Probation Policy and Guidelines for Academic Staff
- Probation Period
- Formal requirements of Probation
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Criteria for Confirmation of Lecturer Appointment
- Extension of the probationary period
- Non-confirmation of appointment
- Trade Union agreement
As a research-led institution the University aims for excellence and all new postholders are required to demonstrate the highest levels of performance. The University therefore places great importance on the probationary process and the successful completion of a probationary period is a condition of employment.
For new Lecturers probation is a period of both professional development and assessment. It allows the probationer to develop, with appropriate guidance, the necessary skills to become fully effective within their post and to assess their own suitability for meeting the required performance standards of their post. For the University probation allows the assessment of the new Lecturer's contribution, potential and suitability for confirmation of employment as a University academic.
This policy and guidelines are to assist Heads of Departments in the key areas of objective setting, professional development, performance and review, which are critical to the achievement of the following objectives:
To assist the new Lecturer:
- to become fully effective in their post as soon as possible.
- to identify and meet their training and development needs to enable them to achieve the requirements of their post.
- to set clear objectives and to provide feedback on performance to the individual.
To provide the University with sufficient information to enable decisions to be made on confirming the appointment.
To ensure the equitable treatment of all new Lecturers, a 'probationary session' will include a full academic year. For new Lecturers taking up appointment at times other than at the beginning of the academic year (i.e. the first day of the Autumn Semester) the first probationary session will normally exceed 12 months.
3. Probation Period
All Clinical Lecturers and Non-Clinical Lecturers are normally required to successfully complete a probationary period of three full academic sessions. The Chair of the Appointment Committee, which includes the Head of Department, recommends the length of the probationary period and may at their discretion recommend to the Director of Human Resources a lesser period if evidence can be provided that a candidate has successfully discharged part or all of a probationary period in another University in an equivalent academic post. The period of probation will be stated in the letter of appointment.
To ensure the equitable treatment of all new Lecturers, any prolonged leave of absence, such as maternity leave, will not normally count towards completion of probation. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor approves any suspension of probation after seeking advice from Human Resources.
New Lecturers holding temporary, including fixed-term, appointments should follow the same probationary process as those holding open-ended positions. At the end of their appointment they may receive upon request to the Head of Department documentary evidence of satisfactory completion of that part of the probationary process they have followed. If they are appointed to an open-ended post in the University of Sheffield that part of the probationary process successfully completed during their temporary appointment will normally count towards their probationary period.
4. Formal requirements of Probation
4.1 Achievement of agreed objectives
Within two months of the new Lecturer taking up appointment, and then at the beginning of each subsequent period of probation, the Head of Department will agree with the probationer a structured New Lecturer - Probationary Plan. The Plan will detail specific and clear objectives for the probationary period, together with details of the training/development and guidance to help the new Lecturer achieve their objectives. The Faculty Director of Research and Innovation and the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will endorse the New Lecturer - Probationary Plan.
Regular review of performance against, and progress towards, the stated objectives will be carried out and recorded. The probationary review process enshrines the principles of, and meets the requirements of, the University's Staff Review and Development Scheme (SRDS) and it is not deemed necessary for probationary Lecturers to participate in the SRDS. Development needs identified throughout the probationary period should be fed into the annual Departmental Staff Development Plans.
At the end of each probationary session, the new Lecturer's achievements, development/training undertaken and identified development goals within the areas of research, teaching, administration/management and professional standing will be formally recorded by completing an Academic Probationary Report Form. It is the responsibility of the Head of Department to recommend to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor either that the new Lecturer proceed automatically to the next year of the probationary period, or that they may proceed subject to undertaking particular development or training. At the end of the probationary period the Head of Department will recommend to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor either confirmation of the Lecturer's appointment, or that the appointment is not confirmed.
New Lecturers are required to follow the University's agreed programme of induction and to participate in local induction provided within their own departments.
4.3 Successful completion of the University's Learning and Teaching Programme
All new Lecturers must successfully complete, or gain approved exemption from, the University's requirements in respect of the Certificate in Learning & Teaching (CiLT). CiLT is a Postgraduate Certificate M-level qualification which is externally accredited by the Higher Education Academy, and leads to a Fellowship in Learning and Teaching which is transferable across most UK Universities. It provides initial training and development in teaching and its intersection with academic practice with research and management.
Full or partial exemption may be granted in certain circumstances by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, for example, where the individual has already acquired significant academic experience in another recognised institution. A request for exemption should be submitted to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor via the Lecturer's Head of Department using the CiLT Exemption Form.
5. Roles and Responsibilities
5.1 Head of Department and the Probation Advisor
The Head of Department must ensure the fair and equitable treatment of all new Lecturers consistent with these guidelines to achieve the objectives stated in Section 1 above.
The Head of Department has primary responsibility for the management of the probationer and must ensure that their workload is manageable. The Head of Department is responsible for ensuring that the requirements of the post are communicated effectively to the probationer and that they are supported in setting standards for their own performance and provided with regular feedback.
