< Previous page ^ Table of Contents Next page >

Report of the General Board on the introduction of a University Senior Lectureship into the Cambridge structure of academic offices, and associated matters: Notice

25 October 1999

The Council have considered the remarks made at the Discussion of this Report on 6 July 1999 (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 885). They have referred the remarks to the General Board who have commented as follows:

1. The General Board have based their proposals for the introduction of a University Senior Lectureship on the need to provide a clear recognition of sustained achievement in relation to the duties required of a University Lecturer in terms of both a title and financial reward; visible recognition of achievement would not be possible if Dr Laming's suggestion that the title be dropped in order to safeguard tenure were to be adopted. With regard to tenure, the Board are not intent on undermining tenure through promotion. The weakening of tenure as a result of promotion has been brought about not by the University but by government legislation. This weakening of tenure has been occurring in the case of all promotions to tenured offices since that legislation was introduced in 1988. The Board accordingly see no convincing argument for treating progression to a University Senior Lectureship differently from progression to a personal Readership or Professorship. The Board do not accept that it is possible to have a scheme which allows for conferment of a title of Senior Lecturer and financial reward, but which does not in law constitute promotion.

2. Dr Whitehead's view appears to be that there should be a single career grade, with the titles of University Lecturer and University Senior Lecturer, and that the decision to be a University Senior Lecturer should be determined by reference to the criteria set out in paragraphs 49-51 of the Board's Report on the recruitment, reward, and retention of academic-related officers. Indeed, she sees no difficulty in Appointments Committees making the decisions on the basis of criteria relating not to continuing ongoing satisfactory performance but sustained outstanding performance. It is difficult to understand how it can be possible to regard an office carrying two designations as a single entity, and movement from one designation to another, involving an increase in stipend, determined by Appointments Committees on the criteria referred to, as not amounting to promotion. The objectives set out in Amendment C clearly represent promotion and are inconsistent with the contention that it is possible to regard the use of two titles in relation to one office as representing appointment to a single office.

3. Dr Whitehead and Dr Holmes have suggested that the General Board has ignored the wishes of the Regent House and misrepresented the motives of those who proposed Amendment C. The General Board would like members of the Regent House to be aware that they have endeavoured at all times to respond to the wish of the Regent House for reform. They have had to make assumptions, informed by extensive consultation, on what the Regent House wants. Amendment C made clear that those who had voted in favour of it were voting for arrangements where no contract would be required. This, in the Board's view, was a point which it was necessary to address and clarify, hence the interpretation put upon it by the General Board. The Board have endeavoured to act reasonably and responsibly in explaining the legal implications of the approach which was indicated in the Amendment. The wishes of the Regent House have not been ignored and there will be an opportunity for the Regent House to approve the proposals contained in the Report.

4. In considering the implications of Amendment C, the Board came to the conclusion that it was not possible to satisfy all the desires expressed by members of the Regent House since some of these are inconsistent or incompatible with each other. For example, Dr Laming suggests that if the title of University Senior Lecturer is dropped, tenure is no longer an issue and asserts, as does Dr Glazebrook, that Cambridge University Lecturers are indifferent to the recognition of achievement by conferment of title; on the other hand, Dr Whitehead appears to accept the Board's view that there should be visible recognition by conferment of title.

5. The Board now turn to points of detail raised by speakers at the Discussion. Dr Glazebrook advocates 'transitional provisions' for University Lecturers in their late fifties and sixties and expresses the opinion that University Lecturers are not concerned about receiving an 'unappealing' title. The principles of equity and uniformity of treatment have at all times informed the Board's approach to reform of promotion procedures and the Board do not believe that special arrangements for staff in any particular age category are necessary or desirable. Dr Laming and Dr Glazebrook refer to the extensive nature of the documentation required and the burden this will place on committees and individuals. While it is true that the documentation now being called for in the area of senior academic promotions is extensive, it is essential that those involved in the evaluation of applications have available as comprehensive a body of information as possible relating to each applicant's contribution and achievement if applications are to be considered with the greatest possible fairness and the outcome of the process is to be based on an impartial assessment of all the relevant evidence. Dr Laming mentions specifically the first item in the list of documentation: 'A record of all courses taught by the officer in relation to the last three years … including course descriptions, hand-outs, bibliographies, etc. … as appropriate', and then qualifies what this may mean in his own case. The Board believe Dr Laming's position to be exceptional and they wish to emphasize the significance of the words 'as appropriate'. Each officer must clearly exercise judgement in relation to the presentation of his or her own application.

