Chapter 7 - Academic appointments

7.1 Consideration of the position of academic staff[95] in Oxford has been a key feature of our work, because of the central role they have in both of the basic activities of Oxford - teaching and research. Two of the most serious concerns which have been expressed during our consultation exercises have been the overburdening of academic staff with a combination of research, teaching and administrative duties and the unsatisfactory operation of the joint appointments system for CUF[96] and university lecturers. We now discuss each of these areas in turn.

I: The workload of academic staff

7.2 The overburdening of academic staff is a problem which is by no means unique to Oxford. A survey carried out by the Association of University Teachers in 1994[97] revealed that the average working week of academic staff in UK higher education institutions was 53.5 hours.[98] This situation is the consequence of a combination of factors, including the rise in student numbers, the greater pressure to publish research, and the reduction in the real value of public funding per student in higher education. Because it is unacceptable that students should bear the brunt of these changes, the workload of academic staff has inevitably risen.

7.3 Figure 7.1 illustrates the increase in workload of various categories of academic staff in Oxford between 1964 and 1996, from information obtained from the Franks Commission's staff survey and our own survey in 1996. Whilst the hours are only estimates in both cases, and strict comparisons are difficult to make,[99] it is clear that the increase has been significant across the board. Although comparison between the surveys cannot give a full picture, they appear to indicate that whilst there has been a drop in the average number of undergraduate lectures and tutorials that an academic staff member gives each week, the number of classes and seminars has grown, and all types of graduate teaching have increased. It is also clear from our consultation that staff are concerned about the increasing amount of time taken up with preparing for teaching (for instance essay-marking and preparing hand-outs for lectures) because of the changed expectations on the part of students; about the increase in examining duties; and about the growing burden of administration associated, for example, with applying for research funds and running a research group.

Figure 7.1 : Estimated hours of work per week: comparison between data from the Franks Commission's survey of academic staff in 1964 and our survey in 1996

  Hours per week
Post 1964[100] 1996

Professor

52.3

56

Reader

52.2

55

University lecturer (with tutorial fellowship)

50.1

53

University lecturer (without tutorial fellowship)

48.2

52

CUF lecturer

50.5

54


7.4 The ideal solution to the problems created by the increase in workload, clearly, would be to engage more academic staff, in order to spread the work more widely. Realistically, however, there is no reasonable prospect of the University being in a financial position to do this in the foreseeable future. Another, more feasible, measure would be to obtain more undergraduate teaching at a lower cost, for example by having a significant proportion of teaching carried out by graduate 'teaching assistants', as occurs in a number of distinguished North American universities. Although we argue later (paragraph 10.68) that some increase in the amount of teaching undertaken by graduate students would be desirable for a number of reasons, we nevertheless remain firmly opposed to any proposal which would significantly reduce the proportion of teaching which undergraduates receive from leading academics in their field. It is partly on this principle that Oxford's reputation for excellent undergraduate teaching rests, and we cannot allow it to be diluted to any significant degree.

7.5 Given that the solution cannot be to increase the number of staff, the University must identify measures to achieve some reduction in the overall workload of academic staff, even if such measures can offer only partial solutions. Elsewhere in this report, we make a number of proposals which, as we now indicate, will in our view have a beneficial impact in this area.

Revised governance and administrative structures

7.6 Although the establishment of the three academic boards in the place of the General Board would be likely to increase the number of bodies on which academic staff would be asked to serve, we believe that for a number of reasons the system of governance recommended would nevertheless decrease the overall burden of administration now expected of academic staff. First, committees would be encouraged to allow decisions to be made at as low a level as possible, with the result that there would be much less repetitious referral of issues up and down the committee structure. Secondly, we have suggested that in appropriate circumstances more decisions should be made by individuals, whether academic or administrative staff (see paragraph 6.9), rather than by committees, thus reducing to a considerable degree the unnecessary burden currently placed on committee members. This would also reduce the workload of the administrators servicing the committees, who would thus be available to perform other tasks. The appointment of the four full-time Deputy Vice-Chancellors (see paragraphs 5.121 to 5.129) would be of particular benefit in this respect. Thirdly, improved management information systems (see Chapter 6) would make the tasks of information gathering and retrieval much quicker and easier, and would demand less involvement from academic staff.

