My department is focused on teaching. We teach 6 classes/year with heavy undergraduate mentoring. It actually feels like teaching 8 classes per year. I know that there are grants "designed" for teaching institutions (RUI at NSF, for example), but to be eligible my institution has to be officially a PUI (primarily undergraduate institution). By all measures my department would qualify (no masters/phd degree), but other departments in the university are research active, so we are an R2 institution.

Furthermore, the university has been heavily pushing to be considered an R1 institution. They are giving a lot of resources (time/money) to these research-active departments. People at the teaching-intensive departments are at a significantly disadvantage since our research is less intensive, so we never get the internal grants.

When I talk to the administration the conversation goes like this (not literally):

They: ..., we support your efforts to get grants.

Me: It is difficult to get grants due to the heavy teaching load.

They: People at (teaching department at another university) get grants.

Me: They qualify as a PUI.

They: That may help them, but if your proposal is good, it will get funded.

Me: To do good research I need the time to do it.

They: You can apply for internal grants to get seed funding/time.

Me: Most of my department applies, but we are not funded. It is difficult to get internal funding when competing with people in other areas that have more time for research.

They: Then you can apply for external funding, we support your efforts to get grants....

In summary, I work at an undergraduate department, but due to funding agencies rules, I am considered to be at a research intensive institution. Also, I have applied for grants, and colleagues at panels told me (in confidence) that other weaker proposals were funded because they got the PUI classification. My research was not considered strong enough (for a research intensive institution).

Has anyone had this experience?

How can I maximize my chances to get INTERNAL funding when competing with people that have much more time for research?

How can I maximize my chances to get EXTERNAL funding when competing with people that have much more time for research?

  • 9
    Start applying for faculty positions elsewhere.
    – JeffE
    Jul 30, 2017 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


A few thoughts -

One is that extramural funding is more about gaining prestige from your institution than actually resulting in a net revenue gain to your University. See this article from the American Association of University Professors website for an explication of the ways in which the focus on extramural funding harms universities.

That said, if your tenure and promotion system is based on securing external funding and/or having time to do research, then you probably still have to play that game even if you know that it's harmful to the university in the long run. One thing I'm thinking is psychological research about locus of control; if you believe that you are in control of your own success or failure it's been shown that you put more effort into and consequently have better performance than if you believe that others control what happens to you and that what you do doesn't matter. It does sound like the system is rigged against folks in your situation, but nonetheless, you can still do your best to put together a competitive application - have folks read over your applications, look at other people's successful applications, etc. Perhaps there's an office or staffperson on campus that helps with applications for external funding that could be a resource?

Finally, it sounds like there are some more systemic issues about courseloads and advising loads being too high. These seem like great things to raise during faculty union meetings or to bring up to your Academic Senate representatives - you're probably not the only one feeling this way, and if you can open up a conversation with other faculty maybe there are some changes that can be made in the way things work. Here's a case study about how faculty unions dealt with this in Ohio that might offer some inspiration for taking collective action.


This is one of those situations where there is strength in numbers. If you're the only one complaining, it's likely little will change. However, if you and your other colleagues in "teaching-intensive" departments collectively make noise about the issue, you're much more likely to force action on the part of the university.

In the meanwhile, you have to do the best you can with your given situation. Unless you were lied to about your expected teaching duties and other obligations, you know what you have to do for tenure. Making sure that it gets done should be your top priority while you're there (and possibly looking for other positions).

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