ensure consistency, transparency and ease of comparison across the University.
  • Support Heads of School and Departments to achieve these objectives and to address the allocation and management of academic workloads in an equitable, transparent and consistent way.
  • Help to ensure sustainable workloads for staff.
  • Provide a robust evidence base to assist with necessary data returns (e.g., HESA, QAA), support internal costing processes and returns to the funding bodies, and, as an extra benefit, to offer a robust and accurate alternative to the current Time Allocation Surveys  (TAS) and Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) Methodology.
What is the status of the PAWS project?

A project board, chaired by Pro-Vice Chancellor for Planning & Resources, Stephen Shute, has been working through the introduction of a new framework and consists of representatives from Schools, ITS, HR and Communications. 

All Schools / Depts (with the exception of BSMS and SCLS) are engaged with the Project Board and the process.

Pilots in several schools for PAWS have been running over the past one to two years using a platform known as Simitive.

The pilots have been successful and as such the contract with Simitive will continue as the project is rolled out more widely across the University. 

Training programmes on the Simitive platform have run in the majority of Schools, with good awareness of how the system is able to assist in the configuration of categories of work and tariffs.

Additional training and support will continue to be provided depending on Schools needs and requests. 

When will the PAWS system be fully introduced?

The aim is for all Schools to be using PAWS for academic workload undertaken in the academic year 2020/21.

What are the categories of works and tarriffs?

These are central to PAWS and essentially it lays out the wide range of responsibilities and activities undertaken by academics across all of the schools, both in teaching and research and put them into categories. 

Through using software to input and then display these categories in relation to all academics in Schools it is possible to get a clearer picture of how workloads are allocated across the Schools and the University as a whole.

What if the standard categories of work & tariffs don't work for me / my Department?

The standard CWT provide a common baseline to help us achieve our aim of getting as much consistency (and so fairness) as possible in how workload is allocated across the University. However, pragmatically, a one size fits all approach doesn't always work. Therefore PAWS allows for the baseline CWT to be adapted by Schools whenever there is a justifiable reason for doing so.

Who decides whether a decision to over-ride a tariff is justifiable?

We expect that the CWT will constantly evolve as we seek the optimum balance between consistency (to ensure maximum fairness) and flexibility (to ensure differing need of different Departments are properly accommodated). It is likely that a working group comprising representatives from each School will oversee the process of reviewing / updating CWT. 

Our Department already has good processes in place. Why do we need PAWS?

PAWS has been developed in response to concerns raised by academics around fairness, transparency and volume of workload. Importantly, the move to a common process does not automatically mean that a School or Department’s existing processes are not fair, transparent or effective. But a common process increases our ability to ensure these concerns are addressed consistently across the University. PAWS also brings additional benefits (for example, we won’t need to ask people to complete a separate time allocation survey in future, and the common platform can automate this information).

What will PAWS look like for me?

You’ll have access to the new platform. When your draft workplan has been prepared, you’ll receive notification and either accept it, or request further discussion via the platform (you are asked to confirm acceptance of the workplan so that the information at the start of the year can be used for the University’s TRAC report, instead of the current Time Allocation Survey process). You’ll be able to see how your workplan compares with those of colleagues in your Department, which hopefully redresses any concerns some academics have around fairness / transparency.

At the end of the year, you’ll be asked to confirm that your workplan actually reflected the work you did, again to inform the TRAC process (and enable us to discontinue the Time Allocation Survey process).