Future Arrangements for non-clinical Academic Salaries - (2) to No 4544



<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Academic Salaries (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Future Arrangements for non-clinical Academic Salaries

Supplement (2) to Gazette No. 4544

Wednesday, 26 April 2000



Contents of the supplement:

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No. 4545 (27 April 2000)

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The following paper is being considered by all faculty boards
and other university appointing bodies, all colleges, and the
Joint Consultative Committee with the Oxford AUT. Responses are
also welcome from individuals.


Summary

This paper discusses perceived problems with the University's
non-clinical academic salary structure and seeks views, by the
middle of Trinity Term 2000, on a proposed new system for
competitive exercises for the making of merit awards which would
be available to all major categories of academic staff.

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Background

The Committee on Academic Salaries, and the General Board and
Council, have recently been considering possible revisions to the
current structure for non-clinical academic salaries. There have
been two main perceived problems with this structure. First, the
level of professorial merit awards has in certain cases been too
low to enable the University to recruit (and to a lesser extent
retain) some world-class academics. Second, there is at present
no real prospect for lecturers and readers to be considered for
any kind of additional reward other than the conferment of titles
under the recognition of distinction scheme.

On the first point, under the relevant legislation Council
may determine revisions to the existing arrangements for making
awards to non- clinical professors in recognition of academic
distinction or contribution to the academic work of the
University. Noting the difficulties referred to above, Council
has agreed to make available more flexibility in the professorial
merit awards system for use in a limited number of special cases,
in order to address the most pressing recruitment and retention
issues. This additional flexibility is only available where there
is an overwhelming and exceptional academic case. A modest
ring-fenced fund has been set up to cover all cases in which an
award is made to an incoming professor, as well as any special
award made for retention purposes. This will ensure that
decisions made in such circumstances do not count against the
budget for rewarding existing staff in regular exercises, and
that Council will have a further opportunity to review the
overall situation if and when the initial financial provision
runs out.

On the second point, Council and the General Board believe,
in the light of (1) evidence of worsening problems over levels
of reward and over recruitment and retention; (2) increasing
unease among distinguished lecturers and readers as to their
prospects; and (3) what they believe may be a change in the
general perception of the desirability of introducing greater
salary flexibility, that the time is right to propose
wide-ranging changes.

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Current position of lecturers and
readers

There is at present no real opportunity for lecturers and readers
at Oxford to aspire to higher salaries unless a vacant chair,
which would be filled in open competition, becomes available.
This is a problem in a number of areas in terms of recruitment
and, especially, of retention of top-quality staff. It is also
a problem from the point of view of providing appropriate rewards
for existing staff who do not consider leaving Oxford: Council
and the General Board are firmly of the view that it is not only
those whom the University risks losing who should be eligible for
additional salary payments. The issue has been thrown into
particular relief by the conferment of the title of professor on
large numbers of distinguished academic staff (it being noted
that very many other staff merit this title but prefer not to
apply for it), as well as by the recruitment strategies of other
leading institutions, particularly but not exclusively in the
run-up to the next RAE. Although some pressures are acute at the
present time, Oxford's salary arrangements present an underlying
structural problem which needs to be addressed.

The current position is that it was stated at the time of the
introduction of the scheme to confer the title of professor or
reader that ad hominem professorships exercises would
be held by the General Board as resources allowed. Although this
policy was adopted in 1995 the General Board has since then felt
unable to provide resources for any such exercises, given the
other demands on its funds. The costs of such an exercise would
be high— those successful in the exercise would be appointed
to a Schedule A professorship, and their substantive post would
be advertised for refilling. The effect of this is that each
promotion would cost at least £52K recurrent (largely
representing the cost of a replacement appointment), and more if
(as is likely) those promoted qualified for professorial merit
awards and/or the additional staff appointed needed more
infrastructural support. The amount of money the University would
be able realistically to devote to this purpose in the
foreseeable future would therefore result in a very small number
of promotions—perhaps a maximum of 10 in a single round,
with no certainty that a further exercise would be held. This
would not adequately reflect the distinction of Oxford staff and
would very probably lead to considerable resentment among the
unsuccessful. A more cost-effective scheme needs to be found to
enable much larger numbers of distinguished lecturers and readers
to aspire to higher salaries: key elements of the alternative
approach favoured by Council and the General Board would be that
the additional salary should not be accompanied by a change in
duties or the need for a replacement appointment, and that many
more academic staff would have access to the significant levels
of additional income currently represented by the expanded range
of professorial awards.

