University Teaching Loads

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 24, 2009

From occasional conversations with international colleagues, I’ve come to believe that teaching loads of university lecturers may differ quite substantially between countries. I am curious finding out whether my belief is false or not. So I propose to do a little survey. If you are teaching at a University, could you tell us what a regular teaching load in your faculty/university is, and any factors that you think influence this (e.g. whether you are in a research-oriented university, the country in which you are based etc.)

Here’s an example. In the Netherlands there is no distinction between research-intense and other universities. With a few exceptions, every university lecturer is also supposed to be an active researcher (we do not make the distinction between those who do research, and those who teach, except for people who are hired as postdocs for projects). Where I am based (faculty of philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam), a standard teaching load for someone with a full time appointment is 4 courses a year. Most courses are 10 weeks, 2 hours a week; graduate courses are 15 weeks. All teaching staff supervise a few (roughly 3-5) BA and one or two MA dissertations annually, and mark an equal number of dissertations supervised by others. Class size varies between 10 students (MA courses) and about 100 students (some first year courses). We tend not to have teaching assistants, hence all the marking of essays/exams, course preparation, etc. is done by the teachers (there are rare exceptions to this rule). PhD ‘students’ are not regarded as students but as staff, and in any case most lecturers supervise one or two of them, with a few professors supervising half a dozen. I’d be curious finding out where this load is situated on an international and interdisciplinary comparison. My suspicion is that it’s an average load, but I may well be wrong.



Martin 03.24.09 at 9:50 am

Information Systems

Research active staff – 8 hours a week, 12 week semester, 2 semesters a year, 192 contact hours a year
Teaching only staff – 12 hours a week, 12 week semester, 2 semesters a year, 288 contact hours

I supervise 6 PhD students (4 part-timers), this is factored in to the teaching load, 1 hour a week for full-timers, 30 minutes for part-timers. PhDs are not staff, but students, though many do tutoring and we do treat them as part of the School in lots of ways, shared office in the School (usually two per room), own computer, allowance, participate in School activities if they wish

Class sizes are mostly between 30-100, but some go up to 150 and one core first year course averages around 800 students


dave 03.24.09 at 9:56 am

At my ‘mid-table’ UK university (post-92 ex-poly, in other words), humanities staff teach very roughly around 12 hours per week across 2 12-week teaching semesters, with exam weeks on top of that. Up to a third of that teaching will be large-group lectures, most of the rest will be seminars of 12-20 students, with concomitant marking expectations – 1 or 2 pieces of coursework per semester for each seminar. Generally one is teaching on 6 or 7 different units/modules at a time – most individual modules are team-taught, at least in terms of dividing up students into seminar-groups. Supervision of BA dissertations might add another couple of hours a week, MA work a couple more [usually less]; and PhD work on top of that. And we just topped the national table in our interdisciplinary research area for the RAE. The impression from where we sit is that people at the more ‘prestigious’ universities have it pretty easy, though they would doubtless demur.


Phil 03.24.09 at 11:10 am

Law School, including bio-ethicists and criminologists. The standard teaching load for a lecturer is currently 180 hours, distributed across two 10-week semesters and between lectures and seminars; no allowance for marking but some for PhD supervision, personal tutoring etc. I’ve always found it odd that there’s no distinction between a lecture hour and a seminar hour, despite the massive difference in the amount of preparation required (at least in Criminology – maybe less so in core Law subjects). Very understaffed – lots of seminars, and some lectures, are given by PhD students and other “teaching assistants” (an hourly-paid position which I’ve occupied for most of the last two years). My own teaching load for the current year is 148 hours, about 2/3 seminars and 1/3 lectures. Sometimes I dream


Another Damned Medievalist 03.24.09 at 11:45 am

Small Liberal Arts College, part of a university with several graduate and professional programmes. By contract, we are all supposed to teach 24 credit hours a year. In my college, most of us are supposed to be ‘research intensive’ (not to be compared with the level of productivity at an actual research university) , so we are scheduled for 21 hours, which transfers to 12 classroom hours (4 courses, usually two sections of a one course and two other preps) per week /15 week semester one semester, 9 hours (2-3 different courses) per week/15 week semester the other. Some of us have other duties, so e.g., I am required to teach an extra 1-hour class per year. And colleagues in high demand departments that can’t find adjuncts might teach 5-6 courses in a semester. We do all our own marking, which can vary across disciplines. I give three short papers, two exams and online discussion in my survey courses; generally three substantial written assignments plus an exam in my seminars. Fortunately, we have very small classes, so I’ve never had more than 70 students in a semester.

