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Introduction and Motivation

The faculty of the College of Science (COS) are dedicated to providing superior educational experiences to our students, and to fostering an academic environment where the pursuit of high quality teaching and research are equally important goals. Within that environment we seek to ensure workload equity, and to maximize the efficient use of our teaching, research, and service resources. This document applies to all COS instructional and research faculty, and is consistent with the Faculty Handbook, University Policy 3008 - Faculty Teaching Loads, University Policy 4012 – Roles and Responsibilities of a Principal Investigator, Mason’s Supplemental Pay procedures and State and Federal guidelines. These guidelines are designed to be in line with workload expectations across the university, and in similar colleges at peer institutions.

General Workload Guidelines

Workloads in the COS consist of teaching duties, research responsibilities, and service activities. A full workload can be expressed as a percentage of working time spent on each element of the workload. The workloads for full-time faculty in COS consist of:

  • Tenure-track and Tenured (focus on both teaching and research)
    • 40% Teaching
    • 40% Research
    • 20% Service
  • Term Instructional Faculty (primary focus on teaching)
    • 80% Teaching
    • 20% Service
  • Term Research Faculty (primary focus on research, typically funded 100% on external funds)
    • 100% Research

Although faculty have significant discretion with the use of their time, these percentages can be used as a guide for weekly performance. In an average 5-day, 40-hour work week a Tenured or Tenure-track professor should expect to spend two full days dedicated to teaching (including preparation, office hours/emails, and class time), two full days dedicated to research activities, and one full day dedicated to service. Similarly, a Term Instructional faculty member should expect to spend four full days on teaching activities, and one full day on service activities every week.

COS Guidelines for 9 Month Full-time Faculty Base Teaching Loads

There are two base teaching loads for full-time instructional faculty:

  1. 2 courses per semester (a 2:2 load) for Tenured and Tenure-track professors
  2. 4 courses per semester (a 4:4 load) for Term faculty

Contractual base teaching loads will not deviate from these norms.

(Note: In the rare cases of pre-existing 12 month instructional faculty positions, the workload is 2 courses per term (2:2:2)).

COS Guidelines for Full-time Faculty Research Expectations

Research expectations can vary significantly across departments and even within disciplines. Given that, specific research expectations must be determined and documented at the departmental level. However, it is expected that research activities will have one or both of the following outcomes:

  • Research publications
  • External funding

Departmental performance evaluations should determine the quality level of the research publications, and the number of publications that are acceptable. Similarly, the quality of the funding agency, and the amount of funding needed to qualify as an active researcher must be determined at the departmental level. (Faculty positions with contractual language for external funding support will be evaluated on this performance measure.) If faculty research productivity is significantly below the norm for more than two years (based on departmental evaluations), adjustments to increase teaching or service workloads should be made at the discretion of the Chair and the Dean.

The amount of research funding (direct and indirect) received by the department and the college should be considered when evaluating research productivity. PIs are encouraged to budget student support on research funding.

Workload assignments involving research on sponsored projects must comply with University, State, Federal and project terms in relation to effort reporting. All research effort should be reflected accurately and match actual effort worked throughout the year. If research is performed – or students funded by the award are supervised – during the academic year (AY), effort must be budgeted and reflected on externally funded projects as AY effort in alignment with policies of the sponsoring agency. Summer effort should be reflected for work performed during the summer, rather than for work performed throughout the academic year. PI effort should be budgeted in proposals and charged to the project when it is worked. (OMB Uniform Guidance 200.430)

Deviations from Base Workloads

Reduction in Base Workload

Reductions in base workload can be made for a limited number of reasons. If a reduction is granted, the reason for the reduction should be documented in departmental and COS personnel files for the faculty member and pre-approved by the appropriate supervising authority within the department’s allocated resources. Reductions should be granted for a limited time, normally no more than one year, and in no case may workload reductions be continued indefinitely.