Prior to the new Lecturer taking up appointment, the Head of Department should appoint a 'Probation Advisor' to assist with the provision of appropriate supervision, guidance and support during the probationary period to encourage successful integration into the Department and the University. The Probation Advisor may be the Head of Department but will normally be a professorial member of the Department who is deemed by the Head of Department to be best placed to carry out this role.
A structured New Lecturer - Probationary Plan, stating clear and specific objectives to be achieved during the probationary period and the plans to help the probationer achieve their objectives, will be agreed between the Head of Department and the probationer upon take-up of appointment. The Head of Department will forward a copy of this Plan to the Faculty Director of Research and Innovation for endorsement, prior to it being endorsed by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
Regular review meetings will be held throughout the probationary period between the new Lecturer and the Probation Advisor to communicate the requirements of the post, discuss progress, identify any shortcomings and provide clear indications, in consultation with the Head of Department, of any remedial action that may be required together with any personal or professional development needs.
Should any problems arise, the Probation Advisor should raise these immediately with the Head of Department who is responsible for addressing any such problems with the probationer, taking advice where necessary.
At the end of each probationary session the Head of Department must make a recommendation to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor concerning the future of the probationary appointment.
5.2 New Lecturer
Probationary staff will jointly formulate and agree objectives for the coming year with the Head of Department. There are a number of policies and procedures in place at University and departmental level that are intended to support staff development activity. However, it is expected that all staff will be self-motivating and take appropriate responsibility for considering and identifying their development needs within the context of their role and taking account of their career development.
The probationer will be expected to consult regularly with the Probation Advisor and attend review meetings at which progress towards personal objectives in relation to research, teaching and management/administration will be discussed and recorded.
At the end of each probationary session, the new Lecturer will summarise their progress on the Academic Probationary Report Form, focussing on agreed targets, key achievements and possible areas for development.
The new Lecturer should raise any problems or concerns about their probation with their Probation Advisor or Head of Department. If such a discussion is felt to be inappropriate the new Lecturer should raise matters with the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
5.3 Faculty Director of Research and Innovation
The Faculty Director of Research and Innovation should be satisfied that throughout the probationary period the new Lecturer is meeting the expected levels of competence and performance in developing and carrying out research and that the new Lecturer's Probationary Plan aligns with the University's strategy. The Faculty Director of Research and Innovation will forward the Probationary Plan to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for endorsement.
5.4 Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor
Throughout the period of probation the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor is responsible for making decisions relating to the future of the probationary appointment. At the beginning of each probationary period the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will endorse the probationary plan agreed between the Head of Department and the probationer.
At the end of each probationary session the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will receive via the Academic Probationary Report Form a recommendation from the Head of Department concerning the future of the probationary appointment, and will consider the performance of the probationary member of staff in light of the requirements set by the Department and in terms of progress towards a sustainable academic career. Any new Lecturer who disagrees with the report made upon them by the Head of Department should submit comments to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor who will take the views of both parties into consideration when reviewing the case.
In the event of the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor not concurring with the Probationary Plan or the recommendation made by the Head of Department on the Academic Probationary Report Form all efforts should be made to reach mutual agreement. In circumstances where this proves not possible, advice should be sought from Human Resources.
Within two months of the start of the probationer's employment, the Head of Department, in consultation with the probationer and the Probation Advisor, should provide a probationary plan which sets out clear objectives for the probationary period in relation to research, teaching, management/administration and professional standing. An appropriate training and development plan should be agreed and incorporated by the Head of Department within their Departmental Staff Development Plan. A copy of the New Lecturer - Probationary Plan is forwarded to the Faculty Director of Research and Innovation and the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for endorsement.
The probationer and Probation Advisor will hold regular review meetings. During the first six months of the appointment review meetings should be held monthly. A formal record of each review meeting will be submitted to the Head of Department. If the probationer is not prepared to be joint signatory to the formal report they will receive a copy of the report and will be able to submit comments directly to the Head of Department. The Head of Department will address the issues raised by both parties, taking advice from Human Resources if necessary.
At an appropriate time during the Spring Semester, Human Resources will contact the Head of Department concerning completion of an Academic Probationary Report Form. The probationary member of staff will be asked to provide information on their activities and progress during the year (see Section 7 Criteria, below). The Academic Probationary Report Form should then be returned to the Head of Department who will verify the accuracy of the statement, give comments on the new Lecturer's performance, state any perceived need for training/development and make a recommendation on the future of the appointment. The probationer shall see the form again after the Head of Department has commented.
Following the Faculty Director of Research and Innovation's endorsement of the Probationary Plan, and / or confirmation that the new Lecturer is meeting the University's expected standards in relation to research activity, completed forms should be considered by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor who, after making a final decision relating to the future of the probationary appointment will complete and pass the Academic Probationary Report Form to the Director of Human Resources who has delegated authority, from the University Council as employer, to approve probationary reviews and final confirmation of appointments in the case of academic staff. The Director of Human Resources will formally confirm the decision to the probationer.
