Tenure-Track Faculty Workload Policy


September 1, 1999

Revision Date


A 30.03

Revision No.

  1. Policy

    This policy describes the University’s expectations and procedures concerning the workload of tenure-track faculty.

    1. Simon Fraser University faculty have three primary responsibilities: research, teaching and service.

      1. Research responsibilities require faculty to maintain a program of research, scholarship or artistic creativity through which they should aspire to a national or international reputation as scholars and promotion to the rank of Professor.
      2. Teaching responsibilities require faculty to achieve at least a satisfactory standard of instructional competence, to share equitably the annual instructional responsibilities of their departments/programs/schools, to contribute to their department’s/program’s/school’s curriculum diversity and richness, and to foster their students’ critical and creative abilities.
      3. Service refers to the annual contributions that faculty make to university governance, to their profession, to the development of their discipline nationally, internationally or locally, and to the furthering of good relations between the University and the local community.
    2. The University’s expectation is that a normal annual Faculty workload will include contributions from all three areas of activity. Research and teaching will take precedence. Nevertheless, all faculty members shall carry their share of service work and achieve an appropriate balance among all three areas of activity.

    3. For the purposes of defining teaching responsibilities, "teaching" may include any of the following categories of instruction:

      1. undergraduate courses; undergraduate reading and directed studies courses; honours supervision;
      2. graduate courses; graduate reading and directed studies courses; graduate supervision;
      3. courses and instructional activities which are not delivered in the conventional way, such as distance education and extension credit courses, provided such activity does not receive a separate stipend;
      4. instructional development activity.

    4. A normal career path for tenure-track faculty encompasses all three areas of faculty responsibility. However, the particular components of a faculty member’s annual responsibilities may vary, from time to time, as provided for in this policy, emphasizing one component more heavily than another. Nevertheless, over their careers, faculty members are expected to make equally significant contributions to research and teaching, except as provided for in the "alternative career path" models described below.

    5. Each faculty member’s academic year normally will consist of two teaching semesters and a research semester. During teaching semesters faculty members are expected to be active in teaching and service, and are encouraged to be active in research. During research semesters faculty members carry out research, continue to supervise their graduate students, and may be asked to fulfill selected service obligations.

    6. New faculty members who are at the outset of their academic careers may be awarded a reduced teaching assignment during their first full year at Simon Fraser University.

    7. Subject to the provision of A 8 and B 1 (below), Department Chairs, Directors of Schools and Program Coordinators are responsible for assigning a faculty member’s annual teaching load and research semesters, and assuring service contributions to the unit. Chairs/Directors/Coordinators should ensure that assignments accommodate the unit’s curricular objectives, the Faculty’s enrollment obligations and the University’s commitment to support excellence in teaching and research. The assignment of teaching loads normally will result from consultations with each faculty member; however, final responsibility resides with the Chair/Co-ordinator/Director.

    8. A faculty member pursuing a normal career path should expect to teach four regular courses (or their equivalent) annually. Clause 3 above describes the range of activities from which equivalent teaching loads may be defined. Each unit is responsible for establishing specific equivalencies among these activities, subject to Faculty-level guidelines where these have been established, and with reference, where and when appropriate, to the norms of particular disciplines. After consultation and by agreement of a majority of faculty members affected in the unit or subunit, a higher than average unit teaching load may be implemented voluntarily.

    9. Exceptions to the norm described in A 8 (above) are:

      1. faculty with externally-funded appointments, and holders of research chairs funded in part through endowments or other external sources, when the terms of appointment prescribe teaching load;
      2. faculty members who have assumed a leading role in major externally-funded research projects;
      3. new faculty (see A 6 above);
      4. a faculty member whose contributions in research and scholarship over two career progress cycles have been judged by the TPC to be insufficient to justify a normal teaching load and who may be required by the Chair/Director/Co-ordinator to undertake additional instructional or other assignments; and
      5. a tenured faculty member who has negotiated a temporary research-intensive or teaching-intensive alternative career path as provided for in B 2 (below); or a tenured Associate Professor or Professor who has opted for a continuing teaching-intensive alternative career path as provided for in B 3 (below).
    10. Faculty members are responsible for meeting all scheduled classes, for making themselves accessible to students for consultation, on a timely, convenient, and routinely-scheduled basis, and for carrying out their supervisory responsibilities in the best interests of their students.
      Planned absences from scheduled classes that will not result in class cancellations should be communicated to the Chair/Director or designate, well in advance. Unavoidable class cancellations or changes in time and place of class meetings, or the nature of class activities, should be communicated to students expeditiously. The disposition of course material missed through planned or unavoidable absences should be explained to students clearly.

