Statute XII: Academic Staff and the Visitatorial Board
(This Statute is a 'Queen-in-Council' statute - see section 2 (2) of Statute IV.)
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Part A: Construction, Application, and Interpretation
1. This statute and any decree or regulation made under this statute shall be construed in every case to give effect to the following guiding principles, that is to say:
(1) to ensure that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges;
(2) to enable the University to provide education, promote learning, and engage in research efficiently and economically; and
(3) to apply the principles of justice and fairness.
2. No provision in Part B, Part D, Part E, or Part G shall enable any member of the academic staff to be dismissed unless the reason for the dismissal may in the circumstances (including the size and administrative resources of the University) reasonably be treated as a sufficient reason for dismissal.
3. (1) This statute shall apply:
(a) to professors, readers, and lecturers;
(b) to employees of the University who are subject to the jurisdiction of the Visitatorial Board under the provisions of Part C; and
(c) to the Vice-Chancellor to the extent and in the manner set out in Part G.
(2) In this statute any reference to 'a member of the academic staff' is a reference to a person to whom this statute applies.
4. In this statute 'dismiss' and 'dismissal' mean dismissal of a member of the academic staff and
(1) include remove or, as the case may be, removal from office; and
(2) in relation to employment under a contract, shall be construed in accordance with section 55 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978.
5. (1) For the purposes of this statute 'good cause' in relation to the dismissal or removal from office or place of a member of the academic staff, being in any case a reason which is related to conduct or to capability or qualifications for performing work of the kind which the member of the academic staff concerned was appointed or employed to do, means:
(a) conviction for an offence which may be deemed by the Visitatorial Board in the exercise of its powers under Part D to be such as to render the person convicted unfit for the performance of the duties of the office or employment as a member of the academic staff; or
(b) conduct of an immoral, scandalous, or disgraceful nature incompatible with the duties of the office or employment; or
(c) conduct constituting failure or persistent refusal or neglect or inability to perform the duties or comply with the conditions of office or employment; or
(d) physical or mental incapacity established under Part E.
(2) In this section:
(a) 'capability', in relation to such a member, means capability assessed by reference to skill, aptitude, health, or any other physical or mental quality; and
(b) 'qualifications', in relation to such a member, means any degree, diploma or other academic, technical, or professional qualification relevant to the office or position held by that member.
6. For the purposes of this statute dismissal shall be taken to be a dismissal by reason of redundancy if it is attributable wholly or mainly to:
(1) the fact that the University has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the activity for the purposes of which the person concerned was appointed or employed by the University, or has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on that activity in the place in which the person concerned worked; or
(2) the fact that the requirements of that activity for members of the academic staff to carry out work of a particular kind, or to carry out work of a particular kind in that place, have ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish.
7. (1) In any case of conflict, the provisions of this statute shall prevail over those of any other of the statutes and over those of the regulations, and the provisions of any regulation made under this statute shall prevail over those of any other regulation; provided that Part D and Part G shall not apply in relation to anything done or omitted to be done before the date on which the instrument making this statute was approved under sub-section (9) of section 204 of the Education Reform Act 1988;1 and provided also that disciplinary proceedings in relation to anything done or omitted to be done before that date may continue or be instituted after that date under the relevant statutes in force immediately before that date.
(2) Nothing in any appointment made, or contract entered into, shall be construed as overriding or excluding any provision made by this statute concerning the dismissal of a member of the academic staff by reason of redundancy or for good cause; provided that this shall not invalidate any waiver made under section 142 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978.
(3) In any case where an officer of the University or any other person is designated to perform any duties or exercise any powers under this statute, and that officer or other person is involved in the matter in question, an alternate may be appointed to act in his or her place under procedures prescribed by regulations made under this statute.
(4) Nothing in any other of the statutes or in any regulation made under them shall authorise or require any officer of the University to sit as a member of any committee, tribunal, or body appointed under this statute or to be present when any such committee, tribunal, or body is meeting to arrive at its decision or for the purpose of discussing any point of procedure.
(5) This statute shall be without prejudice to any power given by the statutes of any college to the governing body of that college to deprive a member of the academic staff who is a fellow of the college of his or her fellowship or of any part of the emoluments which he or she is entitled to receive as fellow for any cause (including redundancy) for which any other fellow of the college would be liable to be so deprived.
(6) In this statute references to lettered Parts and to numbered sections and sub-sections are references to Parts, sections, and sub-sections so lettered or numbered in this statute.
8. This Part enables Council, as the appropriate body, to dismiss any member of the academic staff by reason of redundancy.
