Workload Relief for Externally-Funded Research Projects Guidelines


These guidelines apply to all staff at the University


This document provides guidance on the provision of workload relief where academic staff have obtained external research funding.


  • Distribution of salary savings
  • Examples of application of salary saving
  • Planning and reporting requirements for researchers
  • Research contracts
  • Workload relief


Distribution of salary savings

Where a portion of academic staff salaries are funded through research contracts, the resulting salary savings should be distributed in the following way:

  • 40% to be made available to the academic head to provide generic workload relief.
  • 40% to be made available to the staff member whose salary is funded by the research contract, to provide targeted workload relief (arranged through, and in consultation with the Academic Head).
  • 20% retained by the faculty to invest in initiatives to support research activities in the faculty, including stabilising the employment of research staff on short term contracts between grants.

The salary savings distribution model should be applied when the following conditions are met:

  • The research contract includes funding to cover the salaries of academic staff who will be working on the project, and whose employment is funded through Vote Education (usually permanent academic staff)
  • The research contract was awarded in 2012 or later (except in the Faculty of Science where this distribution model has been applied since 2011)
  • The research contract is administered via the Research Office (note that this guideline does not apply to contracts administered via UniServices )

This distribution model is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Diagram salary savings

Examples of application of salary savings

By Department:

Suitable application of the funds might include tutors, graduate teaching assistants, etc. who will provide workload relief to all academic staff in the department, and help ensure some year-on-year stability in the departmental expenditure on workload relief.

By Researchers:

The objective is to provide researchers with the flexibility to make arrangements that will best enable them to dedicate the required amount of time to the project as specified in the research contract. The options may involve targeted workload relief, with the agreement of the Academic Head, such as:

  • Research assistance, e.g. Research Assistants, technicians, Postdoctoral Fellows
  • Support for research management and compliance
  • Employing teaching assistants and casual contractors to carry out identified teaching duties e.g. lecturing, field trips, laboratories, seminars, marking, and assessment

Where the funds made available by salary savings are greater than those required to provide adequate workload relief to allow the researcher to dedicate the required amount of time to the project as specified in the contract, then the additional funds should be used to enhance research activity in other ways, such as:

  • Furthering the research and career development of staff and students, e.g. travel for overseas research visits, conferences, networking, sending students to work with a co-supervisor at another University, PhD stipend support
  • Direct support for research activities, e.g. buying equipment, consumables
  • Bringing in research visitors

By Faculties:

Funds will be used to invest in initiatives to enhance research activities in the faculty. This might include stabilising the employment of research contract-funded staff (in any department) who are 'between grants'. Faculties are encouraged to give preferential support to stabilising the positions of staff associated with major research groups that generate most of their own salary revenue. If all of the available funding is not required for this purpose, funds should be used to enhance research activity in other ways, as appropriate.

Planning and reporting requirements for researchers

Faculties and large scale research institutes (LSRIs) are encouraged to develop their own processes for approving expenditure by researchers of the 40% of salary savings, and for reporting on this expenditure. The process, used by the Faculty of Science, could be used as a guide and adapted as required

Research contracts           

Almost all major research funding organisations provide funding for research through contracts with the University. Such research contracts typically include a commitment on behalf of the University to dedicate a portion of staff time to a particular project or programme. It is essential that the University ensures that the contracted amount of time is devoted to the work that is specified in the contract.

Workload relief

Academic Heads must ensure that staff who have time contracted to a research project dedicate the amount of time specified in the contract. When a research contract is awarded, the funding in the contract for staff salaries must be used to fund the relevant salaries. This means that the University may have salary savings (money that otherwise would have been spent on the staff member’s salary) which it may use to support workload relief.

Workload relief must be agreed between the Academic Head and the relevant academic staff member at the time that the application for an externally funded research contract or grant is submitted. The agreed arrangements are to be documented on the University’s Workload Relief Agreement Form 

In most cases it is undesirable, both for the discipline as a whole and for the career of the individual academic staff member, that an academic staff member be relieved of all teaching responsibilities for a significant period of time in order to fulfil the requirements of research contracts. Accordingly, Academic Heads and staff are encouraged to explore other options before removing a staff member’s teaching responsibilities, and arrangements for workload relief should ensure that a commitment to teaching is retained. Specifically, no academic will be relieved from all undergraduate teaching for a period of more than three years.

If the contract is awarded with a salary component less than that requested, the revised agreement regarding workload relief must be documented by the Academic Head at the time that they sign off on the revised budget.

Note that this guideline on workload relief does not apply to research supported by internal University funds such as the Faculty Research Development Fund, or external funds that do not support the salary of the researcher(s), because the University is already funding the staff member’s time to undertake this research and there are no salary savings involved.


The following definitions apply to these guidelines:

Academic head means the Head of the relevant Department/School/Research Centre/Institute or other academic unit

Large scale research institutes (LSRIs) refers to the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and the Liggins Institute

Research Contract only includes externally funded research contracts that are administered via the Research Office. It does not include externally funded research contracts that are administered via UniServices

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

Vote Education refers to the funding allocated by Government to the education sector including tertiary education

Key relevant documents

Include the following:

Document management and control

Content manager: The Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Owner: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Approved by: Vice-Chancellor

Date approved: December 2014

Review date: December 2016