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What is an FTE, how is it used, and what are the varieties of FTE calculation that you might see in academia?

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    Per the FAQ, "if you believe your post should be converted to a community wiki, you may flag it for moderator attention." Generally more efficient than writing something in the question itself and hoping one of the four diamond moderators happens to read it, although this time it worked :) (Why did you want this to be community wiki?) – ff524 Jan 3 '17 at 1:24
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    I think community wiki is better as I was thinking about this question while walking the dog and realized that FTE practice varies wildly across the various universities I've been at, so an authoritative answer by an individual is difficult to impossible. – RoboKaren Jan 3 '17 at 1:30
  • Even if you selfanswer it I think the quality of the question should be a bit better. If you pretend to not know what the abbreviation stands for you should give some context where it might have been encountered. – Roland Jan 3 '17 at 6:24
  • That's the other reason I community wiki'd. I think the community can fill in a better answer. – RoboKaren Jan 3 '17 at 8:48
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An FTE stands for Full-Time Equivalent and is the unit of calculation for counting faculty positions or student enrollment at a university.

For faculty positions

A 1.0 FTE position is nominally a full-time position for one faculty member. If a department has 4 FTE, then you can expect that it has four full-time faculty at minimum (see adjunct FTEs below).

Split FTEs

Someone may have a split FTE such that for example, half of their FTE belongs to one department and half belongs to another -- e.g., Prof. Alice could be 0.5 Math and 0.5 Computer Science.

The ratio can vary so that Prof. Bob could be 0.25 Physics and 0.75 Geology.

Some spousal hires are structured so that Profs. Alice and Bob are both 0.5 in the same department (or even separate units).

Zero FTEs

Some universities have "zero FTE" positions. This is often used to indicate affiliate faculty. For example, Prof. Alice could be 0.5 FTE in Math, 0.5 FTE in CompSci, but also have a 0.0 FTE slot in Physics.

Adjunct FTE

Adjuncts are occasionally included in FTE but the exact calculation of an adjunct to a regular FTE varies considerably by university.


Other Variations

Bifurcated FTE Ranks: Some universities have separate "senior faculty (tenured)" FTE and "junior faculty (untenured)" FTE calculations, so that a 4 unit program may have 2 senior FTE and 2 junior FTE.

More than 1.0 FTE: Some universities also allow for someone to have more than 1.0 FTE. Since 1.0 FTE is calculated on a 9 month term (in the United States), one could conceivably have up to a 1.33 FTE by working through the summer. The NSF and others often restrict summer salary to .25 so the max under those grants is 1.25 FTE.

For student enrollment

Student enrollment can also be measured in FTE. "FTE enrollment" is computed as the sum of credits carried by all enrolled students, divided by the number of credits in a full-time load at that institution, school, or department.

For example, at the University of Colorado, a full-time undergraduate load is 30 credits a year, and a full-time graduate load is 24 credits per year, therefore

Student Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment (SFTE) = total undergraduate student credit hours in a fiscal year divided by 30 plus total graduate student credit hours in a fiscal year divided by 24

This measure may be used for budgeting, resource allocation between departments or within a department, facilities planning, faculty hiring, and other similar considerations.

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    (since you went with the community wiki approach, I edited this answer to include student FTE rather than posting a new answer, hope that's OK) – ff524 Jan 3 '17 at 2:38

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