Guidance for Managers - Academic Progression

1.    Introduction
Performance management and career development
Expectations regarding progression
        3.1  Is the role progressable?
        3.2  Timing of progression
Making decisions about progression
        4.1  A light-touch process
        4.2  Assessment against the criteria
        4.3  Equal opportunities
Managing cases of unsuccessful progression

Appendix One: Guidance and exemplars of engagement and impact (PDF, 325kB)

1. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to provide further information and guidance for managers (Deans, Heads of School, Heads of Subject/Department/Primary Unit, and other relevant colleagues) to assist them in managing the progression procedure and making decisions about cases for progression.  This document should be read in conjunction with the Progression Procedure itself and other relevant supplementary guidance as indicated below.

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2. Performance management and career development

Responsibility for the performance management and career development of academic staff is one of the most important responsibilities of the Head of School role.  One of the key aspects of progression is that the member of staff should from the outset know what is expected of them, what they need to do in order to progress, and by when.  This is an integral part of normal day-to-day management and runs through the full range of staff management processes from recruitment, induction, initial service review, and staff review and development to progression and beyond. 

The Head of School must ensure that the member of staff’s progress, in terms of how far they are meeting the criteria for progression, and how this might be improved, form part of regular discussions under each of these processes.   Decisions regarding progression should not therefore come as a surprise but should be seen as a natural and expected outcome in light of ongoing feedback over the course of the member of staff’s employment to date.

Human Resources will provide Heads of School with lists of staff who are due to progress within the next year at regular intervals to assist them with this process.

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3.  Expectations regarding progression

It is important to ensure that all staff and managers are clear from the outset what the expectations are regarding progression, in terms of whether or not progression applies at all, what the requirements are and when the member of staff can expect to be considered.

3.1  Is the role progressable

A ‘progressable role’ is one where there is a contractual expectation that the individual in that role will progress, subject to them achieving the level of competence necessary to undertake that role profile (as detailed in Section 2 of the Progression Procedure). This is a two-way expectation.  The individual has certainty that, provided they meet the appropriate performance standards, they will progress within prescribed timescales.  There is an equal expectation on the University’s part that the individual will meet those performance standards within appropriate timescales, and failure to do so could potentially lead to action being taken under the Capability and Performance Procedure. 

All roles on pathway 1 and some roles on pathways 2 and 3 are deemed progressable up to profile level d1 (Senior Lecturer/Senior Research Fellow), which has been determined as the academic career grade.  The progressability of pathway 2 and 3 roles should be decided and made clear to appointees at recruitment stage, although it is possible for a non-progressable role to become progressable, (and exceptionally vice-versa) where circumstances are such to warrant this.  Some roles on pathways 2 and 3 may be ‘capped’.  That is, they may be deemed progressable only up to level c, at which point they become non-progressable.  Please refer to the guidance on determining the progressability and changing the progressability of roles on pathways 2 and 3 for further information.

For all staff appointed to profile level b or c, it will be made clear in the member of staff’s contract of employment whether or not the role is progressable, and if so, up to what level.

3.2 Timing of progression

Progression Due Date

Progression should normally take place on the member of staff’s ‘progression due date’ as detailed in Section 2 of the Progression Procedure.   This date will be included in the member of staff’s contract of employment where applicable.

Since progression takes place from the fourth salary point of the grade, the progression due date depends on where the individual was appointed on the salary scale.   It is therefore very important that staff are appointed to the appropriate salary point, in line with the experience they bring to the role.   In cases where there are grounds to do so, Recruitment and Retention supplements should be used to secure a recruitment (as opposed to appointing the person to a higher salary point).

Accelerated Progression

In exceptional cases where an individual has demonstrated development in the role at a significantly faster rate than would normally be expected, it may be appropriate for them to apply for Accelerated Progression.  This is possible in the following scenario only: 

Delaying a progression due date

A progression due date may be exceptionally delayed where there are grounds to do so as detailed in Section 2 of the Progression Procedure.  In order to do so, a case should be made by Head of School to the Dean via the delaying the progression due date process.

4.  Making decisions about progression

4.1  A light-touch process

Unlike promotion (which is a peer-review process based on written evidence alone), progression is a process based on management judgement, where the burden of proof is reversed.  The normal expectation is that an individual will progress unless there are clear reasons why this should not be the case.  The operation of the progression procedure should therefore be relatively light touch, with progression decisions being made on the basis of the CV and the senior management team’s wider professional knowledge of the individual, without the requirement for substantial prior paperwork in the vast majority of cases.

