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The GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:
1. The General Board's Annual Report on the establishment of personal Professorships and Readerships was published on 29 July 1998 (Reporter, 1997-98, p. 963). In addition to making recommendations for promotions from 1 October 1998, the Board informed the University that in their view the revised annual procedure for the consideration of applications for promotion, which was followed for the first time in the 1998 exercise, should continue to operate until amended either in the light of experience or on the recommendation of the Syndicate whose establishment has been proposed and whose terms of reference would include promotions procedures (see Reporter, 1997-98, p. 575). The Board also undertook to publish early in the Michaelmas Term a Report announcing the dates for the 1999 exercise and the modifications of the procedure which they wished to propose, partly in the light of advice received from Faculty Promotions Committees and the General Board's Committee, and partly to take account of the carrying forward of information from the 1998 exercise. The present Report contains the Board's proposals on these matters.
2. The General Board's Annual Report on the establishment of personal Professorships and Readerships was discussed on 13 October 1998 (Reporter, p. 65). The Board take this opportunity to comment on the remarks made at that Discussion.
2.1 In response to Dr Laming's remarks the Board wish to stress that the outcome of the promotions exercise depends fundamentally on the exercise of collective judgement based on evidence provided by referees' reports. The process is essentially one of peer review. Referees are chosen because they have appropriate knowledge of the subject in which the applicant has made a contribution and are therefore able to comment with authority. Dr Laming suggested that in their notes of guidance the General Board had instructed Faculty Committees 'not to examine the content of an applicant's publications', but this misrepresents the Board's point. The Board's intention was to stress that, while some members of a Faculty Committee may have personal knowledge of a candidate's work, they should not allow this knowledge (which may be incomplete) to outweigh the opinions of the referees, who have been chosen as experts in the field. With regard to the points relating to appeal, the Board remain of the view that an Appeals Committee should consider only those appeals that are made on grounds concerned with the rectification of errors or faults in the procedure or in the documentation.
2.2 Professor Dumville urged that an applicant should be permitted to apply for a Professorship and a Readership in the same exercise. The Board have considered whether the procedure for 1999 and subsequent years should be amended to allow this. They remain of the view that University officers should be allowed the choice of applying for a Professorship or a Readership, but not both, and that there should be no default consideration for a Readership of an officer whose application for a Professorship is unsuccessful. The Board wish to add that a change along the lines suggested by Professor Dumville would be a significant departure from present practice at a time when experience of the scheme is still very limited.
2.3 In response to Dr Evans's specific point about the need for differential criteria for Professorships and Readerships, the Board have agreed to publish in their revised guidance statements which provide for prospective applicants, for referees, and for Committee members an understanding of the context in which the criteria relating to Professorships and Readerships are applied.
2.4 The Board recognize Professor Dumville's concerns with regard to the timetable for the exercise. They do not wish to delay the 1999 exercise, but will give further detailed consideration to possible ways in which the timetable might be improved; in particular, they intend to review the length of time allowed for the conduct of the exercise and the length of the interval between successive exercises.
2.5 Professor Dumville suggested that confidentiality presents a problem: Forms 4 and 5 are marked 'Strictly Private and Confidential', yet feedback is presented in terms of Form 5. The Board wish to emphasize that the whole process is confidential and that nothing should be disclosed to those who are not members of Promotions Committees. The Board have agreed that certain documents may be disclosed to applicants but these documents remain confidential and should not be disclosed to third parties.
2.6 With regard to Professor Dumville's point concerning applications received by the General Board's Committee as the result of an appeal, it is essential to the process that all applicants should be treated in the same way. This requires the General Board's Committee to have access to the documents considered, and the recommendations made, by Faculty Committees in the case of each applicant. That in turn makes it impossible to withhold from the General Board's Committee the information that a particular application was forwarded as a result of a successful appeal.
2.7 With regard to Dr Evans's remarks, some of the points that she raised have been dealt with above, while others have been covered in the revised procedure (see the Annex to this Report).
2.8 Dr Evans made a number of assertions concerning the conduct of individual officers in the 1998 exercise. The General Board do not believe that it is appropriate to comment on these assertions in the present context.