Academic Probationary Report Forms will be retained on a staff member's personal file until the appointment is confirmed, after which the forms will be destroyed.
If at any time during the probationary period problems arise that indicate that the academic member of staff may not be reaching the required standard, the Head of Department should consult Human Resources.
7. Criteria for Confirmation of Lecturer Appointment
It must be clear to all parties that the new Lecturer will facilitate the achievement of the University's mission of maintaining the highest standards of excellence as a research-led institution of international standing, whose staff work at the frontiers of academic enquiry and educate students in a research environment.
Within the final Academic Probationary Report Form the Head of Department makes a recommendation concerning whether or not the new Lecturer's appointment should be confirmed. This recommendation is considered by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, with reference to the final Academic Probationary Report Form. The Director of Human Resources has delegated authority from the University Council as employer to approve final confirmation of appointments in the case of academic staff.
When considering confirmation of a Lecturer appointment the Head of Department, Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Director of Human Resources must assure themselves that the individual has engaged in research, teaching and management/administration, and clinical duties if appropriate, to the required standard and made demonstrable, sustained progress towards the attainment of the professional standing required for a successful academic career within the University of Sheffield. The Faculty Director of Research and Innovation must also be assured that the individual is developing an appropriate research profile.
Evidence must demonstrate that the probationary member of staff has:
- shown, in line with the recognised standards within peer departments in the discipline,
- achievement in scholarship and research, including as appropriate generation of research funding.
Evidence of, for example: research publications (refereed journal articles and abstracts, books), working/discussion papers, contribution to seminars and conferences.
- engagement in curriculum planning, teaching and evaluation of prescribed courses and the supervisory and tutorial work assigned.
Evidence of, for example: peer review/student feedback of proven ability to teach specific and general subject areas, design and development of courses/course components, short course work.
- the execution of assessment and examining duties and the performance of such management/administrative duties as have been required.
Evidence of, for example: assessment of undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, supervision of research students, administrative duties within the department /University, directing staff, managing resources.
- standing in the profession.
Evidence of, for example: seminars given, invitations to conferences, relevant professional activity.
- demonstrated potential to continue to develop as a teacher and as a researcher.
- completed the University's requirements in respect of the Certificate in Learning and Teaching (CiLT) or gained full or partial exemption.
8. Extension of the probationary period
The following of this probationary procedure should ensure sufficient information is available to reach a sound decision to confirm or terminate appointment. In exceptional cases circumstances clearly beyond the control of the probationer may lead to performance being insufficient. The Head of Department may recommend, after seeking advice from Human Resources, that probation be extended for a further and final year with a specified programme of training/development to be undertaken. This recommendation must be considered and approved by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor as being in the best interests of the probationer and the University. In such cases objectives for achievement must be set by the Head of Department and approved by the Faculty Director of Research and Innovation and the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Progress towards these goals will be monitored closely by the Head of Department.
9. Non-confirmation of appointment
The normal expectation is that all new Lecturers will have their appointment confirmed at the end of the probationary period. However, where ongoing performance, despite sustained support, would suggest the possibility of a recommendation for non-confirmation, the Head of Department should ensure that at the earliest stage the probationer is made aware of the consequences of non-confirmation; that is, the termination of their appointment with the University of Sheffield. If the Head of Department deems the progress and performance of the probationer to be insufficient to recommend confirmation of appointment, they should consult Human Resources prior to submitting the Academic Probationary Report Form to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
The Head of Department will prepare a full report for the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor via the Academic Probationary Report Form detailing reasons for their recommendation not to confirm appointment and include supporting evidence such as copies of personal development plans, prior Academic Probationary Report Forms, notes of review meetings and records of advice and guidance given.
The Head of Department will copy the Academic Probationary Report Form and its attachments to the probationary member of staff who will be given the opportunity to make a written response to the Head of Department's recommendation to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will review the case, taking advice from the Human Resources. If the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor upholds the Head of Department's recommendation the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will meet with the probationer and the Head of Department. The member of staff has the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or Union representative and the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will be advised by Human Resources.
Following full consideration of all the facts the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor will make a final recommendation to the Director of Human Resources who has delegated authority for authorisation of non-confirmation from the University Council as employer, and who will formally confirm the decision to the member of staff and the Head of Department.
Where the Director of Human Resources has authorised non-confirmation the probationer may appeal to the Registrar and Secretary. Appeals should be made in writing within 14 days of the decision being confirmed, stating the grounds for review.
The Appeal Panel will normally be composed of a cognate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, as Chair, who shall appoint to sit with them another Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of Department, none of whom have had prior involvement in the probation process.
Human Resources should arrange a formal meeting normally within 21 days in order to consider the appeal. During appeals the member of staff has a right to be accompanied by a work colleague or Union representative.
After due consideration the decision of the Appeal Panel will be given in writing within a further 14 days. The decision of the Appeal Panel will be final.
11. Trade Union agreement
The University Probation Policy and Guidelines for Academic Staff was formally agreed with JUCC and implemented with effect from 1 December 2009.