As the individual’s progression due date approaches, Human Resources will provide Heads of School with a form on which to record their recommendation to the Dean in terms of whether or not the individual should progress.   It is only in cases where the recommendation is that the individual should not progress that a full assessment against the criteria needs to be recorded

4.2  Assessment against the criteria

The general criteria for progression are set out in Section 3 of the Progression Procedure and full details of the role profile requirements for progression to each level are contained in Appendix 2.   These may be supplemented by Faculty-specific criteria which are designed to assist understanding of the requirements in the context of a particular faculty.  Specific guidance on impact and engagement, where relevant, can be found in Appendix One: Guidance and exemplars of engagement and impact (PDF, 325kB).

It should be noted that Pathway 1 and Pathway 3 staff, without a teaching in HE qualification and seeking promotion or progression to Senior Lecturer or above should normally achieve their HEA Fellowship through the University’s CREATE scheme before applying and in time for successful promotion being active. (See paragraph 3.4 of Progression Procedure)

See the Policy for staff participation in the CREATE scheme for further information.

Please note that candidates for accelerated progression from level b to c (Pathway 2 staff only) need to demonstrate that they are already demonstrating the competencies commensurate with the profile level to which they are seeking accelerated progression.  The 'burden of proof' is on the person seeking accelerated progression and Heads of School and Deans must be satisfied that the case for accelerated progression has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt.

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4.3  Equality issues and time available for duties

Consideration of equality issues in line with the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy is critical to the effective operation of this procedure.

A key issue here is the time available for duties.  In making their assessments, managers should take into account the amount of time that has been available to candidates for the completion of their duties and allow for appropriate adjustments in terms of expected outputs.  It is the quality of the contribution in the different areas that should be taken into account rather than simply the quantity (for example, number of publications).    For example:.

Part-time staff

The quantity is likely to be less for a part-time member of staff and quantity should therefore be assessed on an appropriate pro-rata basis.

Full time staff undertaking other work

Similar account should be taken of situations where a candidate’s employment within the University has included significant periods of time when they have not been engaged full-time on their academic duties.  For example, this may be due to specific time allocation to other duties (such as undertaking leadership roles within the school or faculty) or in relation to candidates who have clinical duties for the NHS and are therefore effectively part-time.

Periods of absence (including Maternity Leave)

It is particularly important that consideration is given to any special circumstances that may have resulted in a lack of opportunity for individuals to perform to their full potential in any one of the areas.  For example, due to time away from work because of family responsibilities, ill-health or disability.

In cases of maternity leave, assessments should be based on the assumption that during the first six months of each period of maternity leave, the individual would have continued to produce work at the quality and rate that she had been producing immediately prior to taking leave.   There cannot, however, be assumptions made where particular aspects of work have not yet been undertaken.  For any remaining maternity leave, or for any other break relating to equal opportunities issues (including Paternity Leave), that period of absence should be disregarded when considering output and quality of work over the total period in question.  (i.e. In effect, the service period over which performance is being considered is reduced by X months).

The rationale for decisions taken in relation to such periods of absence will be clearly recorded and fed back to candidates as appropriate, so that it is clear to them what extrapolations and assumptions have been made.

In exceptional cases, it may be appropriate to consider delaying the progression due date.

Advice and guidance on such cases will be provided by the Head of HR Business Partnering as required.

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5.  Managing cases of unsuccessful progression

In cases where progression is not agreed, it is important that full feedback is provided to the member of staff. This should include details of the necessary action that the member of staff needs to take and goals that must be achieved in order for progression to take place.  This feedback will normally be provided by the Head of School/Dean with support from the Head of HR Business Partnering.   

However, it is the Head of School’s responsibility to ensure that individuals are clear about what is expected of them in terms of their performance at all stages of their career.  It is even more critical that, in cases where individuals are failing to meet expectations, they are made aware of this well in advance of their progression due date so that they have an opportunity to address this.  As indicated earlier, readiness for progression and how this might be improved, should be forming part of regular discussions with the member of staff, so, where an individual fails to progress, this should never come as a surprise.

Given that there is a contractual expectation that staff in progressable roles will achieve progression, failure to do so on the original progression due date will normally mean that performance is unsatisfactory (unless it has been exceptionally agreed that there are grounds for the progression due date to be delayed).  

Cases of unsatisfactory performance should be managed under the University’s Capability (Performance) Procedure (Ordinance 10, section 5).  Full support will be provided by Human Resources and Heads of School are encouraged to seek advice from the relevant Faculty Human Resources Manager before seeking to meet with individuals.  Managers may also wish to refer to the Capability and Performance Procedure Guidance for Managers.