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Appointments to unestablished posts at the level of Professor and Reader: Notice by the General Board

1. For some years it has been the practice of the General Board to make senior unestablished academic appointments on external funds for fixed periods, and the Board have in a number of these cases used the title 'Research Professor'. They have also on rare occasions made such appointments to unestablished Readerships. The policy and the procedure for making such appointments was set out in the Board's Notice on the procedure for appointments to unestablished posts at the level of Professor or Reader (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 587).

2. Following the publication of this Notice, a number of members of the Regent House requested a Discussion on the ground that no opportunity had been given for the Regent House to discuss the implications for career structures in the University. A Discussion was held on 26 October 1999 (Reporter, 1999-2000, p. 156). In December 1999, Dr (now Professor) A. W. F. Edwards made a formal representation to the Vice-Chancellor under Statute K, 5 that the General Board's practice of making appointments to unestablished Research Professorships was in contravention of the University's Statutes. A legal opinion on this representation was accordingly sought, which confirmed that the practice was ultra vires.

3. The General Board, in the light of the legal advice obtained, have reviewed their policy of making appointments to unestablished Research Professorships and Readerships.

4. The Board believe that it is important to be able to continue to appoint senior academics to professorial posts for the primary purpose of carrying out research. There are prestigious national competitive schemes such as the Royal Society, Leverhulme, and Medical Research Council Research Professorship schemes which aim to provide that opportunity for distinguished academics to concentrate primarily on research activity. In addition to such schemes, there are considerable opportunities for obtaining external sources of income to support research appointments at professorial level for fixed periods. The Board are convinced that it would not be in the academic interest of the University to discontinue their policy of setting up fixed-term research posts at professorial, and, where appropriate, readership level but they recognize that their policy and practice must be in harmony with the Statutes and Ordinances of the University.

5. There are at present a number of persons currently holding posts carrying the title of Research Professor and one carrying the title of Research Reader, with varying limits of tenure. The Board are also aware of several proposals for appointments to unestablished Research Professorships and in these cases they have made it clear to those concerned that it has not been possible to make progress on such proposals until the statutory position relating to such appointments is resolved. The Board now wish to take such remedial measures as are practicable to regularize the position of those individuals who currently hold research posts carrying the title of Research Professor or Reader. The Board are consulting the individuals concerned with a view to bringing forward proposals to do this. Further legal advice has made it clear that a change of Statute is not required: the existing provisions of Statute D, XIV, 3 and 6, are sufficient to allow the Board to put proposals for such fixed-term Professorships and Readerships to the Regent House and to allow them also to bring forward new proposals in the future by means of the publication of a Report by the Board for the establishment of fixed-term Professorships and Readerships, and for approval of the Report by the Regent House.

6. The purpose of this Notice therefore is to inform the Regent House that the practice of making appointments to unestablished Research Professorships and Readerships has ceased; that the General Board will bring forward for approval by the Regent House a Report containing recommendations for the establishment of a number of fixed-term Professorships and Readerships under Statute D, XIV, 3 and 6, XV, 1(c)(iii), and XVI, 1 in order to regularize the position of existing staff; and that, for the future, fixed-term Professorships and Readerships will be established in the circumstances where previously appointments to unestablished posts were considered appropriate, and in accordance with the procedure outlined above. The procedure for appointing fixed-term Readerships will be as provided in Regulations 1 to 4 of the Regulations for Readers and Readerships (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 680).

7. For the purpose of clarification in relation to such appointments, the Board draw the attention of the Regent House to the following:

7.1 Advertisement

All fixed-term Professorships and Readerships established under the procedure described in this Notice will be advertised unless the General Board decide that there are particular circumstances which justify the establishment of a Professorship or Readership for a named person. Such circumstances would normally relate to the requirements of a national competition scheme such as the Royal Society Professorship scheme or, more exceptionally, to conditions of funding for the office.

7.2 Period of the establishment of the fixed-term office

Funds in respect of new proposals must be available to meet the cost of a period of appointment of not less than five years.

7.3 Criteria

The criteria for determining such appointments would be the same as specified in the annual guidance issued in relation to the personal Professorships and Readerships scheme, but excluding the teaching criterion (g). The evaluative standards in relation to the criteria will also be the same as those used in that scheme.

7.4 Stipend on and in the course of appointment

Professorial stipends on appointment, and in the course of appointment, will be determined under the arrangements currently operated by the Vice-Chancellor in connection with elections to Professorships. These arrangements allow the Vice-Chancellor to exercise discretion at the time of election, awarding payment, which is pensionable, at one of four levels, provided he is satisfied that the supplementary payments' criteria are met. The flexibility inherent in these arrangements is essential if the University is to be able to comply with the remuneration provisions of schemes such as the Royal Society and Leverhulme Research Professorship schemes and MRC competitions.

7.5 Recruitment incentive payments

All holders of fixed-term professorial offices would have access to the professorial recruitment incentive payments scheme. However, the scheme which has been approved by the Regent House requires that awards should be conditional on the Professor completing at least three years of service in the University and that the payment should be refundable if the Professor were to resign from the University before the end of that period.

Requests for recruitment incentive payments for Readers will be considered under the existing non-professorial arrangements operated by the Councils of the Schools.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 21 March 2001
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.