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Racing against the clock

Is being a university teacher a misssion or a lifestyle? According to a recent report from the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers, SULF, this can seem to be the case.  Far too many university teachers work far more than they are supposed to.

The report, Nu får det vara nog  (In Swedish), is based on a questionnaire concerning how much time they had spent working in 2020, that was sent out to SULF members in the spring.

Even though the pandemic and the reset this entailed meant an increased workload for most teachers, this tendency has been known for a much longer time. Teachers at universities and colleges are torn between a determination to give their students the best possible education and learning support, and their normal working hours.

The question of how to strike a balance between this tremendous sense of commitment and everything else, is a health and safety issue that has been discussed at various times but where no satisfactory answer has been found.

The survey was completed by just over 4,000 members, or a response rate of just under 23 percent. Over half of the respondents worked far longer than their ordinary hours, especially in the case of professors, associate professors and assistant professors.

This is shocking. But where does the responsibility lie? Naturally, I would point the finger at the person at the top, but also at the individual. Being aware of and identifying a culture that is not always healthy, and encouraging staff to go home on time, was obviously not easy to do during the pandemic when people were working online in many cases.

Maybe it is time once and for all, to put an end to the myth that the only way to succeed, not least within higher education, is to work excessively.

The big risk otherwise, is that we will lose brilliant individuals who choose to leave due to burnout.