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Need for action on non-clinical
lecturers' and readers' salaries

Council and the General Board therefore believe that there is now
an urgent need for radical action on non-clinical academic
salaries, which should take the form of the rapid introduction
of new measures to reward excellence by enabling a relatively
significant number of individuals in the relevant staff groups
to benefit from increased remuneration. There are indications
that the value of the recognition of distinction arrangements in
retaining certain staff by the award of titles is becoming less
apparent, and that numbers of resignations are beginning to rise
again. Indeed, the legacy of recognition of distinction is that
many academic staff have gained a higher title without the
prospect of additional reward, and this is adding to the overall
difficulties. Recruitment, too, is being hampered by the lack of
career progression that would in practice be available
subsequently to those currently considering a move to a
lecturership at Oxford. Given the devolved nature of academic
recruitment below the professorial level detailed information on
the precise extent of these problems—and perceptions of the
effect on morale which the introduction of additional salary
flexibility might bring—can only emerge from the wider
consultation which this paper represents, but Council and the
General Board are clear that serious retention problems exist,
and that it is unacceptable for the University to be unable to
reward distinguished service whether or not there is a danger of
losing the individual to another institution.

Council and the General Board accept that some turnover of
staff is inevitable and, to an extent, desirable and healthy in
terms of the development of the UK higher education sector as a
whole. The fact remains, however, that—uniquely among its
competitors and indeed among virtually all other employers in the
country—Oxford currently has no mechanism available to
provide any further financial reward for exceptional performance
among the single largest group of the non-clinical academic staff
on which its future relies, namely outstanding lecturers and
readers, the position of some of whom has become increasingly
anomalous in the absence of ad hominem promotions since
1993. The unavailability of extra reward for lecturers and
readers is also unique among Oxford staff in general. Council and
the General Board have considered correspondence on this general
issue from various members of the academic staff and they believe
that there is a danger of losing or alienating many key staff if
action is not taken.

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Possible solutions and suggested way
forward

Council and the General Board recognise that a significant
element in the current problems is the low general level of
academic salaries in the UK, but have concluded, regretfully,
that increasing the salaries of all of the University's
non-clinical academic staff would not be appropriate. It would
cost around £1m recurrent to raise all such salaries by
£800 per annum, before tax, and this would clearly be
inadequate either to make any significant difference to
recruitment and retention problems or to provide appropriate
additional payments to the most deserving. The Bett Report on
Higher Education Pay and Conditions was published in June 1999.
It recommended large increases in the salaries of certain groups
of staff, including senior academics. Council and the General
Board strongly endorse these recommendations, but are clear that
they can only be pursued in the light of national developments,
and with considerable additional resources from government.

In terms of what should be done now in Oxford, Council and
the General Board strongly favour a targeted approach, and wish
to develop a single, well-funded, and easily understood system
of making significant additional payments available to all
non-clinical academic staff on a competitive basis. Council and
the General Board now suggest that merit awards in the form of
the full range of such awards hitherto available only to
substantive professors should be available to all non-clinical
academic staff, as differentiated supplements to the existing
varied university and joint university/college stipends which
relate to the duties of the underlying appointment. This would
include the limited additional flexibility referred to under
`Background' above, which is available to respond to overwhelming
and exceptional academic cases for a special approach to the most
pressing recruitment and retention problems. All members of
non-clinical academic staff would be eligible for consideration
in a consistent way for a single set of additional payments
against a single set of criteria.