Partial Appointments

Partial appointments (and concomitant reduction in salary) in the COS are very rare and carry a proportional reduction in workload.

Research Buyouts for Tenure-Track/Tenured Positions

When research funding is available, with prior approval of the Department Chair and Associate Dean of Research, it may be used to reduce a base 2:2 teaching load on the presumption that it will increase research productivity. Buyout requests must be approved in advance by the appropriate Department Chair. The percent of salary which must be received by COS to buy out courses for full time 9 month faculty with a full base load are:

  • 15% of contract salary plus benefits to buy down to a 2:1 load in an academic year
  • 30% of contract salary plus benefits to buy down to a 1:1 load in an academic year 4

Faculty with reduced base teaching loads for reasons other than research activities are still responsible for providing the full amount of external funding supplement listed above to receive a further reduced expected teaching load. In accordance with University Policy 3008, no instructional faculty member may eliminate all teaching duties through course buyout reductions.

(Existing instructional faculty within research centers whose positions were developed and are maintained on 50% ongoing external funds may have a 3 course annual reduction.)


Administrative workload reductions can be received for service as a Departmental Chair or for service in the COS or university administrations.

In accordance with university policy, faculty who serve as the head of a local academic unit (other than Deans/Directors) shall receive a reduction in teaching load of at least one course per semester, but shall maintain a minimum 1:1 teaching load. Departmental Chairs are expected to maintain their research productivity and to serve as advisors and on thesis and dissertation committees. Department Chairs with pre-existing 12 month appointments shall have a 1:1:1 teaching load.

Associate Deans with tenured faculty appointments normally shall teach at least one course per year without additional remuneration and are expected to maintain their research productivity.

Start-up Teaching

It is expected that Tenure-track or Tenured professors will be capable of performing their teaching, research, and service duties from the time they begin their appointment. If a teaching reduction is granted as part of a start-up package, it will be no more than one course release in the first year. In no case will a Term faculty member be granted a teaching release as part of the startup package.

Extraordinary Service with College-wide Impact

Workload reductions for extraordinary service may be negotiated with the Dean, but will be extremely rare. In accordance with university policy, such a release would only be granted where the obligation is significant and labor-intensive, and no single grant of reduction in load shall exceed one year. Although the service may take different forms, it would need to go well beyond typical departmental advising, administrative, or coordinating activities, and well beyond typical professional service.

Increases in Base Workload

Base workloads -- particularly teaching and service workloads -- will be increased if faculty productivity in other areas is found lacking. Specifically, at the discretion of the Chair and Dean, teaching or service workloads can be increased based on:

  • Insufficient research productivity
    • When Tenured and Tenure-track faculty are evaluated each year by the department Chair, an assessment of research productivity should be made
    • If research productivity is deemed to be below average for more than two consecutive years, the faculty teaching load or service load (or both) should be increased 
    • The number of additional courses or additional service activities should be based on the extent to which research productivity is lacking
  • Insufficient service activities
    • If the Department Chair determines that Tenured, Tenure-track and Term faculty are not participating fully in service activities the teaching load should be increased
  • Small class sizes or classes cancelled due to low enrollment
    • If a faculty member has small enrollment numbers over two or more offerings of a particular course, then:
      • The course should be offered less often, or
      • The course or program should be actively marketed by the department to increase enrollment, or
      • The faculty member should take on additional courses o If a course is cancelled due to low enrollment, the faculty member must teach an additional course to make up the difference in the following term

Responsibility for Workload Assignments

On the Dean’s charge, Chairs are responsible for ensuring that faculty workload assignments are met. The Chairs should develop and follow a formal evaluation process that documents workload productivity, and that is consistent with College expectations as expressed in these guidelines. Faculty who are not fulfilling their workload duties have a negative influence on the well-being of the department, the COS, and the university as a whole. Additional resources will not be dedicated to departments where existing faculty are not fulfilling their workload expectations.