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Susanna Wold
The collective responsibility for the teaching at the School of Chemistry raises the quality of education, says Susanna Wold. (Photo: Marc Femenia)

Teachers in Chemistry are sharing equally

“Collective responsibility raises the quality of the education”

Published Mar 13, 2012

More professors and researchers at the School of Chemical Science and Engineering have started to become involved in the teaching. The background is the new staffing system, which led to a more equitable distribution of teaching assignments. The collective responsibility for the education is increasing the quality of the courses, according to those responsible for the reform.

The effects of the system introduced last year have many positive sides, says Mikael Lindström, Dean of the School of Chemical Science and Engineering.

 “We expect the quality of the education to improve; partly because more of the school’s most successful professors are participating. But it is also means a qualitative improvement because we are adopting a collective responsibility for the teaching. It increases awareness as to how the education works which makes it easier to prioritize the courses that are in need of development,” he says.

The old system could be described as being developed over time and had no strategic principles to offer in the form of guidance. It meant that the teaching work was very unevenly spread out. Some teachers taught a lot and in large groups of students, other very little and with too few students.

“The previous system was cumbersome to administer and was perceived as unfair. A system like that does not encourage solidarity and collective responsibility,” says Istvan Furo, professor of physical chemistry and previously responsible for first-cycle education at the School of Chemistry.

Education pays off

Today all teachers work on assignment. But you decide whether or not you want to participate in the teaching. The incentive is a greater proportion of the faculty appropriation. A professor who participates is awarded SEK 600,000 extra and an associate professor, SEK 350 000 extra.  For employed researchers, the system looks a little different; they are only asked if they are needed.

“Almost everybody has chosen to participate in the new system,” says Mikael Lindström.

If viewed over a few years, it means that in principle, the faculty’s teachers will share the teaching assignments among themselves equally. The system does not make a distinction between the assistant professor, associate professor or a professor – all of them should have assignments at both undergraduate and graduate level.

“We are trying to give the assistant professors the opportunity to obtain qualifications by also assuming responsibility for a course gradually; and we see it as added value that professors have exercises and laboratory work also,” says Susanna Wold, responsible for first-cycle education at the School of Chemical Science and Engineering.

The reason behind the system’s introduction was that there were no teachers available for several of the school’s courses. But instead of hiring new staff, we created a system that better took advantage of the teaching resources that already existed. This was possible because all the courses were thrown into a common pot. Today courses are distributed based on a staffing plan that is common to the entire School of Chemistry.

New forms of collaboration are developing courses

“The strength lies in the fact that the staffing system is based on a joint effort rather than being a matter for the departments,” emphasizes Susanna Wold.

Today, no institution “owns” courses any longer, which was previously the case and which could create lock-in effects. Collaboration across departmental boundaries enhances solidarity within the school, and it also creates an understanding of each other’s disciplines and work areas.

The reform has led to increased mobility among teachers. New teacher constellations have emerged in many courses, which led to discussions about how courses were organized and their content and this generated a creative breeding ground for course development.

“In the long term, this will increase the quality of the education. There are both advantages and disadvantages to bringing about such changes. In the short term, it may be a little messy, but in the longer term it will certainly bring about an increase in quality,” says Susanna Wold

To create legitimacy for the staffing system, a vote was organized prior to the change led by former director of education Christofer Leygraf. The results showed that a large majority was in favour of the proposal.

“Even after the introduction of the reform, most people are positive. They feel that the teaching work is of greater value and that the system is safer and more equitable. Many people appreciate the fact that it is a transparent system. All teachers have access to the staffing plan and can see which team of teachers is teaching the courses,” says Susanna Wold.

Text:Christer Gummeson

Footnote:The new reimbursement system for teachers who teach is based on a change in how the faculty appropriation is allocated within the School of Chemistry. No new funds have been added.

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