7.7 However, whilst much can be done on the part of the University to reduce the burden of administration and of attendance at meetings, it is also incumbent upon colleges to review their structures of governance and administration. It was clear that a number of respondents to our staff questionnaire felt that the burden of college offices and participation in college committees was even more of an imposition and hindrance to academic work than were university duties. We discuss this point in paragraphs 5.191 to 5.192.

More effective use of a variety of teaching methods for undergraduates

7.8 In Chapter 9 we argue that there should be a thorough review of the use made of different undergraduate teaching methods, such as tutorials, lectures, seminars and IT-based learning, in order to ensure that teaching time is used in the most effective way possible for both academic staff and students (see paragraphs 9.29 to 9.34). Whilst there is much that faculties and departments can do, especially in reviewing the use of lectures and of new technologies, we believe that the greatest responsibility in this area lies with the colleges, who are in a position to examine whether any of the teaching given in tutorials could be better delivered in a different form, for example in seminars. Over-extensive use of the tutorial puts an intense pressure on both tutors and students and was the subject of a number of complaints from academic staff. Whilst we have a strong conviction that the tutorial system remains the best foundation for undergraduate degree courses, we nevertheless believe that it could be strengthened, not weakened, by ensuring that tutorial teaching is used in circumstances where it is most appropriate and effective. If our recommendations on this issue in Chapter 9 are adopted, a significant reduction in both the teaching load of, and the frustration experienced by, some academic staff might be achieved.

Revised planning and resource allocation procedures

7.9 One feature of the new planning and resource allocation procedures which we have proposed in Chapter 5 is a requirement on faculties and departments to undertake a rigorous assessment of the availability of staff to provide the teaching which the faculty or department wishes to offer. At present, particularly in graduate studies, there is a tendency to develop a new taught course without identifying who will take over the other teaching for which the course tutor was previously responsible. There has also been a failure in several faculties to observe the norms and maxima set for the number of research students who may be allocated to each supervisor. Both these tendencies, whilst prompted by good motives, contribute to the overburdening of academic staff and must be countered by more careful planning and closer adherence to plans.

7.10 A further feature of our proposals is that the budgets set by each academic unit would include both academic staff costs and other costs. As a result, there would be more freedom than at present for departments and faculties to decide how to maximise the availability of academic staff time. Some might, for example, see benefit in not refilling a vacant academic post, in order to have the funds available to take on additional clerical or administrative support for existing academic staff. In such a case, liaison with colleges would be particularly important to ensure adequate provision of college teaching.

Recommendation 34
We recommend that the University and colleges should give a high priority to identifying and implementing measures to reduce the overall workload of academic staff, taking account in particular of the opportunities presented in this area by our proposals to introduce more effective systems of governance and administration, greater variety in undergraduate teaching methods, more rigorous planning procedures and more flexible allocation of resources.

7.11 Whilst the above measures would go some way to alleviating the burdens on academic staff, we cannot claim that they would solve the whole problem. However, overwork is not the only problem affecting the morale of academic staff. Many of those who are employed jointly by the University and a college are frustrated by a number of aspects of the joint appointments system, including inequitable conditions of employment between different colleges and the obligation to carry out duties to which they may no longer be well suited. As these problems often exacerbate the other pressures on academic staff, these are issues which it is equally important to address.

II: The Joint Appointments System

Introduction

7.12 Given that Oxford is a collegiate university, the arrangements for employing academic staff have evolved in ways which aim to serve, as far as possible, the objectives of both the colleges and the University. However, during this century, it has become more and more difficult to reconcile the needs of the two employers because, whilst the colleges' predominant role has continued to be the provision of tutorial teaching and pastoral support to the undergraduates whom they have admitted, the academic responsibilities of the University have considerably broadened, as a result of which the relationship between the University and the colleges, and the roles which academic staff are expected to fulfil, have changed significantly.

7.13 There have been four principal causes of this change. First, the growth of the sciences, with their need for centrally organised facilities and teaching, has led to the University's greater involvement in undergraduate teaching. This is also true, to a lesser extent, in some of the minority humanities and social science subjects, in which there is sometimes insufficient demand to sustain college-organised teaching. Secondly, the increase in the number of graduate students, for whom the faculties have primary academic responsibility, has given the University a new reason to call on the time of academic staff, including, most significantly, the time of those whose primary employer is a college. Thirdly, the growing importance of research as an academic activity, the income from which accrue mainly to the University, presents another conflict with the demands of tutorial teaching in colleges. Fourthly, the growth of public funding and regulation of higher education has advanced the University's position in terms both of income and of its administrative authority: whilst in 1920, the University's income was little more than a third of that of the colleges collectively,[101] in 1995/6 the colleges' overall income was equivalent to only 43 per cent of the University's (see paragraph 12.1).