6. Dr Laming raises also the issue of the assessment of teaching. The Board have indicated in previous Notices the desirability of having arrangements in place which will allow for the direct and independent assessment of the University's teaching on a basis that is generally accepted as fair and consistent across the University. Devising and implementing such arrangements will need extensive consultation. The Board attach the highest priority to introducing, as soon as possible, promotion arrangements for rewarding senior academics for their achievement across the whole range of academic activity; the self-assessment approach together with comments of the Head of Department or Chairman of the Faculty Board on the officer's self-assessment together with student feedback is the best available way forward at present, if the proposed new promotion arrangements are to be introduced as soon as possible.

7. Dr Holmes drew attention to the first provision of the proposed new Statute relating to University Senior Lectureships, namely, that there should be such a number of University offices of University Senior Lecturer in each Faculty or Department as may from time to time be determined by the General Board. He states that this provision does not seem to be consistent with the notion that personal promotions shall be primarily determined by merit without budgetary restriction. His view is based on a misunderstanding of the current practice and procedure for dealing with personal promotion and for creating additional new offices to allow for the possibility of external recruitment. The General Board only establish the offices to which promotions are made after it has been decided who is to be appointed; the number of such offices is obviously the same as the number of officers who are being promoted. All appointments through promotion to more senior academic offices are therefore made subject to establishment of the office by the appropriate authority. In the case of personal Readerships and Professorships, the offices are established only when it has been decided who should be promoted. The same applies to the promotion of University Assistant Lecturers to University Lecturers. This process is not inconsistent with establishing under the same provision offices to allow for external recruitment through open competition.

8. Dr Evans expressed the opinion that the requirements about 'performing' in administration are unfair. There may be a variety of reasons why University Lecturers do not or are unable to undertake administration. This need not prejudice their case for promotion, since what matters is the level of contribution, commitment, and achievement across the range of activities relevant to the duties of a University Lecturer, including College teaching. It would be reasonable to expect that if a University officer does not undertake administrative duties, the level of the officer's contribution in teaching and research would be higher. The substantial body of Dr Evans's remarks concern her own experience of the promotion procedures and of her legal actions against the University. The Board do not think it appropriate to comment on these remarks in the context of the discussion of this particular Report. Dr Evans's remarks also include a number of other comments which she has raised in previous Discussions and to which the Board have responded in previous replies.

9. The Board wish to emphasize that their Report on the introduction of a University Senior Lectureship into the Cambridge structure of academic offices and associated matters seeks to provide a framework in the Statutes and Ordinances of the University for what has already been approved by the Regent House, taking into account the legal advice that it has been necessary to obtain.

10. The Report on the introduction of the office of University Senior Lecturer is primarily concerned with academic promotion. The Council and the Board have also been considering ways in which members of staff can be appropriately rewarded for their commitment, contribution, and achievement, other than through promotion. They hope soon to be in a position to bring forward a further Report which contains detailed proposals for replacing the current discretionary payments scheme for University offices in non-professorial grades by new arrangements for awarding additional increments on a permanent basis which are accessible to all non-clinical established and unestablished academic and academic-related members of staff in non-professorial grades. These arrangements will include provision for the award of permanent additional increments to members of staff who are not at the top of their scale.

11. The Board very much hope that the Regent House will approve the Grace which will enable the proposals of the Report to be implemented as soon as possible.

The Council have noted the General Board's comments and have agreed to submit a Grace to the Regent House (Grace 4, p. 93) for the approval of the recommendations of the General Board's Report.

< Previous page ^ Table of Contents Next page >

Cambridge University Reporter, 27 October 1999
Copyright © 1999 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.