In other words, the basic salary structure for professors,
readers, and lecturers would remain unchanged (subject to
continuing discussions on the position of ULNTFs and to the
possible reassessment of respective funding arrangements for
joint appointments in the light of possible contractual changes
and discussions on college fees). There would then be a single
set of additional merit awards available, with a single set of
criteria, to be made normally in regular, well-funded,
gathered-field exercises: this would enable a calibration of
relative distinction to address the comparability between
individuals flexibly, allowing for example some outstanding
titular professors and others who have not had the chance of
applying for a statutory chair or for ad hominem
promotion to be rewarded. Crucially those who have not
participated in the recognition of distinction scheme would be
equitably assessed; there would be no automatic advantage in
having been awarded a professorial title.

Council and the General Board are therefore suggesting that
the University abandon the separate biennial exercises for new
or enhanced awards for non-clinical professors, and replace these
with regular exercises in which all non-clinical academic
staff—with or without the title (or post) of
professor—would be eligible to apply. Some of those who have
previously applied unsuccessfully for the title of professor
might be less likely to succeed in such exercises. Among those
with the title, and among those who would have secured the title
had they applied, there will be a range of distinction: this
could be rewarded by any one of the range of merit awards,
although in some cases (as with the current arrangements for
substantive professors) no award would be appropriate.

Council and the General Board propose that the first such
exercise should have a date of effect of 1 October 2000 and
should work within an additional recurrent budget of £750K.
This could result in over 170 members of academic staff receiving
additional payments (based on the distribution of new or enhanced
awards to substantive professors in previous exercises).
£750K is of course a large sum, but the question may well
be not whether the University can afford to have such an
arrangement in place, but rather whether it can afford not to.
Given the problems of rewarding, retaining, and recruiting
top-quality staff, Council and the General Board believe that the
University must invest in greater salary flexibility in order to
fulfil its objective of promoting academic excellence. In
addition, in framing its particular proposal for £750K
recurrent, Council and the General Board have been keenly aware
of the risk that among the most highly qualified and
distinguished staff a smaller-scale exercise might alienate many
more unsuccessful candidates than it would reward successful
ones.

It is the view of Council and the General Board that further
similar exercises should be held at regular intervals, ideally
perhaps every two years. However, given the changes in the
arrangements for the governance of the University this will be
a matter for the new Council, on the advice of the new Personnel
and Planning and Resource Allocation Committees in the light of
the views of the new Divisional Boards.

Council and the General Board also believe that in
exceptional cases where there is a clear and overwhelming
academic justification for so doing, salary enhancements should
be available on an ad hoc basis between the exercises, provided
the criteria are met, to address the most acute recruitment and
retention difficulties.

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Performance-related pay

Council and the General Board wish to emphasise that the proposed
scheme does not equate to performance-related pay as it is
commonly understood, and does not represent a move towards this.
There is no intention to set up intrusive procedures regularly
to review the performance of all academic staff against targets
set by line-managers. The scheme does, however, reflect a belief
that not all academic staff on the same grade should be paid
identically. Council and the General Board recognise that there
will be some members of Congregation who take the view that any
salary differentiation is inappropriate, but Council and the
General Board believe that outstanding contributions by
non-clinical academic staff should in principle and in practice
be able to be reflected in additional remuneration, and that the
University should be able to hold out the prospect of tangible
extra benefits through a transparent salary system. The present
consultation is intended to enable a wide expression of views on
the need for such a scheme and how it should be designed.

The scheme would be strictly voluntary, and there would be
no adverse consequences for those who chose not to apply, and for
those who applied unsuccessfully, other than the continuation of
their salary arrangements without enhancement.