The development of the joint appointments system

7.14 Whilst these changes were occurring there was also a significant shift in the pattern of employment of academic staff, leading to the current situation in which nearly all academic staff are appointed jointly by the University and a college. At the beginning of this century, most academic appointments were made by colleges. However, because of the trends outlined above, the University needed increasingly to engage academic staff to fulfil its own distinct responsibilities; these were staff who could give classes and lectures, often in very specialised options, to both undergraduate and graduate students and who could carry out highly specialised research. As a result, there came to be a growing number of professors, readers and university lecturers in Oxford who were not in general invited to hold college fellowships, because the colleges still required a body of fellows willing and able to give undergraduate tutorials in mainstream subjects. This gave rise to a concern that an increasing number of academics in Oxford, particularly in the sciences and minority subjects, were excluded from the academic, financial and social benefits of college fellowship.

7.15 The means by which Oxford has sought to resolve this problem has been through the principle of 'entitlement', whereby all those who are appointed to an established academic post by the University (except the very few who hold part-time, temporary or some junior posts) are entitled also to be appointed to a college fellowship. The first major move towards entitlement was made in the 1920s when the Asquith Commission, appointed to review the University (see paragraph 1.24), ensured the automatic provision of college fellowships for new professors by having each chair allocated to a college. In the 1960s the University put forward a number of possible solutions to the problem of the continued exclusion of an increasing proportion of its academic staff from college life: that existing colleges should absorb those most likely to fit in with their needs; that new colleges, founded specifically for the purpose, should absorb the rest; and that all future academic appointments should be made jointly between the University and the colleges. Although progress was slow, these proposals have now all been implemented. Thus all professorships, readerships and university lecturerships now have a college fellowship associated with them. Most, though not all, of the university lecturers have tutorial duties, and in these cases the college pays about 16 per cent of the joint salary, usually together with some additional benefits such as housing allowance, which range from about £2,000 to about £8,000. In general the colleges make very little financial contribution to their non-tutorial fellows, such as professors, and such staff are rarely expected to undertake teaching duties for the college.

7.16 Whilst some of the pressure for a system of joint appointments arose because of the benefits which college association brings to the University's academic staff, one important form of joint appointment, the CUF lecturership, arose for different reasons. Originally, CUF lecturers were amongst a group of college teaching fellows whose lectures, although given on behalf of their college, were open to all members of the University. Until the 1950s, CUF lecturerships were entirely college-funded, but part of the funding was derived from the 'Common University Fund' (funded by a system of college contributions) rather than their being entirely paid for by individual colleges. In the 1950s however, the Universities' Grants Committee (UGC) began to promote and fund nationwide increases in academic salaries which even the wealthier colleges could not meet. Consequently the University itself funded the salary increases for CUF lecturers by applying some of its additional funding from the UGC to this purpose. From this beginning, the situation gradually came about that the salaries of all established college teaching fellows were funded jointly by their college and the University; in consequence, whilst the major part of their duties continued to be college teaching, a formal requirement to carry out some lecturing for the University was established and the University eventually became more involved in the selection process.[102] Now CUF lecturers (who mainly work in the humanities and social sciences) may also be required to give classes, supervise graduate students and to examine for the University. Thus, from being a post entirely funded and controlled by a college, the CUF lecturership has gradually evolved into what is now termed a joint appointment, with a number of responsibilities which may well conflict with the continuing primary obligation to the college. However, under the current joint appointments system, CUF lecturers still perform the vast majority of their teaching for their college, which pays about 60 per cent of the joint salary, together with allowances.