9. (1) Nothing in this Part shall prejudice, alter, or affect any rights, powers, or duties of the University or apply in relation to a person unless:
(a) his or her appointment is made, or his or her contract of employment is entered into, on or after 20 November 1987; or
(b) he or she is promoted on or after that date.
(2) For the purposes of this section in relation to a person, a reference to an appointment made or a contract entered into on or after 20 November 1987 or to promotion on or after that date shall be construed in accordance with sub-sections (3) to (6) of section 204 of the Education Reform Act 1988.
10. (1) Council shall be the appropriate body for the purposes of this Part.
(2) This Part applies only where Congregation has decided that it is desirable that there should be a reduction in the academic staff
(a) of the University as a whole; or
(b) of any division, faculty, school, department, or other similar area of the University by way of redundancy.
11. (1) Where Congregation has reached a decision under section 10 (2), the appropriate body shall appoint a Redundancy Committee (to be constituted in accordance with sub-section (3) of this section) to give effect to that decision by such date as the appropriate body may specify, and for that purpose:
(a) to select and recommend the requisite members of the academic staff for dismissal by reason of redundancy; and
(b) to report its recommendations to the appropriate body.
(2) The appropriate body shall either approve any selection recommendation made under sub-section (1), or shall remit it to the Redundancy Committee for further consideration in accordance with its further directions.
(3) A Redundancy Committee appointed by the appropriate body shall comprise:
(a) a chairman; and
(b) four members of Congregation nominated by Council, including not less than two members of the academic staff.
12. (1) Where the appropriate body has approved a selection recommendation made under section 11 (1), it may authorise an officer of the University as its delegate to dismiss any member of the academic staff so selected.
(2) Each member of the academic staff selected shall be given separate notice of the selection approved by the appropriate body.
(3) Each separate notice shall sufficiently identify the circumstances which have satisfied the appropriate body that the intended dismissal is reasonable and in particular shall include:
(a) a summary of the action taken by Congregation and the appropriate body under this Part;
(b) an account of the selection processes used by the Redundancy Committee;
(c) a reference to the rights of the person notified to appeal against the notice and to the time within which any such appeal is to be lodged under Part H; and
(d) a statement as to when the intended dismissal is to take effect.
13. The Visitatorial Board shall consist of a chairman and four members.
14. (1) The High Steward shall appoint the chairman who shall serve for two years and may be reappointed.
(2) The chairman shall be a person who is not a member of Congregation and is a barrister or solicitor of at least five years' standing or a person who has judicial experience.
(3) If the chairman is for any reason unable to act on any occasion the High Steward or (in his or her absence) the Vice-Chancellor shall appoint a deputy chairman to act in the place of the chairman for that occasion.
(4) Any deputy chairman must possess the same qualifications as those set out in sub-section (2) above.
(5) If a vacancy arises through the chairman dying or resigning or becoming a member of Congregation before the completion of his or her period of office the person next appointed shall hold office for the remainder of the period of office of the person replaced.
15. The four other members of the board shall be members of Congregation selected from a panel of twelve persons elected by Congregation under arrangements which shall be prescribed from time to time by Council by regulation.
16. The board shall consider:
(1) any reference made by the Vice-Chancellor under Part D concerning any person who is employed by the University and who is a member of the Federated Superannuation System for Universities or the Universities' Superannuation Scheme or who would be a member if he or she had not been exempted under the provisions of Statute XIV;
(2) any other matter which falls within its jurisdiction as prescribed by statute from time to time.
17. (1) Sections 22 and 23 of Part D shall apply to the procedure of the board following a reference made by the Vice-Chancellor under that Part.
(2) The procedure in respect of other matters shall be as prescribed in the relevant statute or regulation.
18. (1) Minor faults shall be dealt with informally.
(2) Where the matter is more serious but falls short of constituting possible good cause for dismissal, the following procedure shall be used:
Stage 1 - Oral Warning
If conduct or performance does not meet acceptable standards the member of the academic staff will normally be given a formal oral warning by the head of department (which for the purposes of this statute means the head of the relevant department or other institution of the University or, in the absence of such an entity, the chairman of the relevant divisional board or similar university body). The member will be advised of the reason for the warning, that it is the first stage of the disciplinary procedure, and of the right of appeal under this section. A brief note of the oral warning will be kept but it will be spent after twelve months, subject to satisfactory conduct and performance.