No course release or financial compensation for department chairs, although some faculty have course releases to run special programmes.

People in the professional schools teach 2/3 of what we do, and supposedly are researching more, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this.


Jonathan 03.24.09 at 12:06 pm

We teach four courses a year (two a semester) in midwestern public research university (US). The Chair of the department gets a course reduction, teaching two instead of four. Professional schools may have different teaching loads than Liberal Arts and Sciences.


AcademicLurker 03.24.09 at 12:17 pm

I’m in one of the basic science departments at a large private medical school (US). Our teaching load is quite light. For me it averages to 4-6 hours/week at most of actual classroom time. Of course, it amounts to much more if you include the time spent supervising graduate students.

Pretty nice, except that we’re expected to cover 75% of our salary from grants.


Saudade 03.24.09 at 12:20 pm

The standard load here is three courses per semester, 16 weeks each one, 4 to 5 hours a week each one.

Plus administrative work and 2 o 3 thesis supervised.


workerbee 03.24.09 at 12:24 pm

Midwestern US land grant university, civil engineering, two courses each semester (generally one graduate (typical enrollment = 10) and one undergraduate (typical enrollment = 25)), 16-week semesters. This is considered approximately 60% of my appointment, with the remaining 40% being research and service.


J 03.24.09 at 12:39 pm

Where I am based (faculty of philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam), a standard teaching load for someone with a full time appointment is 4 courses a year. Most courses are 10 weeks, 2 hours a week; graduate courses are 15 weeks. All teaching staff supervise a few (roughly 3-5) BA and one or two MA dissertations annually, and mark an equal number of dissertations supervised by others. Class size varies between 10 students (MA courses) and about 100 students (some first year courses). We tend not to have teaching assistants, hence all the marking of essays/exams, course preparation, etc. is done by the teachers (there are rare exceptions to this rule).

Fascinating. That’s almost identical to the situation here:

* Four ten-week courses per year (but the courses are 3 hr/week, and the only distinction between grad & undergrad courses is difficulty, not time).

* The class size is similar to yours (50-100 for large intro courses, 10 for most non-intro courses).

* We supervise roughly the same number of students as you.

* We do, however, have teaching assistants for many courses, especially large intro courses and those with labs or discussion sections.

FYI, this is a research university with fairly small size but a good reputation and a large budget (not as large as before the financial meltdown, though).


Jorgaba 03.24.09 at 1:03 pm

I’m in the college of arts and sciences at a US regional midwestern public university that tries to emphasize undergraduate teaching (that is, it’s not a research university but also not a liberal arts college). Load is two 15-week semesters, 9 credit hours/semester (usually 3 courses/semester). That’s with an automatic course release per semester figured in for research, which faculty in our department (though not all departments) get. But no graduate courses and no teaching assistants.


Ben Alpers 03.24.09 at 1:13 pm

I teach at the University of Oklahoma, the state’s flagship public research university. The load for tenured and tenure-track faculty in the Honors College (where I teach) and in humanities and social science departments in the College of Arts and Sciences is two, three-hour courses per semeseter. Semesters last fifteen weeks. Course sizes vary dramatically from field to field. Loads for non-tenure track, full-time “term” faculty vary from department to department, but they usually teach three or four courses per semester (with less job security of course). And, yes, that is utterly inequitable.

In major research universities in the U.S., the load for tenure-track and tenured faculty (at least in my field, history) tends to be 2-2 (or 2-1-2 in schools on the quarter system). But there’s enormous variation in the length of the semester, which can often be much longer in public institutions than in private ones.


F 03.24.09 at 1:36 pm

Typical load in large public research schools in my field (hard science) across the US is 1-1. This does not count seminars or qualifying and Ph.D. defense committees (varies, but 3-10 per year is not unusual), or Ph.D. research supervision (I believe the national average in my field is around 5 Ph.D. candidates per advisor).


ScentOfViolets 03.24.09 at 1:53 pm

Math Department, land grant university. Non-research/lower-math division runs about 12 hours a week or 3 hours a week plus coordination with TA’s. Upper division runs about 6 hours, and research, well, active researchers can pretty much do whatever they want. One guy hasn’t taught anything but a problems course that meets whenever he feels like it for the last three years. Otoh, he brings home the bacon. Another guy does some really good research, but he teaches about 9 hours a semester as well because he’s one of those old guys whose chief purpose in the world is to marvel at the Kids These Days, and what they’re being taught. Very good, too, takes the “here’s how the book does it, here’s what it really means, and here’s how we work out this stuff in practice” approach. It helps that, comparatively speaking, the department is flush with cash right now from outside sources. I imagine that if there was ever some belt-tightening to be done, several people might be privately informed to get off the stick and either a)bring in some grant money, or b)teach more.