Problems in the current system

7.17 From the consultation exercise which we undertook in February 1996, it was clear that there was widespread support amongst academic staff in Oxford for the continuation of some form of joint appointments system, which was seen as a good way to build on the strengths of the college system. Academic staff benefit intellectually and socially from fellowship of a college, and undergraduates benefit from being taught predominantly by tutors who are personally known to them in their college and who are also likely to be active in research. However, the way in which the joint appointments system actually operates is giving rise to serious discontent amongst academic staff, especially CUF and university lecturers, and the system is proving increasingly unable to answer the needs of colleges and faculties. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The inability of the current system to reconcile the tensions between the different duties which staff are expected to perform by their college and their faculty board or department. In the context of the heavy workloads which academic staff bear, this situation is becoming increasingly intolerable for some.
  • The inflexibility of the terms of the joint appointment, which fixes a minimum number of hours for tutorial teaching and university lectures at the beginning of an individual's career and offers no mechanisms for varying that balance except by temporary measures such as sabbatical leave, special lecturerships and 'trade-offs' (on which see the point below). From the individual's point of view, this is an obstacle to long-term career development. From the broader perspective of the University and the colleges, the current form of the joint appointments contract inhibits the efficient use of resources for teaching, research and administration by fixing minima for some duties whilst the talents of a particular individual might be better deployed with a different balance of duties.
  • The limitations of the existing 'trade-off' and special lecturership schemes, aimed at promoting flexibility between college and university duties. Under these schemes, temporary remission from part of an individual's college teaching obligation can be agreed in exchange for compensatory financial adjustments between the University and the college. However, in practice the extent to which the University can buy out an individual's 'college' time to fulfil a need for university teaching, research or administration is severely restricted, because the rate at which the University is permitted to 'buy out' staff hours allocated to college teaching is very high (£1,882 per annualised hour for 1997/8) and because the number of hours which may be bought out per week is limited to three or four. Colleges are similarly restricted by current systems which only allow them to buy out a fellow's university hours by individual and highly exceptional arrangements.
  • The inequality of emoluments and conditions of work as between different members of the University's academic staff in equivalent posts, resulting from the varying provision made by different colleges for their tutorial fellows.
  • The position of university lecturers with non-tutorial fellowships ('ULNTFs'), whose total maximum potential salary is less than that for lecturers with tutorial fellowships, and most of whom are not usually eligible for additional benefits from their college, such as housing allowances.
  • The dominance of teaching requirements in core topics, largely for undergraduates, which may unduly restrict a faculty's ability to meet a need for specialist undergraduate or graduate teaching, or for research.

7.18 In recent years, a number of bodies have attempted to address particular aspects of these difficulties. The General Board, for example, has been trying to alleviate the problems of overburdening, mostly through temporary variations of contractual duties. It has introduced some modest but helpful changes to standard contracts with regard to the maximum levels of college teaching that some categories of new appointees may undertake, and has dedicated considerable funds to 'trade-off' and special lecturership schemes. However, as discussed in the preceding paragraph, the scope of such measures has been limited and further progress has been hampered by continued difficulties in balancing the needs of the University and the colleges in a climate of increasing workloads.

7.19 Recently there has been something of a breakthrough, with the establishment of a joint working party which includes representatives of the General Board, the Senior Tutors' Committee and the Estates Bursars' Committee. This group has taken forward proposals to introduce a 'common contract', which would aim to describe accurately how university and college duties interrelate within a flexible and co-operative framework agreed by the individual and both employers. The working party has proposed a reformulation of the current obligations of those university lecturers who work in the sciences and of all CUF lecturers, within a joint 'generalised duty' whereby the individual would be required by both the University and the college to perform university and college duties.

7.20 Given the real problems in this area, and the difficulty in making progress in tackling them, we particularly welcome the working party's progress on the principle of commonality of contractual obligation, as this provides the essential co-operative framework within which reform has to be pursued. Nonetheless, we believe that the current proposals of the working party, and those which the General Board has developed for the broad continuation of current schemes for temporary remission, are not in themselves adequate. There are three reasons. First, by continuing to maintain a fixed number of college teaching hours, and by preserving the high buy-out rate for college teaching under the trade-offs and special lecturership schemes, the existing proposals still inhibit the ability of the University to balance the needs of undergraduate teaching with those for graduate teaching and research. Secondly, they do not offer an effective mechanism for enabling staff to vary their duties in the long-term. Thirdly, they are not designed to deal with inequalities in total remuneration between holders of similar posts at different colleges (nor with inequalities of resources between colleges). These are all issues which we intend to address in the proposals which we set out later in this chapter and in chapter 12.

