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Report of the General Board on the introduction of a single procedure for the consideration of applications for promotion to personal Professorships, Readerships, and University Senior Lectureships: Notice

9 December 2002

The Council have considered the remarks made at the Discussion of this Report on 12 November 2002 (Reporter, p. 328) and have referred them to the General Board who have agreed to reply as follows:

1. With regard to Professor A. W. F. Edwards's remarks, the Board comment as follows:

Discussion of senior academic promotion procedures has taken up much of the time of the University in recent years. The General Board have been continually aware of the sensitivity of the reform of procedure and of the controversy it has generated in some quarters, and of the need for extensive consultation. The University has moved in the course of the reform from a single annual exercise in respect of promotion to personal Readerships and Professorships; to new arrangements for that exercise involving greater transparency in relation to criteria, evidence, and the introduction of feedback and appeal provisions; to the introduction of the office of University Senior Lectureship and of a separate promotions procedure in respect of that office; and now, finally, to the current proposals for a single procedure for all senior academic promotions.

2. In the Notice dated 7 December 1998 (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 222), which set out the Board's reply to the remarks made at the Discussion of the Board's Report on the procedure for the establishment of personal Professorships and Readerships in 1999 and subsequent years, the approach of the Board to obtaining agreement on the procedure was made clear. The Board's view was that it was sensible to obtain the agreement of the Regent House on the proposals, details of which were likely to be controversial, before considering which elements of the new procedure should be incorporated into the Statutes and Ordinances in due course. That statement is applicable to the proposed new arrangements set out in the current Report. In the Board's view, the first step must be to obtain the approval of the Regent House on the substance of the reforms and for them to be given discretion to make such modifications to the scheme as are essential for the proper and effective management of the scheme within an overall framework approved by the Regent House.

3. Subject to the approval of the recommendations of the Report by the Regent House, and in the light of the experience of operating the new scheme, the Board will consider what elements of the new arrangements should be included in the Statutes and Ordinances and, indeed, any other changes that may be required in relation to non-academic offices in the light of changing policy in relation to promotion and regrading. For the present, certain minimal changes to Statutes are necessary to enable the new arrangements to operate for promotion to take effect from 1 October 2003; these changes would enable the General Board to appoint directly to University Senior Lectureships through the promotions process, obviating the need for the case for promotion to be considered by an Appointments Committee. Regarding this, the Board accept Professor Edwards's suggested re-wording of the proposed amendment to Statute D, XVII. They have therefore agreed to modify the wording of Recommendation I so that the proposed new section 3 of that Statute would read as follows:

3. The Appointment to a University Senior Lectureship shall be made in such manner as the University shall from time to time determine. Such appointment shall, subject to the provisions of Statute U, be to the retiring age.

4. With regard to the place of the University Senior Lectureship chapter in Statute D, the Board note Professor Edwards's opinion but they believe that the present order of the chapters in the Statute is more appropriate, given that many of the provisions in the chapter on University Lecturers relate also to the chapter on University Senior Lecturers and that the chapter on University Senior Lecturers should remain where it is until such time as there is a more general revision of Statute D.

5. With regard to Professor Edwards's points concerning Recommendations II and III, the Board would have wished to specify 1 October 2003 as the date of implementation of the new arrangements and the date from which the current schemes should be abolished. However, as has been mentioned, the Board are aware that any proposals relating to senior academic promotion issues may arouse controversy in the University. They are also aware of the difficulty of predicting the timetable for the statutory amendments described above. It is, in their view, prudent and in the interest of officers who would wish to apply in the next annual promotion exercise for the Board to determine the date without further reference to the Regent House.

6. With regard to Professor Edwards's point in relation to Recommendation IV, the Board adhere to the view they stated in the Notice of 7 December 1998: they do not believe that it is practicable, or in the interest of effective management, for them to seek the approval of the Regent House for every modification that it may be desirable or necessary to make in the light of experience in the interest of the efficient operation of the promotion scheme; this is why they are now, as they did in 1998, seeking the approval of the Regent House for authority to make such adjustments within a general framework approved by the Regent House.

7. The main thrust of Dr D. R. J. Laming's remarks is that members of Promotions Committees exercise favouritism in respect of particular applicants; he alleges that members of Committees use knowledge of applicants which is extraneous to the documentary evidence in reaching their evaluations and that Heads of institutions not only make out the case for promotion but steer it through Committee as well; he also questions whether the current requirements as to documentation are adequate to ensure lack of bias.