Jonathan Quong 03.24.09 at 2:26 pm

I’m in the Politics Department at the University of Manchester in the UK.

I teach, roughly, an average of 7-8 hours (class or lecture time) per week + 12 undergraduate dissertation supervisions, 3 MA dissertations, and 2 PhD students. There are two 12 week semesters, though the teaching usually only lasts for 10-11 weeks.

TA’s mark most of our first year exams, but staff mark almost all other exams and essays, something which is very time-consuming at a large university like Manchester (I estimate marking takes up at least 6 full working weeks of the year).

Most staff also then hold a some admin role (e.g. director of an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or PhD admissions officer). People with the biggest admin roles get a reduction in the teaching load.

Manchester is a research university so we are all certainly expected to produce research in addition to our teaching and admin duties.


Sam C 03.24.09 at 2:27 pm

I’m in a small philosophy department at a pretty good research university in the UK. This year I’ve taught:
* two part II (upper level undergrad) courses – each about 5 contact hours (1 lecture, 4 seminars) a week for 10 weeks, plus marking coursework and exams, for 50-60 students.
* one part I (first-year undergrad) course – 2 hours of lectures a week, to a large group, for 5 weeks; seminars and marking done by postgraduate teaching assistants (who are an odd combination of hourly-paid staff and student).
* one final-year undergrad ‘special subject’ – one two hour tutorial per week for 10 weeks.
* various miscellaneous seminars and talks for postgrads, adding up to perhaps half a dozen hours plus prep time over the last two terms.
* a couple of talks on study skills for first-years.
* undergraduate dissertation and postgraduate thesis supervision – how much time this takes up varies a lot. And do I count going for a drink with my supervisees as work?
* I also have a fairly large administrative job, which involves managing a team of TAs, meeting students to discuss attendance and assessment, negotiating with other staff who lecture on the course, etc., and probably takes up several hours a week.
* I also do research, and am expected to publish regularly and to find external funding.
I’d be interested to know my teaching load translates into the US 1-1, 2-2 courseload descriptions, which I’ve never really understood.


Donald A. Coffin 03.24.09 at 2:41 pm

Economics, in a business school, a Carnegie Masters II insttution. Semester (15 weeks) system.

Our formal load is 4 3-credit-hour courses per semester. Almost all (maybe all, I don’t know) tenured/tenure-track faculty have a one-course reassignment for research, so the actual load is 3 courses.

Lecturers (who have no research responsibilities) teach 4 courses per semester.


Kent 03.24.09 at 2:49 pm

In the humanities/social-sciences “typical” teaching responsibilities at my university are 4 courses per year (ca. 25-50 students, 3 lecture hours per week, 14 weeks per semester). I don’t know about the level of advising commitment.

In the sciences “typical” teaching responsibilities are 2 courses per year (10-300 students, 3 hours per week, 14 weeks per semester; laboratories often account for an additional 3 hours per week). Undergraduate and graduate advising responsibilities vary tremendously, but the average is probably 2 undergraduates, 2 Ph.D. students, and 1 post-doc pursuing research projects in a lab.


rm 03.24.09 at 3:12 pm

English. Regional comprehensive (MA-granting, not quite but close to open enrollment) state university in US.

4 courses (12 hours/week) per 16-week semester for tenure-track and tenured professors, 5 courses for non-TT Lecturers. (So, for those counting by year, that 8 or 10 courses). There is a requirement to produce scholarship; at least one conference presentation per year is a minimum, and at least a few published articles are necessary for tenure. There is a massive expectation for service work. TAs are actually instructors of record — there are no “assistants” except in the title.

I’d like to hear from Community College readers.


DaveMB 03.24.09 at 3:22 pm

Computer Science, Large public research university, USA

Our load is 2.5 courses per year for faculty with an active research program, up to 4 per year for those (few) without. Ph.D. students grade papers and assist faculty but only rarely have full responsibility for a course. Ph.D. advising load is not counted against this load, but faculty with very large grant support can reduce their load to as low as one course/year by buying out from their grant. The department chair is not obligated to teach.


djw 03.24.09 at 4:09 pm

Moderate sized and growing Liberal Arts Univervisity, United States, Political Science department. The official load is 7 courses a year, each course is about 50 contact hours (five hours a week over 10 weeks). All TT faculty get a one course research reduction. Full time non-tenure track sometimes get this reduction as well, if their chair is a good chair and comes up with a way to do it (For example, I do some undergraduate advising in lieu of my seventh course). So functionally it’s about 10 contact hours a week for 30 weeks a year, with smallish classes (15-30). Most people advise one or two undergrad theses a year, which is voluntary and doesn’t ‘count’ for anything.

