WAMM - Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do we need a Workload Allocation Model?

The Workload Allocation and Management Model (WAMM) has been introduced in response to the fact that the Higher Education environment has changed dramatically over the past few years and is likely to continue to change -  the Higher Education  White Paper,  additional regulatory  reform in Wales,  and  now Brexit all put new competitive, regulatory and financial pressures on the HE sector. 

 It is therefore important that the University can be flexible enough to adapt to this environment.  Increased visibility of workloads at departmental level allows equitable balance of workload and  to focus available resource where it is most needed.    

Most universities now do have some kind of Workload Allocation.     It is an expectation now of government and policy makers that universities have access to this information (e.g. WAMMs are being mentioned with regard to the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) Statutory Return which is essential for the University to be able to attract research funding:   changes to returns submitted to the Higher Education Statistics Agency around staff hours spent teaching may depend on linking to an internal system. 

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which is coming into force , in a phased way, from 16/17 will also require increased visibility of teaching activities.  It is therefore likely that any HEIs which do not already have a workload model will be required to introduce one. 

2. When is the WAMM being introduced?

The WAMM is currently live and data can be entered by those with access.  It is being formally launched at the start of the 2016/17 academic year.  However, it is acknowledged that, as the WAMM data begins to be used in earnest some issues and problems may be identified.  Therefore it is anticipated that model will continue to be refined throughout the first year of usage.   

3. Who has access to input data into the WAMM?

The Business Information Systems staff in IS  have access to the WAMM, so as to be able to upload information from Astra and the Timetabling systems, and soon, information from a research grants capture system.  

All Heads of Department, Institute Directors and Institute Managers have been access to the WAMM and have been  invited to nominate any members of staff who they want to be able to enter data on the system.  This could be other line managers within your department  - for instance, group or theme leaders, or could be administrative staff supporting the Head of Department. 

4. Who can view the WAMM?

Individual members of staff can view their WAMM records.

The Planning Department can view the WAMM;  and can produce high level anonymised reports to help support statutory returns etc. 

5. Who is included on the WAMM?

All academic staff are included on the WAMM including part-time and hourly staff, and post-graduate students undertaking teaching.  Administrative and Professional Services staff are not included on the WAMM.

6. Where does the WAMM data come from?

Some for the WAMM data can be automatically uploaded from existing systems.  For example:

  • Module data (lectures, seminars etc.) can be uploaded from Astra and the timetable system
  • Staff details can be uploaded from ABW and ASTRA – who is down in the timetable for teaching each module
  • Student number data can be uploaded from ASTRA  - this provides the WAMM with the important information around student load.  This impacts particularly on workloads in relation to assessment, feedback and Personal Tutoring – where the WAMM load is driven by student numbers.   

Departments can choose to have this information automatically uploaded or to enter it manually. 

Some of the data will also need manual adjustment (e.g. where a module is being jointly taught and the split of teaching and assessment between academics is not clear from the Timetabling system). 

7. What information needs to be entered on to the WAMM?

Administrative roles (e.g. Departmental Director of Research) have to be manually allocated on the WAMM.  It is important that the person entering the data onto the WAMM is aware of any roles or responsibilities that departmental  academic staff have and how many hours this takes up.  This includes recruitment and marketing activities, pastoral roles, membership of university committees etc.   There are drop down lists on the WAMM to help with this.    A full list of roles and activities is available on the tariff list on the webpage.  Departments also have the option to add a free text description where roles or activities are department-specific, and allocate their own tariff hours to these roles. 

8. How is externally funded research entered on the WAMM?

Currently, research projects need to be entered manually onto the WAMM.  The hours given to each project should reflect the hours entered on the  FEC forms which were used at the time the grant applications was submitted.  Currently this information is held by the Research, Business and Innovation Office;  and obligations to grant funders in terms of outputs will have been discussed as part of the PERP meetings.    Longer term this information may be automatically captured via the Awards Management module on ABW.

9. What will the data be used for?

The WAMM data is used as a planning tool for academic departments to help them to balance workload, focus on key areas, and deliver targets and objectives. 

The WAMM data also forms part of the Effective Contribution meeting between the member of staff and their line manager.  Staff should review their WAMM data when completing their Effective Contribution Forms and discuss any issues relating to workload with their Line Managers.  A flowchart which illustrates this process is to be found here Effective Contribution Process - Academic Staff.