    11. Under certain circumstances, faculty members may "buy out" teaching responsibilities when the source of funds is an external research grant or contract, and where the benefits of the buy-out to the faculty member’s research program outweigh the effects on the unit’s teaching program and its students. A faculty member normally may not buy out more than one course in any academic year. Other limitations may apply (see Study Leave policy). The Dean and the Chair must approve buy-out applications. The minimum cost of one regular course buy-out is 12% of annual salary.

    12. Faculty members are referred to Policy A 30.02 (Trimester Operation Policy), and to Policy A 11.02 (Criteria For Appointment, Promotion, Contract Renewal, Tenure and Evaluation), for additional information on the distribution of workloads and the University’s performance expectations regarding teaching, research and service.
  2. Procedures

    The procedures described below are intended:

    1. to permit each unit to organize annual faculty workloads, especially teaching loads, to suit the unique instructional needs and academic objectives of the unit;
    2. to permit units to use their resources to meet their workloads efficiently, effectively and imaginatively;
    3. to provide a flexible framework that will permit individual faculty members to adjust their workloads, from time to time, to focus more exclusively on particular aspects of their work; and
    4. to permit Departments/Schools/Programs to evaluate faculty members’ contributions to the work of the unit.

    1. Biennially, the Chair/Director/Co-ordinator will consult with each faculty member to develop a two-year work plan (teaching semesters, teaching load, course assignments, service to the unit, research semesters) consistent with the terms described in Part A (above). The purpose of the plan is to ensure that the unit can meet its obligations and commitments in terms of admissions, enrollment and course planning, and its broader academic, research and service objectives. Nevertheless, the Chair/Director/Co-ordinator will have final authority over workloads in general, and teaching assignments in particular (but not individual research agendas), in order to ensure that the department/school/program meets its curricular and enrolment obligations. Plans are subject to modification in the light of changed circumstances.

      It is the Chair’s/Director’s/Co-ordinator’s responsibility to promote equity within units. Similarly, it is the Dean’s responsibility to ensure fairness across departments/schools/programs. Finally, the Vice-President, Academic will initiate periodic workload reviews from a university-wide perspective, taking into account unique disciplinary requirements.

      1. In the case of a tenured faculty member who has achieved the rank of Associate Professor or Professor and who wishes to concentrate his/her activities either in research or in teaching (and related activities) for a period of time, he/she may negotiate a temporary alternative career path with the Chair/Director/Co-ordinator subject to the approval of the Dean. This may involve a reduction in teaching load to concentrate on research, or a reduction in research to concentrate on teaching, instructional development, pedagogical research and the like.

      2. In either case, the faculty member should prepare a formal case for pursuing a temporary alternative career path. For a teaching concentration, this should include an updated teaching dossier and a plan of courses to be implemented or instructional development activities to be pursued. For a research concentration, the case should include a description of the research program and evidence of external funding for the project where appropriate.

      3. For the purposes of this policy, a reduced teaching load means not less than two regular courses (or their equivalent); an enhanced teaching load means not more than six regular courses or their equivalent in other instructional development activities.

      4. A temporary alternative career path should be defined for a period of two years, should be planned a year in advance, and should occur only once in four cycles.

      5. During, and for a year following the termination of, this alternate career path, evaluations of the faculty member for the purposes of rewarding career progress should be based on the achievement of the goals set out in the approved plan of work.

      6. The Chair/Director/Co-ordinator is responsible for assuring that workload arrangements associated with temporary research-intensive career paths will not result in increased responsibilities for other members of the unit.
    2. In certain exceptional cases, a tenured faculty member who has attained the rank of Associate Professor, who has established, over a period of years, a reputation as an outstanding teacher, and whose record of research achievement may not parallel his/her teaching contribution, may be considered for a renewable three-year teaching-intensive alternative career path. In such cases, the review provision described in B 2(e) will apply for the duration of this arrangement.

      An Associate Professor may subsequently seek promotion to Professor through this alternative career path by demonstrating, through disseminated pedagogical innovation and research, evidence that he/she has made a contribution to pedagogy, resulting in an international reputation that would merit promotion under the terms of Policy A 11.02

    3. Tenured faculty who in the judgment of their TPC over two consecutive career progress review cycles have contributed effectively neither as scholars nor as teachers according to the norms of the discipline will be required to undertake a program of appropriate remedial action. Any such program will be developed through consultation among the Dean, the Chair, the TPC and the faculty member. The faculty member may request that an adverse judgment and/or the proposed remedial program be appealed to the Faculty Review Committee.

    4. If, as a consequence of any cyclical review, a faculty member’s career progress might lead to the invocation of sections A 9 (d) or B 4 of this policy after the next cycle, then the responsible DTC/administrator will expeditiously notify the faculty member in writing.


Section 14.1 of the Faculty Association Framework Agreement deals with matters of interpretation of this policy.

Approved by the Board of Governors: September 24, 1998

Superseded Policies:
Effective Date: July 27, 1995
Expiry Date: August 31, 1999