I heard a rumor once that people at the law school actually teach more, but I have no idea if that’s true.


Bill Gardner 03.24.09 at 4:28 pm

I’m a quantitative psychologist on the faculty of a US medical school. I give <= 5 lectures a year. I also spend about a day a week consulting with / mentoring post-doctoral fellow or junior faculty on design or statistics (more than most colleagues). Similar to Academic Lurker @ 6, it’s expected that I will cover the majority of my salary through grants.


Matt L 03.24.09 at 4:31 pm

History, Upper Midwest State University (BA only, no masters students in our program, but other departments, like English do grant MAs): Our institution is a teaching university, but there is a push to publish something to show that you are an active scholar.

I teach a 4/4: this translates into 4 classes per semester. Each class meets three hours a week for a total of twelve hours a week classroom time. We are expected to have an equal amount of time devoted to office hours. Our semesters are 16 weeks long, so its something like 384 hours of contact time. Although, the students don’t really come to office hours, so its more like 192 hours per semester. We have two semesters per academic year, and you can teach a May session or two summer terms for an overload and additional pay.

This semester I am teaching three sections of Western Civilization (aka – Intro to European history, from Plato to NATO). Each section starts with about 30 students, although with attrition, the numbers dwindle to around 25 to 28 students.

My other class is usually an upper level course for majors. These classes are usually capped at 20, but if students need the class to graduate, we usually let more in. So all told, I have around 110-120 students to grade per semester. We do not have Teaching Assistants and do all our own grading, like the colleagues in the Netherlands.

The university and department also expect some service work from tenured and tenure tracked faculty. For example, I’ve worked on a department assessment committee, served on a hiring committee for an administrative appointment, and serve as the faculty adviser for a couple of student clubs. Senior colleagues in my department serve on faculty senate, hiring committees, and take turns being department chair. Plus, our University likes to see faculty and administrators do some kind of service in the community, so some colleagues volunteer with various community groups off campus.


harry b 03.24.09 at 4:33 pm

State Flagship, humanities (Philosophy).

2 courses per 16-week semester, ranging from 10 to 200 students per course (usually, in a semester, there’s one course of about 20, and one of 100 for me, but that varies WILDLY in the humanities). TAs for large courses, but not for small. This is standard in the humanities, but there’s much less in the sciences. Any independent studies etc, or ‘something out of the ordinary” is on top of that, uncompensated. We usually teach one graduate course every 2 years in my dept, but that varies wildly too. In some humanities departments, tenure-track faculty do not teach graduate courses at all (extraordinary in my view, but people defend it).


chuck stubbart 03.24.09 at 4:48 pm

Southern Illino is Univ is a public research university. Probably #2 behind Univ of Illinois at Champaign. At my school of business most faculty teach 4 courses per year. Thats 50 minutes per week times 16 weeks. Faculty who don’t publish might get 3 plus 3 per year. Our MBA students don’t get special supervision but our doctoral students do.
The doctoral load factor mostly falls to the biggest researchers in our college. We have teaching assistants and research assistants. Many of our courses are taught by graduate students. We have a faculty union, although only a minority belong. I’ve done many foreign assignments during my career, and it seems to me that European faculty work harder for less.


Karl Steel 03.24.09 at 4:55 pm

English lit department at Brooklyn College, which is part of the CUNY system.

21 credit hours per year, courses are 3 credit hours. Comes out to 3/3 + advising graduate students and independent undergraduate projects (senior theses, etc.). Semester is 15 weeks long. From my experience, undergrad courses tend to meet twice a week for 75 minutes each class and graduate courses once a week for 90 minutes. In the English department, undergrad courses tend to have 25 students (although one 8am Intro to Lit section dwindled to 8 or 9 students by the semester’s end) and graduate have 30. I don’t think have had much more than 70 students in any given semester.

There’s a push to change our courses from 3 to 4 credit hours. I honestly can’t think of any disadvantages to this: students, being able to accumulate credits more quickly, would graduate faster, and we’d basically go to a 3/2 load.