8. In most of his comments Dr Laming is concerned to reply to the speech made by Professor M. Grant on 15 January 2002 (Reporter, 2001-02, p. 462). Professor Dumville's remarks likewise allege the operation of patronage and prejudice in the operation of the promotion procedure. In response, the Board endorse the remarks made by Professor Grant in responding to Dr Laming's speech at the Discussion of the Annual Report of the General Board for 2000-01 (Reporter, 2001-02, p. 462), in particular that Dr Laming's implications of favouritism and bias do not appear to be based on any evidence. As Professor Grant indicated, any promotion system which requires the exercise of judgement is prone to human error; this is not to say that the system is seriously flawed or that the individuals who exercise that judgement are necessarily likely to be erroneous in their judgement or guilty of impropriety. The Board stress that the range of the documentary evidence on which evaluations are made is extensive, involving a personal statement and external referees, in addition to the case for promotion, which is not necessarily prepared by the Head of institution. Nor, moreover, are Heads of institutions invariably members of the Faculty Promotions Committees, or indeed of the General Board's Committees, which under the proposed new arrangements will include increased external membership.

9. Turning to the more particular points raised by Professor D. N. Dumville, with regard to the attendance of members of Committees at meetings of Promotion Committees while on sabbatical leave, the Board are not deviating from existing practice and precedent. Professor Dumville asserts that with regard to College teaching paragraphs 5.26 and 5.48 of the Guidance are contradictory. This is not so. For the avoidance of doubt, though, the Board wish to clarify that in connection with paragraphs 5.16, 5.17, and 5.18, applicants who do not wish College teaching to be taken into account will not be put at a disadvantage thereby in the assessment of their application. With regard to paragraphs 5.18 (Report) and 5.33 (Guidance) the Board believe that the meaning of these statements is clear.

10. Dr D. R. de Lacey and Dr G. R. Evans refer to the statement in the Guidance that the Board expect that a substantial majority (of the order of 80%) of University Lecturers will achieve promotion to a senior academic office in the course of their University career. This statement should be read in connection with the statement in paragraph 3.1, namely, that promotion is determined in terms of the criteria on the basis of the evidence contained in all the relevant documentation. It is included to indicate that in the Board's estimation the great majority of University Lecturers should achieve promotion to a senior academic office in the course of their career. The Board are aware of the very high calibre of the University's academic staff and they believe that the great majority should experience no difficulty in achieving promotion and recognition of their contribution and achievement in the course of their career. The statement is also included to ensure that those who provide references, in particular external academics, are also aware of the general high quality of Cambridge academic staff.

11. Dr P. G. McHugh expressed the opinion that the promotional criteria are too vague and too weak in relation to College activities and give entirely the wrong signals for a collegiate University. The Board recognize the undoubted importance of such teaching and other College contributions in a collegiate University, and also the great contribution that is made by those whom Dr McHugh describes as 'teamplayers whose commitment extends across the University and its Colleges'. In relation to any of the senior academic offices, applicants have the opportunity to draw attention to their College teaching in presenting their case for promotion in respect of the relevant teaching criteria. It is, of course, open to them to include under general contribution any College duties that may be regarded as contributing to their subject; this may be College administration where this concerns the academic discipline in question but not College administration that has no obvious relevance to the subject.

12. The Board in their Report and in the Guidance set out in Appendix 2 stated that applicants in their probationary period at the time of the deadline for submission of applications would not be eligible to apply for promotion. In the light of comments received and after further consideration the Board agree that this restriction on eligibility is too inflexible and accordingly take this opportunity to propose the following amendment which is consistent with current separate schemes:

Applicants who are in the probationary period of their appointment or in an extended probationary period are eligible to apply for promotion but are advised to discuss their position with their Head of Department/Chairman of the Faculty Board, or other senior academic officer before deciding whether to apply.

13. The Board urge members of the Regent House to approve the proposals set out in their Report so that Privy Council approval for the necessary changes to Statute D may be sought as soon as possible and the new single procedure launched in time for the next round of senior academic promotion to take effect from 1 October 2003.

4 December 2002ALEC N. BROERS, Vice-ChancellorANDREW CLIFFA. C. MINSON

14. The Council have considered the views expressed by the General Board above, and have agreed to submit a Grace to the Regent House (Grace 7, p. 406) for the approval of the recommendations of the Board's Report as amended in paragraphs 3 and 12 above.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 11 December 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.