What do university teachers spend their time doing?


The tasks and weekly work hours of university teaching staff are a constantly topical issue. Although it is in the universities where the majority of research and transfer in Spain takes place, and no one should dispute the importance of science, technology and innovation, there are still sectors in society that identify the work of university teaching staff exclusively with the class hours taught, thus obtaining conclusions that have nothing to do with reality.

For their part, the educational authorities also encourage this debate on the work of university teaching staff by approving educational laws from time to time, generally too brief, in which the maximum teaching dedication of the teaching staff varies.

An objective view

In order to give a fairly objective view of the hours that university teaching staff dedicate to the different activities and to determine if there is a gender gap in any of these, we have carried out a study in which we consider the main tasks carried out by the staff university academic, such as teaching, research and transfer, and management; to which we have added the task dedicated to housework and care (for children and the elderly or dependents).

The information for carrying out the work is based on a survey carried out among the teaching staff of different Spanish universities, which has had 703 participants, 51% women (356) and 49% men (347). To this information we have applied an innovative machine learning technique in this field such as archetype analysis

Archetype analysis

The archetype analysis consists of finding, within the set of 703 data belonging to the people who have answered the questionnaire, a finite set of pure subjects that allow any other of the 703 to be represented as a mixture (or convex combination) of them.

Archetypes are extreme data and are important for understanding the underlying structure of the data set. There is a mathematical technique to determine the ideal number of pure subjects and in our case it is 5.

These five archetypes can be summarized as follows:

  1. A1: dedicates a few hours per week to the activities provided for in the questionnaire.
  2. A2: You spend many hours a week on management.
  3. A3: You spend many hours taking care of people and doing household chores.
  4. A4: You spend many hours on research and transfer.
  5. A5: dedicates many hours to university teaching.


The analysis of the information based on the five archetypes consists of dividing the 703 data into five groups and assigning each data to the group of the archetype to which it most closely resembles.

The most outstanding conclusions of this grouping are, first, that the majority group is defined as A1 (dedicates a few hours per week to the activities provided for in the questionnaire), whose explanation is that a high percentage of teachers work part-time and have another job outside of the University; and, second, that the smallest group is defined as A2 (they spend many hours a week on management), which is also consistent since not all the teaching staff carry out university management tasks.

Differences men and women

However, when we differentiate between men and women in the group, what is most interesting is that the percentage of women belonging to the groups defined by the archetypes A3 (dedicates many hours to caring for people and housework) and A5 (dedicates many hours to university teaching) are higher than the respective percentages of men, the percentage being identical for the A4 archetype (dedicates many hours to research and transfer).

This is so because university professors dedicate an average of 4 more hours a week to teaching supervision, tutorials, and class preparation, despite being assigned the same number of credits on average as professors. This squares with what are called academic homework ; that is, tasks of care and service to the student body in this case, which continue to be more common in women and which fit into the A5 archetype.

Among the full-time teaching staff, the women in the sample work an average of 50.8 hours a week compared to the 47.3 hours a week that men work.

Double teacher profile

Based on the conclusions of this work, we believe that university policies should favor the hiring of full-time teaching staff and fight against the current gender gap present in the work of university teaching staff.

It has also been revealed that in universities there is a double profile in the teaching staff, the exclusively teaching and the teaching and researcher.

Finally, we are of the opinion that attention should be paid to the high number of weekly hours dedicated to work by many people at the university, since this can give rise to researchers and especially accelerated researchers, with the psychosocial risks that this implies.

Author Bios: Ximo Gual Arnau is Professor of Geometry, Irene Epifanio Lopez is Professor of Statistics and Operations Research University and Ismael Cabero Fayos is Assistant Professor of Mathematics Didactics all at Universitat Jaume I