We do, however, get 21 credits release time before tenure, and I don’t think it’s so hard to get release time post-tenure to work on projects. We’re expected to do a book for tenure, plus good teaching evals and service.


anon 03.24.09 at 5:06 pm

Psychology in Russell Group university in UK

Teaching is meant to be around 160 contact hours per year which works out as 5-6 student projects, 2 or 3 courses, office hours during term time and 15+ tutorial groups. Plus admin, marking etc. There are no TAs so we get a lot of marking.


Gavin Weaire 03.24.09 at 6:17 pm

Small liberal arts college, evidence of activity in the field required, but focus strongly on teaching. Classes meet for highly variable numbers of hours, and overloads have often been necessary, which produces a lot of variation from semester to semester. 11-12 hours/week of class time is typical for me. All grading etc. done by faculty, obviously, and it is assumed that you will have a great deal of time outside class for students, but class sizes are small – mine range from 4 to 22 at the moment.


Miranda 03.24.09 at 6:25 pm

Teaching at a small, third-tier SLAC, we need to teach 22-24 credit hours a year, so that translates to a 4-4 for most. English has a 3-4 becuase of our composition load. There is no release time before tenure. Department chairs get a course reduction. There is very little expectation for scholarship here.


Patrick 03.24.09 at 7:16 pm

State Flagship, Research I. Composition.

Tenure Track/Tenured: 2 courses per semester (16 hours total). Most of us teach service courses, first year comp like, capped at 23, or upper division/grad courses, with relatively small enrollments. The college looks at the number of students seen by a faculty member, compares the 350 that a faculty member lecturing the Intro to Chem class sees with the 23 in ours and wonders how to get more students in the same room with professors. There’s release time for junior faculty doing tenure-connected research–I have no idea if it’s generous/stingy/equivalent compared to similar institutions, except that generous would surprise me. Course releases for supervising grad student teachers, and other department service, which will probably evaporate quickly, except for the DEO.

Permanent non-tenure track: 3 courses per semester (24 hours). Some release for department service, which will evaporate.

Compared to the five course per semester load at the local community college, not so bad.


Chris S 03.24.09 at 7:28 pm

Large, research-oriented Canadian University, philosophy department. Two courses per term, 12 week terms, plus usual graduate supervision (on average about 1 MA thesis per year, and about 2 PhD supervisions at a time). Most humanities and social science departments here have a 2-2 load, and most hard science programs teach 1-1 (or less), but of course also run their labs, etc. A few departments have a higher load (in English it is 5 courses a year instead of 4). Service work is a bit more here than at typical US universities, though probably a bit less than at UK universities (we have no RAE exercise, etc.)


Andrew Civettinih 03.24.09 at 7:33 pm

I teach at a small liberal arts college (no degree beyond bachelor’s) in the U.S. My teaching load is 6 courses, 9 weeks each, 4 hours each per week. To be fair, it is definitely a teaching first, research second place. But probably the average load for teaching in the U.S. at a top 50 liberal arts college. I get a two course release in either my third or fourth year as an Assistant and then 1-3 terms release every 4-6 years thereafter based on time and performance. The average class size across campus is 18.


otto 03.24.09 at 7:36 pm

Some universities I have known:

LAC in the US: ’2-2 load’, 5-7 hours contact a week (including ‘section’ discussions), 26 weeks a year, plus all grading, of which there is a lot every week, no postgrads of course, maybe two undergrad theses per annum.

European research university: 4 hours a week teaching, 20 weeks total, TAs grade undergrad essays (only one+ a term) in early years/large classes, steady state maybe 3 PhD students supervision expected, maybe two undergrad theses and two masters theses, admin positions of significance would justify a slice off the teaching load. Of course more publications expected. Plus lots of trivial admin nonsense that somehow didn’t exist in the US.


New Kid on the Hallway 03.24.09 at 8:16 pm

My past jobs (at small liberal arts colleges in the US) ranged from 5 courses a year (no TAs) to 6 courses a year (no TAs), where the year consisted of 2 14- or 15-week semesters and classes met 3 hours a week. But I regularly had fewer students each semester in my 6-course/year job than a friend of mine in a 4-course/year job (who also didn’t have TAs).

Anecdotally, a 4 course/year job with 10 week terms in the humanities in the US is a very desirable courseload, reserved for research-intensive universities and very elite liberal arts colleges. Based on my experiences on the market in the last 5-10 years, most jobs here are 6-8 courses a year (on 13-15 week terms). But my (again, anecdotal) suspicion is that there is greater variation among institutions of higher ed in the U.S. than in Europe (for instance, I don’t believe the small liberal arts college even exists in Europe?).