Stage 2 - Written Warning
If the offence is a serious one, or if a further offence occurs, a written warning will be given to the member of the academic staff by the head of department. This will give details of the complaint, the improvement required, and the time scale. It will warn that a complaint may be made to the Registrar seeking the institution of charges to be heard under this Part by the Visitatorial Board if there is no satisfactory improvement and will advise of the right of appeal under this section. A copy of this written warning will be kept by the head of department, but it will be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after two years subject to satisfactory conduct and performance.
Stage 3 - Appeals
A member of the academic staff who wishes to appeal against a disciplinary warning shall inform the Registrar within two weeks. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall hear all such appeals and his or her decision shall be final.
19. (1) If there has been no satisfactory improvement following a written warning given under Stage 2 of the procedure in section 18, or in any case where it is alleged that the conduct or performance of a member of the academic staff may constitute good cause for dismissal or removal from office, a complaint, seeking the institution of charges to be heard by the Visitatorial Board, may be made to the Registrar who shall bring it to the attention of the Vice-Chancellor.
(2) To enable the Vice-Chancellor to deal fairly with any complaint brought to his or her attention under sub-section (1), such investigations or inquiries (if any) shall be instituted as appear to the Vice-Chancellor to be necessary.
(3) If it appears to the Vice-Chancellor that a complaint brought to his or her attention under sub-section (1) relates to conduct or performance which does not meet acceptable standards but for which no written warning has been given under section 18 or which relates to a particular alleged infringement of decrees or regulations for which a standard penalty is normally imposed in the University or within the division, faculty, school, department, or other relevant area, or is trivial or invalid, he or she may dismiss it summarily, or decide not to proceed further under this Part.
(4) If the Vice-Chancellor does not dispose of a complaint under sub-section (3), he or she shall treat the complaint as disclosing a sufficient reason for proceeding further under this Part and, if he or she sees fit, the Vice-Chancellor may suspend the member on full pay pending a final decision, such power of suspension being exercisable either at this stage or at any time prior to the final decision.
(5) Where the Vice-Chancellor proceeds further under this Part, he or she shall write to the member of the academic staff concerned, inviting comment in writing.
(6) As soon as may be following receipt of the member's comments (if any) the Vice-Chancellor shall consider the matter in the light of all the material then available and may:
(a) dismiss it; or
(b) refer it for consideration under section 18; or
(c) deal with it informally, if it appears to the Vice-Chancellor appropriate to do so and if the member of the academic staff agrees in writing that the matter should be dealt with by the Vice-Chancellor in that way; or
(d) direct that a charge or charges be preferred under section 20 for consideration by the Visitatorial Board under this Part.
(7) If no comment is received within twenty-eight days, the Vice-Chancellor may proceed as above as if the member concerned had denied the substance and validity of the alleged case in its entirety.
20. (1) In any case where the Vice-Chancellor has directed that a charge or charges be preferred under section 19 (6) (d), he or she shall refer the case to the Visitatorial Board to hear the charge or charges under this Part and to determine whether the conduct or performance of the member of the academic staff concerned constitutes good cause for dismissal or otherwise constitutes a serious complaint relating to the member's appointment or employment.
(2) Where the Visitatorial Board has been requested to hear the charge or charges under this Part, the Registrar or a solicitor or other suitable person appointed by the Vice-Chancellor shall be instructed to formulate, or arrange for the formulation of, the charge or charges and to present, or arrange for the presentation of, the charge or charges before the board.
(3) It shall be the duty of the person formulating the charge or charges:
(a) to forward the charge or charges to the board and to the member of the academic staff concerned, together with the other documents specified in the charge or charges; and
(b) to make any necessary administrative arrangements for the summoning of witnesses, the production of documents, and generally for the proper presentation before the board of the case against the member concerned.
21. The Visitatorial Board shall be constituted in accordance with Part C of this statute; provided that no member of the board who has been involved in or associated with the making of the complaint or any part of it, or who has been involved in any preliminary hearing or investigation, shall take part in the hearing of the complaint.
22. (1) The procedure to be followed in respect of the preparation, hearing, and determination of charges by the Visitatorial Board under this Part shall be that set out in regulations made under this section.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, such regulations shall ensure:
(a) that the person charged is entitled to be represented by another person, whether such person is legally qualified or not, in connection with and at any hearing of charges by the board;
(b) that a charge shall not be determined without an oral hearing at which the person charged and any person appointed to represent that person are entitled to be present;
(c) that witnesses may be called, both on behalf of the person charged and by the person presenting the charge, and may be questioned concerning any relevant evidence; and
(d) that full and sufficient provision is made:
(i)for postponements, adjournments, dismissal of the charge or charges for want of prosecution, and remission of the charge or charges to the Vice-Chancellor for further consideration and for the correction of accidental errors; and
(ii)for appropriate time limits for each stage (including the hearing) to the intent that any charge shall be heard and determined by the board as expeditiously as is reasonably practicable.