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Criteria

If this new approach is adopted, careful consideration will need
to be given to the criteria for merit awards. These criteria must
provide a different way of assessing achievement from the ones
used in the recognition of distinction exercise (in which the
title of professor (or reader) is conferred without change of
duties or stipend). The latter exercise determines only whether
individuals reach a certain threshold on the research side,
equivalent (for the title of professor) to the lowest level of
professorial distinction (for which no additional award is made).
The criteria for the new merit awards must provide a way of
assessing how far beyond the threshold the individual is. This
is equivalent to the difference between being appointable to a
chair and being ranked at a particular position within the
appointable candidates— an assessment is made of how `good'
someone is, not just whether they are `good enough'. Council and
the General Board believe that the `good citizenship' criterion
used in the recognition of distinction exercise should be
translated into the criteria for the new awards.

The existing criteria for merit awards to professors work
well for clustering the research and leadership achievements of
substantive professors, and have been reconsidered for wider
application in order to try to strike the right balance between
the role of contributions to research, teaching, administration
and good citizenship generally, noting the different expectations
associated with different grades of post.

A draft of criteria for the new awards is appended: Council
and the General Board envisage that this will need to be refined
in the light of the consultation on the proposed new structure,
and comments on the draft (which includes at the end of the
general preamble references to the new additional flexibility to
make awards above level 5) are therefore particularly welcomed.

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Procedures

It seems clear that all eligible staff would need to be
personally invited to apply in the gathered-field exercise, and
applicants would submit a dossier and the details of referees
much as is required for the recognition of distinction exercise.
(Council and the General Board regret the additional workload
this would cause, but are firmly convinced that in the context
of these new arrangements scrutiny of up-to-date information
against the new criteria in large gathered-field exercises is
essential.) As in the recognition of distinction exercise, local
academic bodies would be set up to consider the applications,
taking up further references from individuals not nominated by
the candidates, and seeking assessments from external experts
qualified to make judgements across a range of academics in a
subject area. Where the procedures would differ from recognition
of distinction, of course, would be that a reasoned and reduced
set of nominations, in priority order, would then have to be
submitted by the local bodies to a central committee, with full
supporting documentation. Further detailed consideration needs
to be given to procedural questions in the light of the responses
to this document, but Council and the General Board believe that
the existing recognition of distinction procedures are rigorous,
provide for feedback, and represent a good basic model.

After the first exercise the new Council will consider,
through its Personnel and Planning and Resource Allocation
Committees, whether the financial and procedural arrangements for
future exercises should involve greater devolution to divisions.

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Eligibility

Council and the General Board envisage that those eligible to
apply would be employees of the University (whether full- or
part-time, whether fixed-term or permanent) in the following
non-clinical pay grades: professor, reader, university lecturer
(including senior research officers but not temporary tutors or
research officers or university lecturers by decree), special
(non- CUF) lecturer, CUF lecturer, faculty lecturer, and
assistant keeper. Individuals employed solely by colleges would
not be eligible to apply: this would mean that titular CUF and
titular university lecturers would not be eligible. One major
reason for excluding college-only staff is that any additional
award would clearly have to be funded by the college; for the
University to consider applications from such individuals would
give the colleges an unforeseeable and perhaps unwelcome extra
financial commitment. The views of the colleges are particularly
sought on the proposal that college-only staff be ineligible.

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Non-central resources

Council and the General Board have considered the difficult
question whether external funding could be used to permit more
increases in individual salaries, noting that the new scheme
envisages a combination of regular exercises and rare ad hoc
decisions. Council and the General Board believe that such
external funding should be used if a transparent and equitable
way to administer it can be found, perhaps broadly as follows.

In the regular exercises, applicants could be invited to
state separately whether external funding—whether from
charities, industry, trust funds, or whatever—would be
available to cover or contribute to the extra recurrent costs of
a salary change. This information would not be available to the
bodies making nominations and final decisions, but would be known
to the officers. After the relevant (central) body made its
initial decisions on whom to give a new or enhanced merit award
within central cash limits, the officers would disclose how much,
if any, of this central provision still remained for additional
awards in light of the availability of external funding in
respect of any successful candidates covered by the initial
decisions.