Ingrid Robeyns 03.24.09 at 8:28 pm

New Kid, yes, I agree — after reading all those statements I should revise my view – 4 courses is not average but is a light courseload.

Thanks to everyone for your statements – I am sure I am not the only one who finds it instructive to get a little bit of a better view on how much international colleagues are teaching.

I hope people will keep writing – not just those who have (based on the range we have documented so far) very high loads, but also those who have (probably) light loads. I also would love to hear from elite universities — there certainly is an impression by many that they have lighter loads, but I wonder whether this is still the case if one takes individual undergraduate supervisions into account, as it exists for example in Oxford and Cambridge. I suspect it must be very time consuming, but it may not be part of the official teaching load. I also have no clue of how widespread this phenomenon is in the UK (and outside the UK?).

and anyone from countries not covered so far? India? South Africa? Mexico?


Chris Bertram 03.24.09 at 8:42 pm

I realise that I can’t even answer this question any more, since we work on a “workload model” according to which “teaching, assessment, postgrad supervision, examining etc” probably come to a “normal load” of about 800 hours per year. But there’s prep time, marking time, office hours etc all factored into that. Plus courses vary a lot (so get different credits under the model) and there’s a fair bit of team teaching on elementary units. But I just couldn’t say 2+2 or whatever, because it doesn’t work like that.


nashe 03.24.09 at 9:16 pm

I was in Communication Studies at a private, urban liberal arts campus of about 500o students in the U.S. where my teaching load was six courses a year until one reached tenure, at which point it went to eight courses (four courses a semester that met for 3 hours a week for a 16 week semester). I moved to a small private religiously affiliated liberal arts college with a little over a thousand students, where the course load was eight per year, again three hours a week over two 16 week semesters. These loads were uniform across the humanities and social sciences at each institution. I am currently a visiting lecturer at a major Midwestern university where I am teaching three courses for a single 16 week semester, but with no expectation of advising or other departmental work.


Janice 03.24.09 at 10:34 pm

I’m on faculty at a regional comprehensive Canadian university without pretensions to a research-intensive nature. As a historian, I’m supposed to be teaching a 3/2 load (9 contact hours one term/6 contact hours another). Somehow I always end up taking an overload and service work which is supposed to be compensated with a course reduction (so now we’re talking what is a 4/3 load in reality). Terms are twelve weeks with a three-week long exam period at the end of each semester.

We have some TA assistance but the grad students don’t usually have much expertise in my subject areas. Graduate and undergraduate supervision is theoretically reimbursed with credit towards eventual course-reduction or payment. I’ve only seen other people get paid a small amount and only for the graduate supervision. Having supervised thirteen undergraduate projects and two M.A. students to completion in my career to date, I’ve not been paid for any of those.

Our sciences and pro schools have, as per their standard, a lighter teaching load that’s 2/2 or 2/1 but generally with more time demanded in the labs or on research release.


TS 03.24.09 at 11:55 pm

Computer Science; small, private, research-oriented engineering school in the US (but not top tier and not well endowed).

Loads in our department are 3-4 courses per year for tenure/tenure-track, and twice as much for lecturers (who are not expected to do research). 15 weeks per semester. A course can be 2.5 hours once a week (often in the evening), or 1-1.5 hours 2 to 3 times a week. Decision on 3 versus 4 courses depends on how much work a course is, and maybe a little on research activity. No extra teaching credit given for supervising MS and PhD students, but I suspect people with few students are more likely to end up on various service committees.

Overall, 3 per year is a typical teaching load for PhD-granting research-oriented Computer Science departments. Some higher ranked departments may offer slightly lower load, like 1-1, but I feel I already have a very low load. Low enough so I actually look forward to teaching.


christian h. 03.25.09 at 12:05 am

Mathematics at a large public research university: regular load is one and a half courses per quarter (of which we teach ….three, each being 10 weeks plus exams), but most people teach 4 courses per year (as opposed to 4 or 5, alternating) due to reductions obtained for large classes, graduate seminars and such. Most courses have TA’s and/or graders.


Jason 03.25.09 at 12:44 am

I’m in media studies at a top-five small liberal arts college, undergrad only (no TAs). Load is 3/2/.5 – to translate, we teach either 2 or 3 courses each 12 week semester (average of 3-5 contact hours/week per class), with class sizes ranging from 10-60 (with 45+ counted as 2 courses). We also have a 4-week January-term, which we teach every-other-year (hence the .5) – chairs and other major administrative committees don’t have to teach in January. 3-6 senior theses per year, lots of advising, and committee work. Research expectations are comparable to most universities (e.g. a book published for tenure in the humanities).

