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Staff development policy: Academic staff

One of the recommendations of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the 'Dearing Committee') was that universities should review and update their policies for staff development and make information about them readily available to staff. Hitherto, no formal statement of staff development policy for academic staff has been agreed or published in the University, although the General Board have for many years been engaged in the provision and review of staff development activities for academic staff. The General Board have now agreed to publish the following statement of policy, which sets out existing arrangements for academic staff development. The central bodies have under consideration the formulation of staff development policies that will apply to other groups of staff in the University.


The General Board are committed to the support of staff development in institutions under their supervision, both for newly-appointed members of staff and, as continuing professional development, for staff throughout their careers. The Academic Staff Development Committee are directly responsible for advising the General Board on University-wide policy and procedures for academic staff development and for monitoring the implementation of those procedures. Staff development policy and provision are an integral part of the University's mechanisms for quality assurance in the fields of teaching and research.

The institutional context for staff development

The University's achievements are based largely on the contribution, commitment, and achievements of individual members of its staff. The function of staff development is to support staff in the performance of their designated roles and to help them to fulfil their potential during the course of their employment in the University. Staff development makes a positive contribution to the success of individuals and ultimately to the success of the University as a whole. This is important for the University in maintaining and enhancing its national and international reputation in teaching and research.

Many members of the academic staff are engaged in more than one capacity in the University, carrying responsibilities for Faculty or Departmental teaching, research, and administration, often in conjunction with College duties. Staff development includes any measure which contributes to the enhancement of their knowledge, skills, competencies, and working practices in these areas.

Identification of staff development needs

Individual members of staff and others engaged in academic activity in the University are expected to take responsibility for their own professional and career development. They should take advantage of Departmental, Faculty, and centrally-provided opportunities for staff development, according to the demands of their particular role.

An assessment of the skills of individuals, when they are first invited to undertake teaching or when they are selected for appointment to office, should lead naturally to the identification of their needs for training and staff development, directly related to the duties that they are to perform. In addition, staff development needs may be identified in a variety of ways, e.g. by an audit of skills, by peer review and feedback, by appraisal, by student feedback, and by reflection on current practice.

Members of staff can expect encouragement and support from the Head of the Department or from the Faculty Board in addressing their development needs. Faculty Boards and Heads of Departments play an important part in the process of ensuring that those engaged in University teaching are suitably prepared for that role. They are also responsible for ensuring that academic staff and research staff employed in their institutions are regularly appraised and that they receive appropriate advice on their development needs.

Staff development provision

Staff development takes many forms. It may include sabbatical and other research leave, structured staff development activities, attendance at meetings and conferences, secondments, development of educational materials and curriculum enhancement, and active association with professional bodies.

One of the ways in which individuals can gain access to staff development activities and specific skills training is via a centrally-funded programme, details of which are accessible on the University's website (http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/stipends/acaddev/). The programme is designed to meet the needs of those taking on new responsibilities or wishing to refresh their approach in the areas of teaching, research, and administration. It also offers opportunities for career review and development.

Faculty Boards and Heads of Departments will have their own arrangements for encouraging and facilitating staff development. In most cases, an academic staff development liaison officer will be available to provide advice and support, in conjunction with the University Staff Development Officer, where appropriate.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 11 August 1999
Copyright © 1999 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.