Over the last week I've learned more about the British Higher Education 'system' than months of previous study. Unlike the US, there is no 'standard teaching load' here. Instead, what is standardised (at least within departments at particular institutions) is teaching hours. On my first utterly jetlagged day in the department, my HoD (that's Head of Department - there are no chairs) gave me the rundown on teaching expectations, and he did so solely in terms of total number of hours.
I wanted to try to put those numbers in perspective, by first presenting a very brief history of my 'total hours taught' at prior institutions. So here goes...
Note 1: teaching 'hours' here, I've found, are rounded up from 50 minute lectures and tutorials, so I've 'rounded up' similarly for US institutions. Thus, 50 minutes = 1 hour here, so 50 minute class periods in the US = 1 hour; 80 minute class periods = 1.5 hours; and 110 minute class periods = 2 hours.
Note 2: this does take ANY account at all of admin work, out-of-class student contact, etc.
- small public liberal arts college, 12 hours per week for 30 weeks = 360 hours
- small private liberal arts college, 9 hours per week for 28 weeks = 225 hours
- large US research university, 6 hours per week for 30 weeks = 180 hours
- UK University, maximum number = 140 hours
Now, what I'm almost too embarassed to even admit is that after explaining that 140 was the maximum (and normal) number of hours for members of staff, he then went on to stress that that was far too many hours for me to undertake in my first year. Thus, I'm teaching significantly less than that this year (and I am too embarrassed to give you the actual number).
I'll withhold commentary, except to mention how much difference is elided in the US, precisely because teaching hours are never mentioned. Let me put it starkly: in the US system, institution #1 and institution #2 have precisely the same amount of teaching, i.e. 'a 3/3 load'.