I hope someone statistically-minded processes this anecdotal data and posts some analysis!


john holbo 03.25.09 at 1:55 am

At the National University of Singapore (a research institution) I have basically a 2/2 load. Plus I teach 1 course during the summer term. Roughly 8 contact hours a week. (A bit more for me. I teach the high-enrollment intro course, which involves a lot of organizational overhead.) Very humane work-load overall.


Bert 03.25.09 at 4:42 am

Engineering, state university (non-PhD). 15 units standard load (equivalent to 5 typical classes) per 15 week semester, but one course typically taken off for service, so 4 courses per semester. Nominally 30 students per course, so large classes can count double. Such teaching assistants as are available are counted as reducing your load, i.e., teaching 60 students with a TA is equivalent to teaching 30 students without; in other words, the loading for TAs is calculated the same as for faculty. So in practice, hardly any TAs. Research funding can be used to lower your teaching load.


Tom Hurka 03.25.09 at 6:58 am

Largest Canadian research university, Philosophy.

2-2 load, semesters going down to 12 weeks, from 13, this coming fall. One of the four courses is a grad course, one is 250 students (all marking by TAs), the other two are 40 students each (no TA help).


Sebastian 03.25.09 at 9:09 am

Germany – not actually where I teach, but lots of friends and my dad:
7-8 weekly hours each semester.
Literally that would translate to 3-4 classes a semester, but there is some wiggle room – you can count your office hours as 1h and things like that. But most profs do teach 6 classes per year – usually one lecture each semester as well as 2 seminars.
And if you think that’s a ridiculous amount your damn right.


notsneaky 03.25.09 at 9:28 am

Basically somewhere between Gavin at 27 and Andrew at 31, but probably closer to Andrew. Economics.


Guru 03.25.09 at 10:01 am


Indian Institute of Technology (Technical University — most of the degrees are in Engineering and Technology — barring a few exceptions)

Undergrad teaching: two semesters per year; nearly 100-180 students per semester; 42 lecture classes; and six hours of tutorials/demonstration/labs for 10-15 students

Post-grad teaching — nearly 20 students per semester — 42 lecture classes

Typical overall load per week — 9-12 hours (typically, 3 hours of lectures for undergrads, 3 hours for post-grads, and 6 hours or lab/tutorials)

Every faculty is also expected to do research; guide a couple of M Tech students per year, a couple of undergraduates per year and two to three research students at any time


dave 03.25.09 at 12:26 pm

I notice a trend amongst US academics to assume that everyone else knows what ’2-2′, etc, means, when one of the points of the initial inquiry, I think, was to try to get people to spell out what such codes mean in terms of actual face-time with specified numbers of students. Just an observation…


Clayton Littlejohn 03.25.09 at 10:22 pm

Lecturer at Southern Methodist University for the Department of Philosophy:
Semester is 15 weeks. Courses (typically) meet three times each week with 50 minutes per meeting. Four courses each semester with typical class size being 50 students. No TA support or research support. Lecturers typically try to do additional adjunct work elsewhere. Best avoided if possible.

Assistant Professor at Southern Methodist University:
Semester is 15 weeks. Courses (typically) meet twice a week with 80 minutes per meeting. Two courses each semester with typical class sizes being 25 students or less. Research support. Highly recommended.


Jacob Christensen 03.25.09 at 10:24 pm

As a rule, positions at Swedish universities are full-time teaching positions where you will have to seek external financing for research. 4-5 courses per 20-week semester is a guideline, but you will see a lot of variation. Also, class sizes vary – I had anything between 125 and 5 students during my time in Sweden. And yes, generally you do your own marking/grading.

In Denmark, my guess is that 2 courses per 14-week semester plus tutoring of thesis work is more or less the standard.

Of course, there are faculty who rarely visit a lecture room. (Frustrated rant)Teaching undergraduates is often considered a waste of time by people who consider themselves researchers.(/Frustrated rant)


BillC 03.26.09 at 2:33 am

small midwestern US engineering college — considered a research school by the state but probably not by anyone else.

All tenure track positions in the state are contracted for 15 hours teaching per semester. At the research schools, 3 hours are given for research. Leaving nominally 12 class hours per semester, although real loads are more typically 7-10 hours. Class size varies, my discipline is small and many of the classes I teach are graduate classes, so 10 students is more or less my average. The difference between how much is taught and how much is contracted is often used as research grant matching money.


JJO 03.26.09 at 3:07 am

U.S., 2nd tier state university, but still research intensive.