23. (1) The Visitatorial Board shall send its decision on any charge referred to it (together with a statement of its findings of fact and the reasons for its decision regarding that charge, and its recommendations, if any, as to the appropriate penalty) to the Vice-Chancellor and to each party to the proceedings, namely the person presenting the charge, the person charged, and any person added as a party at the direction of the board.
(2) The board shall draw attention to the period of time within which any appeal should be made, by ensuring that a copy of Part H accompanies each copy of its decision sent to a party to the proceedings in accordance with sub-section (1).
24. (1) (a) Where any charge is upheld and the Visitatorial Board finds good cause and recommends dismissal or removal from office, but in no other case, the appropriate officer shall decide whether or not to dismiss the person concerned.
(b) If the appropriate officer decides to accept the recommendation, he or she may dismiss that person forthwith.
(2) In any case where a charge is upheld, other than a case where the appropriate officer has decided under sub-section (1) to dismiss the person concerned, the action available to the appropriate officer (not comprising a greater penalty than that recommended by the board) may be:
(a) to discuss the issues raised with the person concerned; or
(b) to advise the person concerned about his or her future conduct; or
(c) to warn the person concerned; or
(d) to suspend the person concerned with or without pay for such period as the appropriate officer shall think fair and reasonable, not to exceed three months after the board's decision; or
(e) to take such further or other action under the contract of employment or terms of appointment of the person concerned as appears fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case; or
(f) any combination of any of the above.
25. (1) The Vice-Chancellor shall be the appropriate officer to exercise the powers conferred by section 24, but he or she may appoint a delegate to exercise those powers, and any reference to the appropriate officer includes a reference to any such delegate.
(2) Any action taken by the appropriate officer shall be confirmed in writing.
26. (1) This Part makes separate provision for the assessment of incapacity on medical grounds as a good cause for dismissal or removal from office.
(2) In this Part references to medical grounds are references to capability assessed by reference to health or any other physical or mental quality.
(3) In this Part references to the appropriate officer are references to the Vice-Chancellor or an officer acting as his or her delegate to perform the relevant act.
(4) References to the member of the academic staff include, in cases where the nature of the alleged disability so requires, a responsible relative or friend or other person with authority to act on behalf of that member, in addition to (or instead of) that member.
27. (1) Where it appears to the appropriate officer that the dismissal or removal from office of a member of the academic staff on medical grounds would be justified, the appropriate officer:
(a) shall inform the member accordingly;
(b) may suspend the member from duty without loss of pay; and
(c) shall notify the member in writing that it is proposed to make an application to the member's medical practitioner for a medical report and shall seek the member's consent in writing in accordance with the requirements of the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988.
(2) If the member elects to retire voluntarily on medical grounds, he or she shall be allowed to do so, and the University shall meet the reasonable costs of any medical opinion required.
(3) If the member does not elect to retire voluntarily on medical grounds, the appropriate officer shall refer the case in confidence, with any supporting medical and other evidence (including any medical evidence submitted by the member), to a board (hereinafter referred to as the 'Medical Board') comprising:
(a) one person nominated by Council;
(b) one person nominated by the member concerned or, in default of the latter nomination, by Council; and
(c) a medically qualified chairman jointly agreed by Council and the member or, in default of agreement, nominated by the President of the Royal College of Physicians.
(4) The Medical Board appointed under this clause may require the member concerned to undergo medical examination at the University's expense.
(5) The procedure to be followed in respect of the preparation, hearing, and determination of a case by a Medical Board shall be prescribed by regulations made under this sub-section; and such regulations shall ensure:
(a) that the member concerned is entitled to be represented by another person, whether such person is legally qualified or not, in connection with and at any hearing of the board;
(b) that a case shall not be determined without an oral hearing at which the member concerned, and any person appointed to represent that member, are entitled to be present;
(c) that witnesses may be called and may be questioned concerning any relevant evidence; and
(d) that the case is heard and determined as expeditiously as is reasonably practicable.
28. If the Medical Board appointed under section 27 determines that the member shall be required to retire on medical grounds, the appropriate officer shall forthwith terminate the employment of the member concerned on those medical grounds.
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1 27 October 1993 (The University Commissioners (Statute Modifications) (The University of Oxford) Order 1993 - SI 1993 No. 2674).