10. Can I see my own WAMM data?

Yes.  You will be asked to review your own WAMM data when completing your Effective Contribution Form.  You will also be asked to discuss and agree workload as part of the Effective Contribution meeting;   including bringing to the conversation areas of work which have not been included in the WAMM, adjusting time allocated for certain duties and discussing research allowance.    It is important that the workload is agreed by both the member of staff and their line manager.

If you want to see your WAMM data at other times of year you can request it from your Head of Department.  The WAMM data should be reviewed if there are significant in-year changes (e.g. if a member of staff has to take on more teaching or has won a large research grant).

11. How can I make sure that my WAMM data is accurate?

You should ensure that the person responsible for entering the WAMM data for your department is aware of any roles or activities that you are undertaking with an indication of the number of hours involved.  In most cases you would not be required to inform them or your teaching load upfront as this can be automatically uploaded but you should inform them if anything changes in-year. 

It is also important that a full and open conversation about workload is held as part of your Effective Contribution meeting.  If you have any concerns about this, please contact your line manager in the first instance.  

12. How is the WAMM data categorised?

All WAMM activities and roles are categorised under Teaching, Research or Administration.  There is also a list of standard roles or activities which can be selected from a drop-down list.  Departments can also enter a free text description of roles, for example where a role has a department-specific title. 

13. Who decided the list of activities?

The WAMM Implementation Group has been meeting for the last two years.  The list of activities was originally amalgamated from a  number of Work Load Allocation Models in use around the university, and also in consultation with other universities with WAMMs.   The original list was much longer  - as departments tended to have slightly differing administrative roles, for instance, or different teaching activities depending on discipline.    The current list has been summarised as much as possible.  

14. Who decides how much time should be given to activities?

The WAMM Implementation Group thought a great deal about how prescriptive the time allocated to activities should be  - part of the point of having the WAMM was to develop equitable work load that could be compared between departments. 

However,  given the very different sizes and emphases of departments,  it was thought that flexibility should also be a key principle of the WAMM.  

What the WAMM does now is give the university an idea of the amount of time being spent on key activities across all departments, even if time varies between department. 

The WAMM Implementation Group adapted tariffs from existing WAMMs and decided which roles and activities should carry fixed tariffs and which should be flexible. 

15. Which activities are given fixed or flexible tariffs?

A list of tariffs has been provided for all roles and activities on the WAMM. 

Most Institute and Departmental “roles”  - e.g. Director of Undergraduate Studies – are allowed to be given discretionary tariffs because each Institute is organised differently with different numbers of schemes;  and the same at departmental level where these roles exist.  

For research time, see below. 

Teaching activity is prescribed was follows: the tariff for delivery of teaching activities such as lectures, seminars and practicals is fixed at 1.25 per hour delivery.  The additional 15 minutes is ‘set-up’ time.  There is a separate a separate tariff for developing new modules or substantially revising existing modules.  The tariff for Field Trips is counted in days at 10 hours per day.

Assessment and marking is currently calculated at 1 hour per student per 10 credits.   This will be reviewed regularly during the year;   the WAMM Group felt that it was important to have some prescription here.  Some departments are spending too little time and others too much on marking and giving feedback on work;  also the increased or reduced workload caused by fluctuating numbers of students needed to be captured.    See below, separate question for marking. 

16. What if I need extra time to prepare my modules?

Additional lecture/seminar preparation time can also be added on an ad-hoc basis if required (e.g. if a member of staff has to take over someone else’s module).    It is recognised that different members of academic staff will require differing amounts of preparation time for teaching activities and therefore this has been left as an open tariff to be manually entered by the department as required.  So a flexible, additional,  non-calculated field is included in the WAMM for this purpose – so for instance, an extra 20 hours could be factored in for  the preparation required for a 20 credit module. 

17. What is scholarship time?

All staff with teaching responsibilities should also be given a Scholarship allowance to account for the time keeping up to date on their subject area. The WAMM sets a minimum allowance for this:   200 hours for staff on Teaching and Scholarship contracts;  and 100 hours for staff on Teaching and Research contracts. This allowance recognises that research-active staff will also need time to read around teaching topics which are not their research specialism, but which they are nevertheless required to teach. 

18. How is research time captured on the WAMM?

Externally funded research projects need to be manually entered onto the WAMM and the hours should reflect what is in the FEC form.