It varies by department, but my department (history) just went down from a 2-3 to a 2-2 course load, which means two courses (15-90 students depending on level & popularity) per 16-week semester (that’s calendar weeks — we lose a week per semester due to holidays and another week for exams, so it’s 14 weeks of classes) @ 2.5 class hours per class per week, plus office hours. Pretty much no T.A.s (the few we have are reserved to help the term faculty [non-tenure track, hired to one- or three-year contracts] who teach 4-4 loads of the introductory surveys).

In addition, there are a variety of independent readings courses that Ph.D. students are required to take to prepare for their exams in their various fields (I usually have 2 per semester or so, which meet for about 2 hours every other week; sometimes I can combine the meetings other times I can’t), and supervising dissertations (which is hard to break down into a per-semester kind of deal; I currently have three students, who need advising and feedback ranging from none for a couple of months to intensive and constant for weeks at a time, depending on what’s going on with them). This work varies widely by field of specialization (nearly all of our Ph.D. students are Americanists, so the burden falls more heavily on us than on our non-U.S.-focused colleagues). These duties are not officially tallied in any way — some people do a lot, some people don’t do any.

Overall, although some elite schools have lighter loads, this is (and is designed to be) a relatively light and research friendly teaching load for the U.S. It’s pretty much standard for research intensive schools, but it’s much lower than average in the profession as a whole (particularly if you include the large numbers of non tenure track faculty whose labor is being sweated). Maintaining this load depends on research productivity: junior faculty automatically receive the 2-2 load, but senior faculty get reviewed for research productivity every three years to set their load, which can range from 2-2 to 3-3; but the expectation is that everyone except special cases should be doing enough to stick with the 2-2.


Bill Gholson 03.26.09 at 2:11 pm

I teach at a regional, four year university in southern Oregon, USA. You might be astounded at my teaching load, but I thought I would add mine for your information. We have around 5,800 students , most all undergraduates, but we do have a smattering of master’s students in small programs thoughout the disciplines. We are one of a minority of universities which teach on the quarter system. We have three ten week terms; summer term is not administered through departments, but some faculty teach a course or run a program in the summer. Some publication would be nice, especially at the professor level, but our teaching expectations are so high that the university finds itself approving a wide range of activities which might count in the traditional publication part of professorship. Our teaching load is three courses per term or nine courses per year. We are expected to carry an advising load of around 20 students.


Sid 03.26.09 at 4:26 pm

Hong Kong, engineering. Average teaching load here for research faculty (at least in my particular department) comes to ~4 hours a week, 26 weeks a year (= 2.5 courses over 2 semesters a year), TAs to grade everything. Anywhere from ~1-6 RAs (independent of teaching load). We have it pretty sweet, I freely admit.


anonlawprof 03.26.09 at 7:53 pm

Mid-ranked United States law school: teaching load requirement of 10 credit hours a year, which usually works out to a 1-2 load; in my case, 1 class during one 14-week semester, four hours a week classroom time, 2 classes the other semester, each with 3 hours a week classroom time. Mostly lecture classes, 30-100 students, and though we have no TAs, grading is usually done by one end-of-the-semester exam. Other US law schools may have teaching loads of up to 12 credit hours a year, meaning a 2/2 load. Research requirements, too, but still nothing to complain about.


Bill Phillips 03.29.09 at 11:03 pm

Catalonia, Spain. Universitat de Barcelona, supposedly Spain’s top university. Full time lecturers are supposed to do both teaching and research. Teaching is 6 hours a week plus 2 hours tutorial. Administrative work takes up a great deal of time and pay is low. Expenses (conference fees, travel etc.) are unpaid unless directly tied to an officially approved ministry research project. Advising PhD students with their disserations is usually unpaid. Not surprisingly some students find it difficult to get an advisor. Many lecturers are part-time and VERY badly paid – between 150 and 550 euros a month, although their teaching and research load may be virtually the same as tenured lecturers.


chris 03.30.09 at 12:06 am

Philosophy, good but not great SLAC; all B.A. and B.S.

Normal 3/3 load over two 15 week semesters. In my dept, we typically each teach 3 intros a year, capped at 25. Upper level course have the same cap and frequently fill up. Seminars are 15 (one offered per year). Some departments have cut better deals over time and have lower caps; some just don’t attract as many students. Most courses are either 3 times a week for 50 minutes or twice for 75.

Chairs get load reductions to a max of 2 for the biggest departments. Scholarship is expected, especially for merit pay – definitely for tenure and promotion. Lots of college service in addition to ‘being avalaible’ for students.

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