How much would a true non-teaching term cost?

One of the issues that the FAUW team hopes to address in the revision process for Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) and Policy 77 (Tenure and Promotion of Faculty Members) is workload, one component of which is a regular non-teaching term for teaching-intensive faculty.

The current Policy 76 includes a provision for non-teaching terms: “…Lecturers shall have the option to have at least one term in six be a non-teaching term.” The interpretation of this clause, however, varies across faculties and even departments. In the faculty of Environment and in several departments in Engineering and Science, the non-teaching term is taken to be a reduction in load in that academic year; other faculties such as Arts, Health, and Math interpret the non-teaching term as a redistribution of load. In this case, lecturers teach their normal annual course load in two terms rather than three.

What lecturers say

Results from the recent FAUW Lecturers Committee survey, which had a response rate of 80%, show that 61% of the 192 respondents had had at least one non-teaching term during their employment at the University. Among these lecturers, 37% had what we’ll call a “true” non-teaching term (i.e., their teaching load was reduced not redistributed) while the remaining 63% had their load redistributed. For the 39% of lecturers who have never taken a non-teaching term, the redistribution of workload was cited as the most common barrier.

In recent faculty consultation sessions organized by the Lecturers Committee, lecturers shared that that having time and resources to fulfil professional development and scholarly work is a high priority. Many lecturers commented that a true non-teaching term would allow them to engage in scholarly activities including curriculum development, professional development, pedagogical research, and staying up to date in their field. There was also discussion around the mental health benefits of a non-teaching term during which lecturers could also take their annual vacation entitlement and recharge.

We should also recall that the University’s current Strategic Plan states that Waterloo strives to be “a people-centered institution committed to genuine care, concern, respect, inclusivity and well-being for all.” These values include commitments “to embed and promote sustainability and foster personal development and supportive environments for mental health and resilience, physical health, social inclusion, belonging and spiritual well-being in campus culture.”

Ensuring that teaching faculty have adequate time to engage in foundational academic activities—such as staying up to date in their fields and planning new courses—as well as much needed personal activities—such as taking vacations— is necessary for UW to fulfil these commitments.

The numbers

So, how much would it cost the University to implement a true non-teaching term for lecturers? Relying on FAUW membership data on lecturers and on data collected from the FAUW Lecturers Committee survey, we’ve come up with an upper-bound cost estimate.


  • True non-teaching terms are given only to lecturers teaching six or more courses each year and who teach in all three terms.
  • The teaching reduction is two courses every sixth term. The only exception is for the Faculty of Arts, where lecturers would get a one-course reduction every sixth term. Arts lecturers received a one-course reduction recently; a second one-course reduction will amount to a two-course reduction, on par with lecturers in the other faculties.
  • As a ‘worst-case’ cost scenario, new lecturers are hired to cover all of the courses from the non-teaching terms, rather than the courses being covered by sessionals or existing tenure-track faculty.
  • Salary estimates for new lecturers are based on starting salaries estimated from the model provided in the 2020 Salary Anomaly Working Group Report. We assume an added cost of 15% to cover CPP, Employment Insurance, pension, and benefits.
  • New lecturers hired to cover courses are assumed to have the following workloads: six-and-a-half courses a year in Arts and five courses a year in all other faculties.
Faculty# lecturers teaching 6 courses per year*# courses needing to be covered per year# new lecturers neededNew lecturer starting salaryEstimated total cost to Faculty per year
Estimated Totals1329318$527,670$1,869,637

Table notes:

* The number of lecturers in this column is estimated from the FAUW Lecturers Committee Survey and University data on lecturers. 

** The Faculty of Environment already interprets the non-teaching term as a reduction in load, so there is no additional cost to this faculty. This is true of some departments in Engineering and Science as well, which would reduce the total estimated cost.

Note that these calculations represent a ‘worst-case’ scenario in which the university uses lecturers to cover courses from non-teaching terms. If, instead, the university opts to hire sessionals to cover courses from non-teaching terms, the estimated total drops to $837,000.

Putting the numbers in context

What does $1,869,637 represent to the university?

  • 0.22% of the University’s income as of February 2, 2021
  • 0.32% of the University’s spending on employee salaries and benefits as of February 2, 2021
  • 2% of the cost of the new $90,000,000 Mathematics 4 Building
  • Roughly the combined yearly salaries of UW’s top 5 earners
  • Roughly 1.4 times the combined yearly salaries of all the deans

Given the relatively modest cost of implementing a true non-teaching term for lecturers teaching six or more courses a year and the immense benefit that it would bring to lecturers across campus and to the improvement of teaching and pedagogy at the University, investing in a true non-teaching term is a win-win for the University and for lecturers.

What you can do

If you’d like to see true non-teaching terms for all teaching-intensive faculty in the new Policy 76, let the University know – perhaps through your dean.

You can also use this form to submit feedback to FAUW’s representatives on the Policy 76/77 drafting committee, or post a comment below to share your own experience with using or needing a non-teaching term.

If you want to learn more about how lecturers use (or would use) their non-teaching terms, read our interviews with lecturers.

5 thoughts on “How much would a true non-teaching term cost?

  1. I have a comment/question about the new lecturer starting salary in Math. Is this number accurate: $105,890? Because I started as a new lecturer in Math very recently and my starting salary was under $80,000. Thanks.


    1. Thanks for asking! The number is an estimate based on the Salary Anomaly Working Group report, not on actual salary data. And it’s a generous estimate including the cost of pension payments, benefits, etc that the University would have to pay in addition to salary.


  2. I’m curious about the 1 course reduction in arts that you mention. When did this occur? I am a lecturer in arts and haven’t heard of this. I teach 7 courses a year regardless of whether I take a non-teaching term.


  3. I would like to put this into perspective by posing the question of “how much do sabbaticals cost?”
    A very rough and extremely conservative estimate is more than $13.6 million a year.

    I think lecturers form 18.3% of 1352 appointments, so we have about 1105 non-lecturer appointments. Let’s assume only 800 of these are tenure-stream to exclude appointments that do not qualify for sabbaticals (generously, 305 faculty members excluded!). Sabbaticals occur every 7 years (roughly), so about 114 members every year. I have assumed that the average salary of the tenure-stream at the rank of associate and higher is about $150k (the first sabbatical usually occurs at the same time as the tenure). Ontario sunshine list confirms that this figure is a low estimate of the average salary of those who would qualify for sabbaticals…. but let’s allow that just to cover colleagues who are not on this list, if such people actually exist. A salary at 80% rate during sabbatical means that it costs UW about $13,680,000/year to fund the salaries for sabbaticals.


    1. I have noticed that the fraction is 85% (not 80%) which increases my very conservative estimate to over $14.5 million. The small error would cover most of the cost for true non-teaching term for lecturers!!


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