All staff  on Teaching and Research contracts are can be given between 200 to 550 hours research time.   Whether this time is effectively funded from internal funds, or external grants, or a mixture of both, is up to the Head of Department.   This is time which can be spent on a range of research activity:  research projects,  writing grant applications, peer review activities, conferences. 

Staff are expected to agree their total research allocation with their line manager (in consultation with the Director of Research or equivalent) as part of the Effective Contribution conversation. 

Research time over and above 550 hours (including externally funded research and the basic allowance of 200 hour) can be given, but this will usually only happen  for large research grants and projects. 

19. What is the relationship between WAMM and the PeRPs?

The Personal Research Plans (PeRPs) will continue to be reviewed throughout the year but will also need to be considered as part of the Effective Contribution meetings.  The targets and objects within the PERP will  help inform the Research allocation on the WAMM.     The flowchart below sets out the relationship between the PeRPs, the Effective Contribution Scheme and the WAMM.

Effective Contribution Process - Academic Staff

20. How is marking captured on the WAMM?

Currently it is an important task for those completing the WAMM to ensure that Marking and Assessment time is included on the WAMM.   Currently Astra does not hold enough information to enable this information to be fed automatically in the system.    Astra will start to hold more assessment information, including assessment type which can start to inform likely marking time,  during 2016/17.   

The marking information is held against each module and current MUST be manually entered by the WAMM enterer. 

The WAMM automatically will calculate an assessment and marking allowance of 1 hour per student per 10 credits, with a sliding scale for more credits. 

The manual intervention  during Marking include:

a)      Whether other people are doing the marking;    it is common practice for others than those teaching on a module to do some of the marking.

b)      The % of the marking to be undertaken by each individual.

21. What about staff on part-time or fractional contracts?

Part time staff are included on the WAMM and the data should be completed in the same way as for full time staff.    For the hours to be taught, the 15 minutes set up time will automatically be included in the WAMM.      Additional time which might be required – for example to prepare a topic,   should also be allocated.    In cases where there is a recommended tariff for a particular activity (e.g. Scholarship) this should be allocated on a pro-rata basis.   Assessment and marking should also be allocated according to the WAMM. 

In some areas of the university there are a relatively large number of staff on fractional contracts,   for instance, in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning.   It is acceptable that hours for these staff are separately recorded, as long as WAMM priniciples are applied.  

22. What about staff on probation?

Staff on probation are included on the WAMM and data should entered in the same way as for other staff.  The individual’s WAMM data should be reviewed in the Probation meetings to ensure that the workload is appropriate to deliver the objectives set out in the Probation forms.


23. What is the relationship between the WAMM and TRAC?

The WAMM and TRAC return both deal with time spent on teaching, research and other activities but the information is used in slightly different ways.  The WAMM data is forward-looking, whilst the TRAC return is retrospective, therefore it would not be expected that the two would exactly match.  The data on the WAMM might also change during the course of the year if circumstances change (e.g. if a member of staff leaves).  However, it should be possible to sense-check the Time Allocation Sheet (TAS) returns against the previous year’s WAMM data.  If there is a significant difference between the two data sets that would indicate that there are some inaccuracies in either the TAS returns or the WAMM.  We are exploring better use of the WAMM in TRAC – many universities are using the WAM only. 

24. What if I don’t agree with my WAMM data?

If you believe that your WAMM data is incorrect or that information is incomplete you should notify the person in your department who is responsible for entering the WAMM data.  If you are unsure of who this is contact wamstaff@aber.ac.uk .

If the data is correct but you have issues with the actual workload you should discuss this with your line manager. 

The annual Effective Contribution Scheme meeting is the most logical place to have this conversation. 

25. What if my workload is over or under departmental norms?

If your workload is significantly above or below departmental norms (and you are confident that the data is broadly accurate) then you should discuss this with your line manager in the first instance.  Consideration should be given as where adjustments can be made to your workload.  Options might include sharing duties with another member of staff, looking at marking load and assessment type, cutting back or increasing on other activities.   Your line manager will also need to engage with the issue of how to deliver on departmental priorities given limited resource. 

26. Where can I find more information?

Further information and guidance can be found on the WAMM webpage https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/pag/WAMM .

If you have any other enquiries contact wamstaff@aber.ac.uk

27. Will I be able to see the WAMM data for other staff?

Occasionally a Line Manager may decide to share the WAMM data between members of staff within their department.  This may be in order to show examples of good practice, or as a way to address issues of high workload or spare capacity.  The Line Manager will ask for an individual’s consent before sharing their data.