In ad hoc cases there is perhaps more of a danger that the
availability of non-central funding would lead to a lowering of
standards and an inside track to salary enhancement. Here the
procedure might be that an additional salary would only be
approved if there was convincing evidence that the person
concerned would in any event have been extremely likely to secure
such a salary enhancement in the next regular centrally funded
exercise.

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Interaction with the recognition of
distinction exercise

The possible introduction of new arrangements for non-clinical
academic salaries raises obvious questions about the continuation
of the existing procedure of recognising distinction by
conferring titles without change of stipend. Council and the
General Board believe that, if such new arrangements are
introduced, the current recognition of distinction exercise
should be the last one, and that the title of professor or reader
should not be conferred on any more academic staff other than
those deemed suitably qualified in the current round. Instead,
those who were made an award at level 2 or above under the new
system would be offered the title of professor if they did not
already hold it: this would be to ensure that the title of
professor was available to all university-employed academic staff
with a salary at or above the Oxford professorial minimum.
(Council and the General Board wish however to reiterate that
staff on whom the title of professor has already been conferred
will have no automatic expectation of any award under the
proposed new structure; and to make it clear that such staff will
retain their titles whether or not they receive a merit award in
addition to their basic salary.)

Council and the General Board have an open mind on whether
the title of professor or reader should continue to be available
to suitably qualified individuals working in the University but
not on the university academic payroll (e.g. senior contract
research staff and those employed directly by research councils):
it would be a prerequisite of any future conferment of the title
of professor in such circumstances that the individual was of
appropriate academic standing and was already in receipt of a
stipend in excess of the professorial minimum.

Responses are particularly welcome on these points.

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Interaction with discussions on
academic duties

In general, Council and the General Board do not regard
additional salary as the appropriate way of dealing with general
and particular problems of academic overburdening. Nor do they
believe that a general reduction in burdens obviates the need for
a more flexible salary structure. Since over the recent past
traditional ad hominem promotions have been the only way
for staff permanently to reduce their teaching levels, it is
natural that some will not immediately appreciate the rationale
behind the `salary-only' approach now being proposed. However it
is clear to Council and the Board that coupling promotion with
reduction in duties is not only prohibitively expensive, it also
antagonises the majority who are unsuccessful and may indeed have
to cope with additional burdens. The question of the level of
academic contractual duties is being addressed separately,
carefully, and with some success by the Joint Working Party on
Joint Appointments, with a view to reducing burdens in general
while perhaps also retaining the possibility of temporary
targeted relief from teaching and/or periodic reviews of patterns
of duties at the individual level. Council and the General Board
believe that consultation on new salary arrangements should
continue in parallel, with respondents to this document able to
state any belief that the progress being made on duties means
that no changes to salary structures are required.

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Conclusion

Council and the General Board are keenly aware of the range of
issues surrounding the terms and conditions of academic staff
employed by the University. They recognise that the current
proposals do not address all of these problems, and that further
steps are urgently needed in a number of areas. None the less
Council and the General Board are convinced that the time is
right to propose change to the non-clinical academic salary
structure, as a significant though partial response to these
pressing difficulties. Indeed, the need to introduce flexibility
to reward excellence is long overdue.

Against this background answers are invited to the following
specific questions:

(i) should the availability of merit awards be extended to all
major non-clinical academic staff groups in order to reward
excellence on a discretionary basis? if so,

(ii) are the proposed draft criteria appropriate?

(iii) are the suggested procedures appropriate?

(iv) are the proposed eligibility criteria appropriate?

(v) what should be the future of `recognition of distinction',
i.e. the arrangements for the conferment of the title of
professor (or reader) without change in duties or stipend?

(vi) have you any further comments?

Responses should be sent to Dr Jeremy Whiteley, Head of
Personnel Services, at the University Offices, by the middle of
Trinity Term 2000. Council and the General Board will consider
the responses carefully through the Academic Salaries Committee:
subject to this, they hope to propose to Congregation the rapid
introduction of the new system.

