In general, a professor teaches basic, intermediate and advanced courses.

The content of basic and intermediate courses is generally based on textbooks. Advanced courses may require recent results. But a course might still have a fixed reference material to teach content from.

Apart from this, the challenging task is to guide PhD researchers. Research progress, in terms of quantity, in some domains is like never before. Programming is also like never before. In order to understand and appreciate the work by researchers, a professor needs to update her familiarity on her student's research topics on a regular basis.

I am presuming that in some domains like machine learning, the workload of a professor is increasing at a greater rate, mainly in guiding her researchers. Is my presumption true?

Note (update): My intention is not to say that teaching is an easy task to do. It may be difficult in the initial days. Once if a person gets enough on a particular course then it is easy to manage the same course for coming years.

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    For starters your first full paragraph is a generalization that is largely wrong… Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 1:08
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    maybe you should read my answer, which shows that your edit is also largely out of step. honestly, those people who “cruise along” as you suggest never updating a course are not the majority. How can you proceed as you suggest if you teach current literature? Do you expect success if your curriculum involves novels you studied as an undergraduate? Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 1:17
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    Somehow your list of tasks of professors does not mention the major point that they also do research themselves. Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 1:30
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    Anecdotally it seems the workload of all professionals continues to increase. Doing more with fewer resources is a pretty common theme, and has been for many years. Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 14:44
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    Programming is involved in a minority of disciplines. Are you asking about those specifically? Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 15:54

1 Answer 1


Teachers who are not actively involved in the learning process themselves, force their students to drink from stagnant water. (Jean-Baptiste de La Salle)

You seriously underestimate the amount of work that goes into preparing a course. Sure, it’s possible to take a textbook and just regurgitate it, but this is not a common strategy except in introductory-level courses and people who do this seek to minimize their teaching load. These days using a set textbook is a surefire way of guaranteeing some level of plagiarism in your class.

Every year, there are new textbooks proposing new problems, new softwares, new demonstration kits. If you put no effort into updating your course, it will rapidly become stale.

Has the workload increased? Not the teaching workload, or even the research workload, but the burden associated with the rest of academic life - useless meetings of all sort, pointless reports to produce, non-sensical committees - this certainly has.

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    (+1) Especially for the last sentence. If I could get back even 10% of the time I spent in committees …
    – Ed V
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 0:56
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    If you're thinking that today's professors have heavy 'service' workloads, you've clearly never read memoirs from professors at 19th century small rural universities. They checked out library books, swept floors, repaired roofs, cooked meals and did laundry for students (or their wives did, unpaid), broke up fights, confiscated alcohol, took students to the doctor or hospital, and so on. Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 4:10
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    I read a book a few years ago with a similar argument as your last paragraph, basically saying that the development is towards constant competition and re-evaluation among researchers (for positions & tenure, funding, etc.) and this means that a substantial part of the work being done (like writing proposals, status reports, and so on) is useless as it doesn't actually help the main objectives, i.e., research and teaching. That could be a direction to look for more quantitative data.
    – cheersmate
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 10:34
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    @cheersmate The self-regulation and -evaluation of the academia has increased through reviews on every level. People do not believe that professors work unless constantly evaluated. They are now guaranteed to definitely work, namely reviewing stuff all the time. (well I am exaggerating, sitting in meetings is another way of making sure they work) Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 10:45
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    Your last paragraph is missing grant proposals. Applying for funding and then managing the projects is a major time sink.
    – user9482
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 10:46

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