3. The General Board now recommend that the procedure for the 1999 exercise and for exercises to be held in subsequent years should be as set out in a revised version of the 1998 Yellow Booklet. The text of the revised booklet is reproduced in the Annex to this Report and, if the procedure is approved by the Regent House, copies will be circulated to Faculties and Departments. Since in the Board's view continuity is an important feature of the annual promotions exercise, they recommend that the procedure should remain essentially as it was in the 1998 exercise. The revised booklet incorporates the additional advice issued during the 1998 exercise, as well as an account of the procedure to be used for the consideration of appeals. Other changes in the booklet are mainly intended to clarify the procedure; they are as follows:
3.1 The context in which the assessment criteria will be applied
The revised booklet contains brief statements describing the qualities that Professors and Readers are expected to show. These are intended to assist prospective candidates when deciding whether or not to apply for promotion, and also to assist referees when writing their reports, as well as the members of Committees involved in the process.
3.2 Applications for Professorships from eligible University officers not holding Readerships
Under the procedure recommended by the Board it is specifically stated that applicants may apply for promotion to a Professorship or a Readership, but not both in the same exercise, and that there is to be no default consideration if a person not holding a Readership applies for a Professorship and is unsuccessful. This represents a confirmation of the policy adopted in the 1998 exercise. The Board believe that more experience of the operation of the scheme is needed before a possible change in this policy can be considered.
Criterion (g) 'an effective contribution to teaching' has been expanded to refer explicitly to both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in this University (see Annex, paragraph 5.4).
3.4 Numerical representation of levels of evaluation
To avoid the possibility that the evaluation process might be misinterpreted as a points system instead of a ranking system, the numbers used in the 1998 exercise have been replaced by letters (see Annex, paragraph 5.5).
3.5 Appeal procedure
The appeal procedure proposed is that used in the 1998 exercise for appeals from decisions of Faculty Committees, with the addition of a similar procedure after the General Board's Committee have made their recommendations. The Board recommend that applicants should be entitled to appeal from decisions of the Faculty Committee only if the latter have decided not to forward their applications to the General Board's Committee.
3.6 Interdisciplinary/interfaculty candidates
More explicit guidance is given in respect of interfaculty/interdisciplinary candidates, as follows:
(i) Interfaculty candidates
In the case of officers who have duties formally assigned to more than one Faculty, it is proposed that the Faculty Promotions Committee should, as a matter of course, seek a statement (similar to that provided on Form PP3/PR3) from an appropriate person in the other Faculty concerned.
(ii) Interdisciplinary candidates
Candidates who consider that their work is of an interdisciplinary character should explain in their personal statement why they take this view. The Faculty Promotions Committee must decide, giving reasons, what action is required; this could take a variety of forms, including the use of additional referees, and seeking advice from another Faculty's Promotions Committee on the choice of such referees.
3.7 Members of Faculty Promotions Committees
In the 1998 exercise, the General Board required that each Faculty Committee should include a minimum of five Professorial members, including the General Board member and the Chairman, and that Faculty Boards should appoint additional external Professorial members to achieve this minimum number. It is now proposed that there should normally be a maximum of nine members on a Faculty Promotions Committee.
3.8 General Board's Promotions Committee
The procedure proposed is that used in the 1998 exercise, with one addition: applications are to be considered initially by two Sub-committees of the General Board's Committee, one for Arts and Humanities (chaired by one of the Pro-Vice-Chancellors), and one for Science and Technology (chaired by the Vice-Chancellor).
3.9 Material available through the feedback arrangements
In the 1998 exercise candidates had the right to see the documentation relating to their applications, with the exception of references and the statement submitted by the Head of the Department or the Chairman of the Faculty Board (Form PP4/PR4). The Board now recommend that candidates should not have access to form PP2/PR2 (the list of referees nominated by the Faculty Committee). The reason for this is that in the Board's view confidentiality is essential if referees are to continue to be willing to serve and to provide the kind of detailed informative appraisal that is fundamental to the evaluation process.
4. The General Board recommend:
I. That approval be given to the procedure proposed by the General Board in this Report, and in the Annex to the Report, for the consideration of applications for promotion to personal Professorships and Readerships in 1999 and future years.
II. That the General Board be given authority to make such changes in the procedure as they consider necessary from time to time for the proper management of the promotions exercise.
21 October 1998
|ALEC N. BROERS, Vice-Chancellor||JOHN A. LEAKE||A. C. MINSON|
|JOHN E. CARROLL||PETER LIPTON||MICHAEL PEPPER|
|D. A. GOOD||N. J. MACKINTOSH||ADRIAN POOLE|
|D. E. L. JOHNSTON||D. H. MELLOR||K. B. PRETTY|
The Annex to this Report is not included in the online version of the Reporter. It is included in the paper copy, and will be distributed to Faculties and Departments in due course.
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Cambridge University Reporter, 30 October 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.