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ANNEXE: Draft criteria for merit awards

General

The following criteria must be understood in the overall context
of the high level of scholarly distinction of the academic staff
of the University. The University expects all of its staff to be
academically distinguished, with a wide, often international
reputation and a record which is outstanding in comparison with
the majority of academic staff in the United Kingdom. It also
expects all of its academic staff to contribute fully and well
to all relevant aspects of the academic work of the University.
Meeting these baseline expectations will not of itself justify
the making of a merit award.

In applying the criteria below to academic staff of different
grades (lecturer, reader, professor, etc.), due regard will be
had to what may properly be expected of academic staff in the
particular grade. For a contribution to be outstanding, it must
go well beyond what is properly expected. An award is only made
if clear evidence is available from a range of sources which
emphatically indicates that the individual's merit and general
contribution have met or exceeded the terms of the criteria
relating to the relevant level of award. The amount of money
available for this purpose in the current financial circumstances
will inevitably limit the number of awards that may be made.

It is a prerequisite for the making of any award that the
individual must have undertaken undergraduate and/or graduate
teaching for the University, and for colleges, concomitant with
the duties of the university post and of the college fellowship
where one is held. Such teaching must have been performed well.
Successful applicants must also have demonstrated a regular
willingness to contribute to the academic community by
involvement in university and college administration and must
have demonstrated competence in such administration.

While academic distinction in terms of research record is the
main criterion beyond the `good citizenship' outlined above,
other contributions to academic work may be recognised. This
provision is specifically designed to cover documented excellence
in teaching, especially if such excellence has an impact wider
than is expected from the basic duties of the post (e.g. through
the development of teaching strategies more broadly in the
subject at Oxford and/or beyond, or through innovations adopted
in other disciplines). This provision also extends to other forms
of leadership in, or in the development of, a field of study
beyond and/or within the University. Achievements in teaching
excellence and academic leadership will, depending on their
significance, lead to an award at a higher level within the range
set out below than the individual's narrow research profile alone
would merit. In exceptional cases an academic case relating to
the overwhelming importance of recruiting and retaining key staff
may lead to an award either at a higher level within the range
set out below, or above that range (up to a maximum of
£37,365). Levels 1--5 below relate to merit, while higher
awards are reserved for use in special recruitment and retention
cases.

Criteria for each level of award, to be interpreted in the
light of the general remarks above

Level 5 (£18,683): this level of award is only
available to individuals whose academic distinction is of the
highest quality, with a correspondingly quite outstanding
world-wide reputation which is universally acknowledged across
the broadest subject areas. Those at this level will have made
an historic contribution through their research and through their
overall role across their general field of study.

Level 4 (£14,013): this level of award is designed
for individuals of very high academic distinction and very
significant international reputation. While they may not match
the quite exceptional achievements of genuine world- leaders,
they will have had a similar international impact and have made
a seminal contribution to their broad discipline.

Level 3 (£9,341): this level of award is intended for
staff of considerable academic distinction, even when measured
against the overall Oxford context. They will often be the
leading international authorities in their particular field, and
will have made a very significant and lasting positive mark on
the University's work in their area (directly through their own
research or through their role in their discipline at Oxford).

Level 2 (£6,231): those at this level will have a
distinguished academic record clearly well in excess of that
which is a prerequisite for appointment to an Oxford chair. Their
international reputation will be very significant. This level may
also be used to reward quite exceptional and sustained
contributions to the academic work of the University from those
whose individual scholarship is also above the normal high
expectation. No-one who does not qualify for a level 1 award can
qualify for one at level 2.

Level 1 (£2,275): this level of award recognises work
of uncommonly high value to the collegiate University. It marks
an outstanding contribution towards its aims and objectives, in
terms of teaching and/or administration (whether college
administration, university administration, or both). Subject to
the points made in the general preamble above, outstanding
research is a necessary condition of an award at this level, but
is not by itself sufficient.

In all cases, in accordance with the University's equal
opportunities aims, account will be taken of factors which might
have affected an individual's performance, thus making the
contribution to research, in particular, smaller in quantity (but
not in quality) than would otherwise have been expected.

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