Human Resources Division

Research grants and Voluntary Research Agreement process

This procedure has been introduced for use in exceptional circumstances, to provide a route whereby a retired academic can act as the Principal Investigator (PI) under a grant without remuneration.

There are a number of different circumstances where this may be appropriate, the list is not exhaustive. For example, a retired individual may be the only person who can attract funding to the department, enabling a line of research and research team to be maintained or the individual may indicate themselves that this is an option they would like to pursue. Other circumstances could include those identified in the succession plan not being ready or available to take on the role until a later date; or it not being appropriate or possible to recruit internally or externally a successor; or the extension beyond retirement age application not being granted.

Each application will require the department and school to justify why this procedure is being followed in preference to other standard routes (e.g. extension to retirement or recruitment for example).

Application for VRA

  1. At the outset the Head of Department should contact their School HRBM who will support the Institution throughout the application.
  2. The fit of the grant to the strategic plan of the Department should be considered.
  3. As part of performance review/pre-retirement, exploratory discussions should take place with the individual on whether they and the department is willing and able to consider this is as an option. This should include if they would be prepared to sign a VRA and operate in accordance with its terms summarised below:
    1. It is for a fixed term, unpaid and is not a contract of employment and therefore they are not an employee of the University.
    2. It relates to the carrying out of research on a voluntary basis pursuant (details of grant).
    3. They are not obliged to do any work.
    4. Heath and safety policy and other policies.
    5. Intellectual property policy.
    6. Compliance reviews and audits.
    7. Undertaking the role of voluntary research in exchange for access to University facilities to complete the research.
    8. Title: Voluntary Director of Research.
    9. There will be a gap of two weeks between formal retirement and data of the VRA commencing.
  4. Head of Department reads guidance on risks involved.
  5. If the individual is willing to proceed, they complete a RETAF 3 and CV and forward documents to the Head of Department.
  6. Head of Department receives RETAF 3 and considers the decision making criteria listed in the application for Voluntary Research Agreement (RETAF 4); this is done in consultation with relevant funding body, department, school and individual. The department will need to ensure that the sponsor of the grant/contract is happy to accept an application from a retired PI.
  7. Head of Department completes the form and forwards it to the School Needs Committee or other relevant body for authorisation with written recommendations, RETAF 3 and CV.
  8. Where one or more criteria cannot be met, an explanation should be provided either on the application form or as a separate attached document.
  9. The School Needs Committee will need to be satisfied that:
    1. All criteria are satisfactorily met and that where one or more criteria is not met that this does not pose a material risk or disturbance to the Institution.
    2. The process and criteria are being applied consistently across the departments.
    3. That the area of research is in line with the strategic plan of the School.
    4. That the number of VRAs' in the School and Department is at a level where the potential financial and management risk is deemed to be manageable.
    5. That mitigating actions have been put in place to reduce the impact in the event that the individual is unable or unwilling to continue operating under the VRA.
    6. Other members of staff are not disadvantaged due to this arrangement.
  10. The minutes of the School Needs Committee meeting and a written recommendation from the Chair of School, plus RETAF 3, RETAF 4 and CV should be forwarded to the HR School Team Administrator to process via the HR Committee concurrently with the Research Policy Committee. This information will be ultimately received by the General Board.
  11. On receipt of outcome from the General Board, via the School HRBM. Regardless of outcome, the Department Administrator processes the individual as a leaver in CHRIS to terminate employment. The leaver reason of retirement must be used so that the individual can draw their pension. Please see Leaver Administration for further information on processing leavers.
  12. A copy of the minute of approval from the General Board must be forwarded to the Research Office at grant application stage, as without this information, the Research Office will not submit an application for a grant or start processing a contract without it. For this reason, it is recommended this process is started well in advance of the application. Any offers made to individuals prior to grant approval should conditional.
  13. Where approval is granted for a VRA by the General Board, the department will liaise with HR compliance team on any checks (CRB, ISA etc) that are required to be initiated.
  14. The VRA can only be issued by HR only once confirmation has been received from the Research Office that the grant has been awarded and this will be sent to the Department Administrator to forward to the individual concerned.
  15. The Department will have to make arrangements for the individual to be re-established with access to their email, and file access, Jackdaw, security cards etc as this will be withdrawn when they are made a leaver on CHRIS.
  16. The individual receives VRA with covering letter and following retirement and a break in service, undertakes grant activity while drawing pension.

Termination of VRA

  1. Three months prior to termination of the VRA, the individual will receive confirmation from the HRBM of the termination of the agreement. The Department must process the individual as a leaver in CHRIS. Please see Leaver Administration for further information on processing leavers.
  2. Alternatively, if notice has been given by the individual or that they are unwilling or unable to continue, the Department must process the individual as a leaver in CHRIS.
  3. The Department will be responsible for ensuring that all University property is returned and that the individual's access to emails, security passes etc is terminated.

Extension of VRA

  1. The Department would have to reapply and follow steps 1 to 13 in the application and approvals process.