How to encourage academic staff to engage in research when they have high teaching workloads

Encouraging university lecturers to write funding bids can be challenging, particularly when they have a high teaching and administration workload.

While writing funding proposals is an essential part of academic research, it can be difficult to motivate busy lecturers to prioritise this activity.

In some cases, lecturers may appear to be resistant to cooperating, making it even more challenging to achieve funding goals. In many cases the perceived resistance is a legitimate defence against all of the other demands that are made upon academic staff.

Universities are measured on their quality of student experience as well as the quality of research and it is challenging for academic staff to balance these objectives sustainably.

However, with the right strategies and approach, it is possible to overcome this challenge and encourage lecturers to find ways to publish research and write successful funding bids.

Understand the barriers

Before addressing an academic, it is essential to understand the root cause of their reluctance.

Common reasons for resistance might include lack of interest or motivation, feeling overwhelmed with other responsibilities, or a lack of confidence in their abilities. By understanding the specific concerns of the lecturer, you can tailor your approach to be more effective.

One way to understand the resistance is to have a conversation with the lecturer. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their concerns. By doing so, you can get a sense of what might be preventing them from writing a funding proposal.

Additionally, reviewing previous proposals, feedback received, and reviewing the types of grants available may help you to identify specific obstacles.

Address concerns

Once you have a better understanding of the specific concerns, you can work to address them.

If the lecturer is feeling overwhelmed with other responsibilities, consider offering to reduce their workload or provide additional support. This could mean finding ways to adjust their teaching or administration responsibilities or providing additional research support.

If the reluctance is due to a lack of confidence, consider offering training or mentorship to help build skills and expertise. Work with the lecturer to identify specific areas where they could benefit from additional training or support. You might offer workshops, training programmes, or one-on-one mentoring/coaching sessions to help them build the skills necessary to write successful funding proposals.

Provide incentives

Providing incentives can be an effective strategy to motivate lecturers to engage.

This might include recognition or rewards for successful funding bids, such as protected time on a workload plan or preferential access to additional research funding.

By providing tangible incentives for proposal writing, you can help to motivate even the most resistant lecturers to prioritise this important activity.

Another incentive might be to recognise the benefits of funding for the department or the university. Such benefits can make it easier for academics to meet institutional objectives while engaging in stimulating research activities.

Inspired academic management create cultures that value funding bids as an integral part of academic research. Managers who have coaching conversations with their academics on a regular basis are familiar with celebrating staff research successes.

Genuine and sincere praise goes a long way when managing people to achieve greater things.

Seek alternate solutions

It may be necessary to seek alternate solutions to achieve funding goals.

This might involve partnering with other researchers or departments, or seeking external funding sources.

By exploring alternative solutions, academics can continue to pursue their research goals and make meaningful contributions to their institution.

Escalate the issue

If there is a track-record of persistent resistance from an academic it may be necessary to escalate the issue within the institution.

This might involve speaking to the Human Resources department to discuss the situation and determine the best course of action. In some cases, disciplinary action may be necessary to ensure compliance.

However, it’s essential to approach this option with care and caution, as such procedures invariably damage working relationships. Consider working with the academic to develop a plan that addresses their concerns while meeting funding goals.

A collaborative approach is generally more effective in the long term.


Managing resistant behaviours when encouraging university lecturers to write funding bids can be challenging, but there are strategies you can use to address the issue.

By understanding the specific concerns of the lecturer, addressing those concerns, providing incentives, seeking alternate solutions, and escalating the issue if necessary, you can help to overcome such challenges and ensure that your institutional funding goals are achieved.