Women teach more after the Quality Reform

Female professors feel that they spend more time teaching after the introduction of the Quality Reform, the Norwegian follow-up to the Bologna Declaration. Women, to a larger degree than men, also say that the reform has changed their methods of teaching.

November 22, 2007

Female professors feel that they spend more time teaching after the introduction of the Quality Reform. Photo: iStockphoto

Female professors feel that they spend more time teaching after the introduction of the Quality Reform in Norway, a reform that can bee viewed as a national follow-up to the Bologna Process. Women, to a larger degree than men, also say that the reform has changed their methods of teaching.

“There are obvious gender differences as to how the academic staff assess their own time usage after the Quality Reform. Female professors in particular say that they spend more time teaching after the reform. This is true within all subject fields,” says Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, researcher at NIFU STEP, an institute for studies in innovation, research, and education.

She has contributed to the paper Kvinners og menns tidsbruk i akademia (Women and men’s time usage in Academia) on behalf of the Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science. The paper is based on data collected during the evaluation of the Quality Reform. These data have previously not been analysed from a gender perspective.

Different priorities

Only within the Humanities do men and women respond quite similarly with regards to time spent on teaching. Within the social sciences and medicine up to 20 per cent more female than male professors reported that they had increased their teaching.

The widest gap is within mathematics, the natural sciences and technology. While 29 per cent of male professors agree that they devote more time to teaching, as many as 57 per cent of the women say the same.

More women than men report that they have changed their teaching methods in the wake of the Quality Reform. This pertains primarily to supervision, written feedback to the students and examination work.

Supports previous findings

It seems that one unintentional gender political consequence of the Quality Reform is that women spend more time on teaching than their male colleagues.

However, the researchers behind the paper point out that these findings are in line with previous surveys. The report Kvinner og menn – like muligheter? (Women and men - equal opportunities?) from 2004 compares numbers from three university surveys carried out in 1982, 1992 and 2001. They show that women consistently have spent more time on teaching, while men have spent more time on research and non-educational activities.

“I cannot determine whether the Quality Reform has spawned greater differences in men’s and women’s priorities on the basis of the new survey. But the finds suggest that the pattern from the previous surveys persist,” says Hovdhaugen.

She wants to emphasise that their report differs from previous surveys in that it is based on the researchers’ own assessment of their time usage, not on an objective survey.

“To gain more insight we must perform a more extensive study. That will show us which changes the Quality Reform has brought about for different groups of academic staff,” she says.

Adjustment to the reform

Hovdhaugen is reluctant to say why female researchers in particular devote more time to teaching after the Quality Reform.

“We have not studies this, so I can only guess. But perhaps female professors have adjusted to the aims of the reform and changed their teaching methods more than their male colleagues have done.”

She explains that the Quality Reform aimed to change the teaching methods in higher education. In accordance with the reform the institutions must give their students more teaching and personal supervision.

“The amount of teaching has increased in scholarly institutions. But we still know little about how the different institutions have handled this – if they have recruited more teachers or if the academic staff devote more time to teaching,” she says.

Unwanted effects

Female academic staff spending less time on research than their male colleagues may explain why women advance more slowly.

The Women in Science committee, which ordered this survey from NIFU STEP, claims that the paper uncovers some unwanted effects of the Quality Reform. They ask the Ministry of Education and Research to implement measures to counteract men and women’s uneven time usage.

The committee will present their views to the Ministry of Education and Research in connection with the new Government Report on training and recruitment of academic staff which is expected in the spring of 2008.

Translated by Vigdis Isachsen

The Quality Reform

The Quality Reform is a large-scale reform of Norwegian higher education which was implemented nationwide in the fall of 2003. With the Quality Reform, the Norwegian government has implemented most of the elements from the Bologna Declaration.

About the paper

The paper “Women and men’s time usage in Academia” explores how female and male academic staff in scholarly institutions divide their time between different work tasks (primarily research and teaching). The report was prepared at NIFU STEP by Erica Waagene, Hebe Gunnes and project leader Elisabeth Hovdhaugen. Agnete Vabø contributed with comments. The Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science financed the report, which is part of a more extensive project on Norwegian research conditions in an international perspective.

From the paper:
“It might be that the Quality Reform increases the differences between female and male academic staff. A new funding system has made the institutions of higher education more dependent on achieving results with regards to credit production and research output. An increase in credit production results in some additional funding. Research output is a zero-sum game; an institution must produce more than all others to increase its disbursement quota (Frølich 2006, 2007). It is possible that these changes might affect the time usage and priorities of the academic staff. This could also have gender political consequences, in that it increases the differences between female and male academic staff in the university and college sectors, but time will show.”