7.21 In addition to the attempts to reduce overall burdens on academic staff, and to introduce more flexibility into the contracts of those holding joint appointments, the University has also seen a need to address the concerns of some university lecturers with non-tutorial fellowships ('ULNTFs'), who were dissatisfied that their total maximum potential salary was less than that for lecturers with tutorial fellowships and that in most cases their colleges (mostly graduate colleges) did not offer them housing allowances or other benefits. Whilst some ULNTFs were content with their position, because it meant that they did not have to take on the additional duties associated with a tutorial fellowship, it was recognised to be unsatisfactory that ULNTFs were in general denied the opportunity to earn the higher salary and benefits of tutorial fellows, because of the type of college post with which their university appointment happened to be associated. In 1995 Hebdomadal Council and the General Board accordingly set up a working party to consider the position of ULNTFs. The working party, whose recommendations were adopted by Congregation in 1996, took into account the overall workload and pay of lecturers without tutorial fellowships in comparison with lecturers with such fellowships and with senior lecturers in other universities. It concluded that, in return for the acceptance of an additional duty to give three hours of tutorial teaching or special tuition, ULNTFs could be paid at a salary point £3,227 above the top of the scale for other university lecturers. This point is the top of the national senior lecturer scale but is £2,552 below the joint maximum for university lecturers with tutorial fellowships (most of whom also receive college allowances). The proposals of the working party were generally accepted and have been implemented. The working party recognised, however, that the solution which it proposed was only a temporary measure and it expressed the wish that its reports be made available to us, in the expectation that we would be in a position to propose a more appropriate long-term solution on the issue of the salary and contractual position of ULNTFs.

Our proposals for reform

Introduction

7.22 In the light of the real difficulties in the way in which the joint appointments system is currently operated, we initially explored the option of abandoning a joint appointments system altogether. We considered whether there would be advantages in moving to the system operating at Cambridge, in which university academic appointments and college fellowships are not linked, although a very high proportion of staff hold both. In that system, the university unilaterally appoints an individual to a university academic post; if the individual so wishes, he or she may also seek a fellowship at a college. If it is a teaching fellowship, the individual earns a stipend from the college of around £3,500, in addition to the university salary. For the university, this can be perceived as having the advantage that the college plays no part in the selection of the postholder and consequently a compromise does not need to be reached between the university's and the college's needs. In addition, the whole system is considerably simpler than that in Oxford. However, there are also disadvantages, in that the lack of regulation of college association by the university can lead to an uneven distribution of university staff between colleges and, furthermore, some university staff may (and do) decide not to take up a college teaching post in order to concentrate on their university work. We are concerned that both these factors might tend to weaken the link between research and undergraduate teaching which is one of the strengths of the joint appointments system in Oxford. They might also weaken the links between colleges and the University centrally. Furthermore, the Cambridge system does not offer the increase in flexibility between college and university duties which we seek. For these varied reasons we have concluded that we should not recommend abandonment of the joint appointments system, but that rather we should seek to improve it.

Recommendation 35
We recommend that Oxford should retain, but reform, its system of joint appointments.

7.23 The reforms which we are proposing are aimed at strengthening the joint appointments system by making it more flexible and more equitable; we believe that this will make the work of academic staff more manageable and variable and will enable them to serve both the colleges and the University more effectively. Our recommendations build upon the valuable work already done by the joint working party (see paragraph 7.19) in attaining wide support for the principle of the common contract, and do so by proposing a new form of contract which would offer more radical solutions to the wider problems which the working party was not in a position to address, including those of ULNTFs.

7.24 In broad terms, we propose the abolition (for new appointments) of the current CUF and university lecturerships and their replacement with a single form of university lecturership under a new contract (here referred to as the 'joint contract'), under which the apportionment of each appointee's teaching duties (within a range of hours) would be fixed at the time of appointment by negotiation between the relevant college and faculty or department, according to their respective needs. In the humanities and much of the social sciences, clearly, the major part of the duties would still be owed to the college for undergraduate tutorial teaching, whilst in the sciences the department's requirements would still predominate. The apportionment would then be subject to review at five yearly intervals, again through negotiation between the faculty or department and the college, but also taking into account, as far as possible, the individual's own aspirations, which would be explored as part of the appraisal process. In the following paragraphs, we describe in more detail how our proposals would work in practice from an organisational point of view; in Chapter 12 and Appendix C, we describe the financial arrangements which would need to be introduced.

Recommendation 36
We recommend the abolition (for new appointments) of the current CUF and university lecturerships and their replacement with a new single form of university lecturership under which the apportionment of teaching duties would be negotiated between the University and the relevant college(s) on an individual basis at the beginning of the appointment and periodically thereafter.

