To recruit and retain the best academic staff and ensure that under-represented groups have equality of opportunity in recruitment, personal development, and career progression in all areas of employment in the University.

The University’s Strategic Plan

Career development and progression

The University recognises the benefits of a diverse workforce, and the importance of career development in achieving this.

The strategic plan’s Personnel section includes specific commitments to:

  • Recruit and retain high calibre staff from across the world;
  • Work towards an increasingly diverse staffing profile; and
  • Develop all staff to enhance their effectiveness and contribution to the University’s goals.

All departments across the scientific disciplines have engaged with Athena SWAN and have made firm commitments to the career development and progression of female staff. Although the focus of Athena SWAN is on women, we believe that the changes to culture and practice will offer benefits to all staff, not least through the fostering of an improved work-life balance.

The extension of Athena SWAN to departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences and the University’s participation in the Race Equality Charter Mark will see our analysis of career development and progression needs extended to other staff.

The University has a Code of Practice for the Employment and Career Development of Research Staff and has been awarded the European Union's HR Excellence in Research Badge, which recognises the systems and practices we currently have in place to support researchers' career and professional development.

Career development opportunities

There are a wide range of career development opportunities available at the University, including training courses and mentoring schemes. Some of these are targeted specifically at under-represented staff groups. Other forms of development such as networking, job shadowing or secondments are often overlooked, but can help you reach your goals.

The Equality & Diversity Unit strongly recommends that staff have an annual Personal Development Review, which provides a structured opportunity to discuss development needs. It is the responsibility of managers to ensure that all staff have appropriate training and development opportunities.

Career progression

There is no formal promotions process at Oxford but there are a number of ways in which your work can be recognised. Full information is available on the Personnel Services website.

The Reward and Recognition Scheme for Academic-Related and Support Staff recognises outstanding contributions through a salary enhancement or one-off payment. The scheme is run annually and you can be nominated by yourself or your manager.

Regrading a post: if your responsibilities have grown since you first started your role, it might be appropriate to apply to have your post regraded.

The annual Recognition of Distinction exercise invites Associate Professors and senior researchers to apply for the title of Professor. It is advertised via a circular to departments.

Balancing work and family life

Balancing your career and family life can be a challenge, but your life outside work shouldn’t present a barrier to your career progression. University reward schemes and recruitment processes take account of periods out of the workplace for caring responsibilities, part-time hours, and circumstances that lead to a temporary reduction in productivity – quality of work is judged over quantity.

We recognise that unexpected things happen, and that you may experience a period of constraint to your ability to work productively, for example because of caring responsibilities or bereavement. If you are experiencing a situation that is affecting your work, we encourage you to tell your department.

If you are unwell, we recommend that you visit your GP and that you take formal sickness absence if you need to: continuing to work when you are unwell is not in the best interests of you or your department. 

Sometimes academics prioritise teaching and administrative duties at the expense of their research, but it is important to try to sustain research if possible. Do make sure that your department is aware of your situation.

The University’s Returning Carers’ Fund provides financial support to research and academic staff to re-establish their research following a career break of six months or more for caring responsibilities.


...for individuals

  • Find out about the wide range of career development opportunities at the University.
  • Find out about events: check out the events calendar on the University website; ask if your department has a newsletter or mailing list; sign up to the Oxford Women’s Network and Race Equality Newsletter mailing lists.
  • Think about your career ambitions and what skills you need to develop to make your next move. Discuss your ambitions with your line manager or supervisor and identify and agree your training and development needs. You should be offered an annual personal development review and regular one-to-one meetings – if not, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Talk to other people about their career progression and their journey to their current role, including how they manage their work-life balance. Don’t assume that there’s only one ‘career path’, or that pursuing a career means sacrificing other areas of your life.
  • Build contacts and networks. Learn from others. Talk to people about your career aspirations. You can often hear about career development and job opportunities through word of mouth.
  • Find a mentor. You might like to join a formal mentoring scheme or you may just find it helpful to identify someone to talk to for support at a certain point, for example, if you’re about to take a period of maternity leave and are worried about how it may affect your career.
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for opportunities and step outside your comfort zone. Training events are a safe space to try out uncomfortable skills. Don’t wait until you meet 100% of the criteria before applying for a job – the process of updating your CV, writing an application, and maybe even attending an interview will be valuable experience in themselves. If you aren’t offered the job, ask for feedback afterwards on areas to improve for next time.
  • Promote your successes. If you win an award, send details to your department website or newsletter, to the University’s Internal Communications team, and to OWN and/or REN. Making others aware of your achievements will increase your own visibility and inspire others.
  • Think about how you can be a role model for others. Are you balancing your work life with bringing up a family or caring for an elderly parent? Speak openly about the difficulties and your coping strategies. Are you from an under-represented demographic (e.g. a woman working in a male-dominated discipline)? Take time to speak to more junior colleagues – just a few words of encouragement go a long way to making someone feel that they belong.

...for managers/supervisors

  • Make time to speak to your staff about their career aspirations and development needs. Agree a personal development plan on an annual basis. Be encouraging but honest – if an individual’s aspirations are unrealistic, support them to explore other options.
  • Be aware that some staff may need active encouragement to put themselves forward for training opportunities, reward and recognition schemes, or jobs.
  • Discuss any fears that individuals may have about the impact of life outside work on their career progression, for example, concerns about caring responsibilities affecting their productivity. Be aware that University schemes such as Reward & Recognition, and Recognition of Distinction, make allowances for extended periods of leave for caring responsibilities. These should also be taken into account in recruitment processes.