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Report of the General Board on the probationary arrangements for academic officers and comparable unestablished posts: Notice

16 February 2004

The Council have received the remarks made at the Discussion of this Report on 2 December 2003 (Reporter, p. 304), and have referred them to the General Board who have agreed to comment as follows on the remarks that are relevant to the Report.

1. Professor G. R. Evans questions the need for structured transparent probationary arrangements for academic staff. In their Report the Board draw attention to the HEFCE's recent initiative on 'Rewarding and Developing Staff in Higher Education' (Phase 1) under which Higher Education Institutions were required to submit Human Resource Strategies as a condition of additional funding. One of the six key priorities to be met in institutional submissions was 'performance review'. In relation to this priority the University committed itself to the development of structured probationary schemes for all categories of staff (paragraphs 2.1 and 2.2 of the Report).

2. The specific proposals in the Report reflect the outcome of an extensive consultation exercise in the University. Professor Evans appears to misunderstand the part played by 'general contribution' in the assessment of whether a particular member of academic staff's tenure should be confirmed to the retiring age. An individual's general contribution to the work of a Faculty or Department may only be taken into account if it is affirmative. Clearly, the main focus of assessment will continue to be on whether or not performance is satisfactory in relation to both teaching and research. With regard to Professor Evans's assertions about 'outputs', for the purpose of assessment decisions will be taken on the evidence relating to contribution and achievement in teaching and research. 'General contribution' may also be taken into account provided such consideration favours the individual.

3. Professor Evans also appears to misunderstand the role of Heads of institutions in determining whether or not an individual's tenure is to be confirmed. Under the proposed scheme, the Head of institution makes a recommendation to the relevant Appointments Committee that makes the decision. This is very much the process followed under current practice.

4. Professor Evans expresses surprise at the five-year duration of the probationary period. Five years is the maximum period and it will be possible to confirm tenure after three years. It is worth pointing out that the flexibility permitted under Statute D, XVII, 6 and 7 has already led some Faculties to opt for a five-year initial period of appointment under the current arrangements.

5. Professor Evans suggests that University Lecturers who have secured permanent tenure will be required to serve a period of probation on promotion to a University Senior Lectureship. This is not the case: all University Lecturers who are promoted to University Senior Lectureships are, without exception, appointed to the retiring age.

6. Both in the context of this Report and the Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on appointing arrangements for certain academic-related offices and analogous unestablished posts, Dr M. R. Clark raises issues concerning the nature of the consultative arrangement between the Cambridge Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the University. The Council and the Board have replied to these remarks in the context of their reply to the remarks made concerning the Joint Report on appointing arrangements.

7. The Board wish to take the opportunity afforded by the publication of this Notice of clarifying the extent of the scheme as it applies to academic staff. The Report clearly states (para. 4.1) that the scheme has been approved by the General Board for the holders of academic offices and posts and will apply to all new appointments to University academic offices other than to Professorships and Readerships. It is, however, stated in the Appendix that the scheme described there applies to all non-clinical academic appointments. Following representations from and discussion with the Clinical School, the Board have agreed that the scheme described in the Appendix shall apply also to clinical staff with appropriate amendment in respect of clinical duties.

8. The Council have agreed to submit a Grace for the approval of the recommendation contained in this Report (Grace 3, p. 481).


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Cambridge University Reporter 13 February 2004
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