Comparability of teaching units

7.25 The proper comparison of work carried out for a college and that carried out for the University would depend on the introduction of a system of measuring units of teaching which gave appropriate weight to the different activities involved. We suggest that initially, at least, the University should adopt the weighting system devised by the joint working party i.e. under which one unit equals one hour of undergraduate tutorial teaching for the college (as defined by collective agreement between the colleges), or one hour of special tuition at the taught graduate level, or the supervision of one research student, or one-third of a lecture, or one seminar or class (but subject to variation depending on the particular type of seminar or class) or one hour of demonstrating. However, it may be appropriate to develop a more refined system of weighting over time which distinguishes between the different nature of these activities in different subject areas.

Recommendation 37
We recommend that, in introducing the new form of university lecturership, the academic boards and the appropriate college bodies should initially adopt the system of weighting units of teaching devised by the General Board's and Senior Tutors' Committee's joint working party on the common contract, but that consideration should be given to means of refining these measures in due course.

Graduate supervision

7.26 A very important feature of the working party's proposals, which we fully endorse, is the inclusion of graduate supervision in the calculation of the teaching units owed to the University. This would be a change from the present arrangements, under which time spent on graduate supervision is an addition to the basic number of teaching hours owed to the University, and for which a supervision fee of £30 per student per term is paid to the supervisor. As we discuss in paragraph 10.16, we believe that such a change from the present arrangements is essential, both in order to give formal recognition to the fact that graduate supervision is entirely within the mainstream of academic duties, and in order to avoid academic staff being overburdened by a combination of their fixed undergraduate and graduate teaching duties and their 'additional' duties as supervisors.

Recommendation 38
We recommend that:

(a) graduate supervision should be included in the calculation of teaching units owed to the University under the contracts for the new form of university lecturership, rather than being an additional duty as at present; and

(b) the payment of fees to joint appointees for acting as supervisor should cease.

The position of ULNTFs

7.27 University lecturers with non-tutorial fellowships (ULNTFs) would participate fully and equally in the proposed new arrangements. They would receive the same total salary as tutorial fellows, and would be contracted to undertake the same number of units of teaching, but the University would retain control of all the units and would therefore be responsible for the total salary. The relevant faculty or department would be able to use these hours for lectures, seminars, classes and graduate supervision, but could also make some of them available to undergraduate colleges for tutorial teaching, either on a long-term basis (in which case the fellow would also hold a lecturership at an undergraduate college), or on a casual basis. The faculty or department would thus hold a pool of tutorial hours which would be available to support minority options, or to replace the college teaching of those whose hours the faculty or department wanted to buy out. The faculty or department would be able to add to this pool some of the teaching hours of fellows of undergraduate colleges if that were thought appropriate, either because not all the normal share of hours was needed at the undergraduate colleges, or because the fellow's teaching interests were too specialised. This aspect of our proposals would have the added advantage that it would enable undergraduate colleges to appoint some non-tutorial fellows whose interests fell outside the mainstream requirements of the undergraduate courses.

Flexibility under the joint contract

7.28 One of the primary aims of our proposal for the joint contract scheme is to promote flexibility for individuals, colleges and the University, in both the short and long term. The mechanisms for achieving the different types of flexibility are described below. Although the different mechanisms are discussed separately, they do of course interact, and may in some cases have conflicting objectives on which compromise would be needed.

7.29 First, we believe that it is important to give individuals some freedom to arrange their own teaching, often at short notice, so that they can meet their core obligations to the college and the University without becoming over-burdened. At present, it is difficult for them to exercise this freedom with flexibility between university and college teaching, because they owe a fixed minimum number of teaching hours to the college. To overcome this, the joint contract would set out an overall maximum number of teaching units per week, for all lecturers, within which a maximum and minimum number of units would be owed to the college and a maximum and minimum owed to the faculty or department. We propose that initially the overall maximum be set at 18 units, the figure recognised by the joint working party (see paragraph 7.19) as codifying current average levels of teaching, but a long-term aim must be to reduce this when the University's financial position allows. The division of teaching units between the college and the department/faculty would have been set by agreement between them at the beginning of the appointment or subsequently varied by agreement. Within the defined ranges, individual academic staff members would be free to decide how many units to teach on each side, without consulting either their college or their faculty, but would have to arrange replacement teaching and to report at the end of each year on how they had used those units. The range would be quite small, probably two units at most per week, but this would allow an individual, for example, to agree to supervise an additional graduate student at the beginning of term instead of taking on a series of undergraduate tutorials. It would not be necessary to set the ranges of university and college teaching identically in every faculty; for example, the range would be likely to be quite restricted in smaller faculties, as their scope for redistributing teaching to other staff would be limited. Similarly, the range might vary even between individuals in the same faculty, according to circumstances.

