We are already in the middle of September. The annual reviews are finally behind us, the Head’s Report has been submitted and modules are way underway. Finally, I am having an opportunity to sit down and reflect on some of the issues that have been coming up from various quarters.
My goal here is to explain some of these issues as a way to foster open communication and also as a way to to invite dialogue from the various stakeholders of our Department. These are also teasers for you to start thinking about in preparation for our Departmental meeting.
One of these issues is the question of Student to Faculty Ratio (SFR). Questions regarding SFR have come up from various quarters, including recently a student from our “Online Journalism” module writing to ask about SFR. That we have engaged students who care about their curriculum and seek to turn curriculum and instruction-related issues into topics for their Journalism modules is a very healthy sign.
So what exactly is SFR?
As one would speculate, it is the ratio between the number of students served by faculty instruction. The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students taught by CNM modules divided by the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff in CNM generates the SFR for CNM.
Now, one student in a module equates to 0.2 FTE, meaning that 1000 students in CNM modules would translate into 200 FTEs. Also, different members of our teaching staff count differently toward the faculty total. Tenure track faculty count as 1.00 and so do Instructors and visiting fellows. Teaching Assistants count 0.3 and adjunct faculty count 0.2 as well. Once all the additions are done, the total student FTEs generated by CNM divided by the total teaching staff FTEs at CNM provide the SFR.
So what has happened with our SFR at CNM and why pay attention to it?
Over the last year, our SFR has gone down. What this translates into is that we are not serving as many students per teaching staff as we used to. There are a couple of reasons for this: (a) our student numbers have gone down, and (b) we have grown in our faculty FTEs. In many ways, this is a sign of our growth as we have become a large Department from where we started as a small program. SFR is important because ultimately for resource allocations and evaluation of strategic directions, it becomes vital to see where our student demands are. So I see this opportunity as a good way for us to have a conversation.
How do we address the SFR issue?
The two ways to address and stabilize the SFR are to (a) increase the student numbers and (b) cut down on the faculty growth. CNM is on a growing trajectory and we want to be seen among the best globally. To get there, option (b) is not a choice as we will need to hire senior faculty that continue to contribute to our research visibility and strong teaching mission. So, we have to move the route of option (a), which means that we need to be strategic about how we promote CNM and consider the attractiveness of the modules we offer for students within CNM as well as for students across NUS. Our growth as a Department rests on our ability to attract students into our modules and major.
I invite you to dialogue with me and the rest of the CNM team to suggest your thoughts and ideas regarding ways to grow CNM!
I am looking forward to working with you in building a robust student-to-faculty ratio that allows us to grow strategically and systematically to becoming a global leader.
Mohan J. Dutta