Recommendation 39
We recommend that the contract for the new form of university lecturership which we propose should, within an overall maximum number of teaching units, express a postholder's teaching obligations to the University and the college in terms of ranges of hours rather than fixed numbers of units, in order to permit individual postholders flexibility to undertake small amounts of short-term teaching for either the University or a college at their discretion (subject to an obligation to arrange replacement teaching for the other institution, where necessary).

7.30 Secondly, we wish through our proposals to offer more prospect for long-term changes of duties than is at present possible. The scope for career development of Oxford academic staff who are appointed early in their careers (say in their late twenties or early thirties) as a lecturer and a college fellow is fairly restricted. If they wish to stay working in Oxford, and do not aspire to or succeed in obtaining a statutory professorship or readership, there is very little opportunity for changing their duties over the next thirty or more years, apart from the possibility of taking on a more administrative role in the University or their college. The high minima set for undergraduate teaching hours, especially for CUF lecturers, do not allow for the adoption by a lecturer of a significant bias in favour of research or graduate teaching. Equally, the current pressure on all academic staff to publish research regularly has reduced the possibilities for concentrating predominantly on teaching in the later stages of a career. Views expressed in appraisals and in our staff survey in 1996 have suggested that this lack of opportunity for career development can lead to frustration and staleness, and can result in the loss of valuable staff to other institutions. We believe that a welcome consequence of the enhanced planning mechanisms which we propose would be an easier acceptance by the University and the colleges of the wish of individual staff members to change the focus of their career whilst staying in the same post, as the wishes of individuals would be simply another factor to consider in the planning of human resources. The long-term flexibility desirable for an individual's career development can only be achieved through a regular, planned process of career review involving the individual and their own faculty or department and college, to consider how the balance of duties might be varied from time to time to meet with individual aspirations and departmental or faculty and college needs. The introduction of the joint contract scheme would provide the mechanism for achieving such variation.

7.31 The process would ideally be driven by a more refined and effective version of the current appraisal process for academic staff, in which the appraiser would have an initial responsibility for discussing with the appraisee whether it would be desirable from the individual's point of view to alter his or her balance of duties by changing the terms of the contract for the ensuing period. The appraiser would then make an appropriate recommendation to the faculty or department and the college concerned. By continuing the current five-yearly appraisal process, about one-fifth of posts would be reviewed each year, which would not, in our view, be expected to cause undue difficulty. Requests for change could also be triggered by specific requirements relating to university or college teaching or administration, by a particular research opportunity or by a reassessment of priorities at the end of an individual's probationary period. The faculty/department and the college would then consider in the context of their planning cycles whether in the individual case the balance of duties should change, taking into account the effects on their teaching resources and any other relevant considerations.

7.32 It may of course be argued that, in an academic climate in which it might be said that the majority of staff is likely to prefer to spend more time on graduate work and research than on undergraduate teaching, it would be impracticable to offer such flexibility because colleges would have difficulty in finding tutors for all the tutorial hours which they need to provide. There is already pressure from undergraduates for more tutorial teaching, and individual colleges, with small numbers of staff in each subject, have very little scope for redeployment compared with a faculty or department. However, we believe that there are answers to these concerns:

  • There is a large group of people in Oxford who believe that a prime responsibility is to teach and to do so very effectively.
  • The academic boards would be required to compensate colleges financially if their reasonable and agreed teaching needs were not met.
  • Unlike the position under the current contracts, the new contract would not require a minimum number of lectures to be given for the University each year; this would avoid the present situation in which individuals sometimes deliver unnecessary lectures in order to fulfil their lecture 'stint', and would thus release extra hours which might be used for college teaching.
  • The use of a greater variety of undergraduate teaching methods (which we advocate in paragraphs 9.29 to 9.34) is likely to lead to an overall reduction in the number of hours of undergraduate teaching which staff are required to undertake.

7.33 Clearly, the degree of flexibility available to the individual must be subject to the actual teaching requirements of the colleges and of the University, and must enhance rather than impede the planning processes of both sides. Faculties, departments and colleges must be in a position to look ahead over a period of a few years and to plan how to keep supply and demand for teaching in balance. It would therefore be essential, under our joint contract scheme, for any proposed shifts in the balance of duties to be discussed by both the college and the faculty or department well in advance, and both sides would be able to decline to accept a change in the balance of duties which was not consistent with their medium- or long-term plans.

7.34 However, it would quite often be the case that changes of duty requested by individual academic staff members would actually reflect the changing teaching needs of the college or the University, resulting, for example, from the introduction of a new option for undergraduates or a new graduate taught course, or from the phasing out of an existing course. Current trends make it more likely that such shifts would favour the plans of the University rather than of the college, and so we believe it important that the academic boards should be required to liaise with the Senior Tutors' Committee to identify the minimum provision needed in each subject; the academic boards would then be responsible for ensuring that faculties and departments met those minimum requirements. In addition, measures would need to be introduced for compensating whichever side might be disadvantaged by a loss of teaching hours arising from a shift of teaching duties. These measures might include an adjustment in the terms of other posts that fell vacant during the planning period to take account of a need for replacement teaching, or provision of replacement college teaching from the 'pool' of tutorial hours under a faculty's or department's control (see paragraph 7.27).

Recommendation 40
We recommend that the academic boards, in consultation with the colleges, should institute a rolling programme of five yearly reviews of the distribution of teaching duties to individual lecturers, with a view to giving the opportunity to individuals to elect to alter the balance of their duties between University and college, in so far as such alterations are compatible with the academic plans of the relevant faculty or department and college.

Selection of joint appointees

7.35 Under the present system, both the University and the relevant college participate in the selection of joint appointees, but the extent of their involvement depends on which type of post is on offer. For statutory professors and readers, for example, the selection is made by an electoral board which is usually made up of seven university representatives and two college representatives and which makes a collective decision on the appointment. This arrangement works well in our view, and the balance of membership of the appointing body reflects in an appropriate way the balance of interests of the University and the college. We therefore propose no change. For CUF and university lecturerships, the 'minor' employer has two representatives and the 'major' employer normally at least five (although practice varies considerably between different colleges and faculties, to the extent of some colleges involving their whole governing body in the selection). However, in effect, the appointing process is not truly joint, as the major employer makes a selection and the other side has only a right to veto. We believe that this is undesirable, as it can lead to the needs of one employer inappropriately dominating the other. We have concluded that there is a good case for changing the procedures for making joint appointments, whether the college or the University is perceived as the 'major' employer.

7.36 Under the new joint appointments system which we propose, each lecturer would be selected by a unified selection committee whose membership would consist of equal numbers of representatives from the college and the university (normally three or four each) and, in addition, a chairman from whichever employer had a greater interest in the post, in terms of the number of units' teaching agreed for the start of the appointment. For example, if an appointee's initial contractual obligation was 12 units for the college and six for the University, the chairman would be a college representative. Representatives of either side could, as now, include external members to ensure that the selection panel had sufficient expertise in the subject area being discussed. The selection panel would consider the merits of each candidate in the light of an assessment of the combined needs of both employers. Whilst it should be possible in many cases for the panel to reach consensus, if there were disagreement priority would be given to the interests of the side with the predominant teaching requirement through the chairman's vote. The selection panel would then recommend a single candidate to both the college and the relevant faculty board/department and only in the event of a veto by either of those bodies would the selection panel have to reconsider. Thus, whilst the interests of both the college and the University would be preserved by an ultimate veto, it is intended that the use of a joint selection panel would enable each partner to have a better appreciation of the other's needs and to recognise their legitimate concerns, thus supporting a consensual approach to selection which we believe would obviate the need for the exercise of a veto in all but a very small number of cases.

Recommendation 41
We recommend that the selection process for making joint appointments at the lecturer level should be on the basis of:

(a) appointing to selection panels equal numbers of representatives of the faculty board and the relevant college(s), together with a chairman drawn from whichever partner had the greater interest in the post in terms of the number of teaching units required of the person appointed;

(b) having selection panels make a single recommendation for an appointment, rather than a list of preferences, to both the college and the faculty board/department.