Human Resources

Academic Probation

Introduction

All staff appointed to Academic roles at the College shall normally serve a probationary period before being considered for confirmation in post.

Determining the length of Academic Probation

For newly appointed Lecturers, the Chair of the relevant recruitment panel will determine, with reference to achievement to date against the five key performance areas, the appropriate length of the probation period. This will typically be for a period of three years after which time they may be confirmed in post, subject to satisfactory performance.

When Senior Academic Staff (Senior Lecturer, Reader or Professor) are appointed, this will typically be for a period of two years after which time they may be confirmed in post, subject to satisfactory performance.

Academic Probation Procedure

During the probationary period performance will be assessed across the five main areas of:

  • Education and Student Experience
  • Research and / or Scholarship
  • Leadership and Management
  • Engagement
  • General Performance

The inclusion of a formal academic probationary period in a new member of staff’s contract of employment indicates an obligation on the part of Birkbeck to supervise properly a staff member’s progress during their probationary period.

During this academic probationary period, the probationer will receive support from a Probationary Advisor, their Assistant Dean (if this is not the same person) and the Executive Dean.

It is the role of the probationer, Assistant Dean and Probationary Advisor to ensure that they are familiar with the academic probation procedures and that they comply with the probation scheme’s requirements.

A link to this procedure will be given to the probationer within their contract of employment.

The Human Resources Business Partnering Team is available to provide guidance and direction to Assistant Deans, Executive Deans and Probationary Advisors in the implementation of all stages of the Academic Probation Procedure and to provide advice and support throughout the whole process, including the Appeal Procedure.

Probationary Advisor

The Executive Dean is responsible for appointing an experienced academic member of the school to be the probationer’s designated Probationary Advisor for the period of their academic probation, and informing the relevant Assistant HR Business Partner within 15 days of the appointment of the probationer.

In the event of the Probationary Advisor leaving the College or being absent on leave for a term or more, the Assistant Dean shall ask the Executive Dean to appoint a new or temporary Probationary Advisor and notify the probationer and the relevant Assistant HR Business Partner of this change.

The appointed Probationary Advisor shall provide guidance and support to the probationer as noted in the ‘Role of the Probationary Advisor’ Guidance (see Appendix A).

It is recommended that discussions between the Probationary Advisor and probationer regarding the above points should take place formally at least every 3 months during the first year of appointment, every 6 months thereafter, and informally on a more frequent basis. The feedback discussions should highlight areas where the probationer is doing well and areas for improvement.

Where areas for improvement have been identified, the Probationary Advisor (with advice from the Assistant Dean where necessary) should investigate with the probationer how these improvements can be made.

Induction of Probationer

The Executive Dean is responsible for ensuring that the probationer understands fully their role and the procedures, relationships and other relevant information regarding the School on taking up his or her post. The Executive Dean may delegate this responsibility, but, in this case, they must ensure that it has been properly discharged.

The Probationary Advisor is responsible for ensuring that the probationer is fully aware of their duties and responsibilities within the School and that they receive an induction in accordance with College induction procedures.

The Assistant Dean is responsible for allocating duties to the probationer in such a way as to facilitate their successful completion of academic probation. This involves allocating a lighter than average teaching and administrative load so that the probationer can meet the requirements of their academic probation.

All newly appointed academic staff are required to demonstrate national attainment in learning and teaching through the following routes:

  1. Where new academic staff have limited teaching experience they are required to enrol on the PG Cert Education: Higher Education (PGCE:HE) or
  2. Where new academic staff have prior experience and/or qualifications in some aspects of learning and teaching, they may apply for APL against the PGCE:HE programme; or
  3. Where academic staff have prior experience and/or qualifications in all or most aspects of learning, teaching and assessment and choose the direct entry route to fellowship of AdvanceHE, they must have an appropriate continuing professional development plan to assist them in achieving Fellowship status of AdvanceHE, supported by their Assistant Dean and Probationary Advisor.

It is the responsibility of the probationer to enrol on the PGCE:HE programme if required.

At the end of the academic probationary period, confirmation in post will be subject to the College’s Academic Probationary Review Panel taking the view that the probationer has met the requirements of the academic probation procedure.

Academic probation panel meeting

The Academic Probation Review Panel meets annually in June.

The Academic Probation Review Panel will consider the documentary evidence supplied for each probationer against the criteria for academic probation to assess progress during and at the completion of the probationary period.

The Review Panel has authority to make decisions on the documentary evidence supplied for each probationer and shall decide the outcome for each individual.

In considering the progress of each probationer, the Panel will give their individual circumstances full and fair consideration.

Outcomes of the Probationary Review Panel

Interim Probation Progress Reports

Progress is satisfactory:

The Chair of the panel will write to the probationer (copied to the Assistant Dean, Executive Dean, Probation Advisor and the Assistant HR Business Partner) within 10 working days of the panel meeting to confirm that satisfactory progress has been made.

Progress is not satisfactory:

The Chair will write to the probationer (copied to the Assistant Dean, Executive Dean, Probationary Advisor and the Assistant HR Business Partner) setting out the reasons that their progress is not considered satisfactory against the academic probation criteria. The Chair will request that a meeting be convened with the probationer, their Probationary Advisor, and the Assistant Dean to discuss these issues and to develop an agreed action plan (with timescales) to facilitate an improvement in their performance against the relevant criteria. This action plan must be agreed by the Executive Dean.

Final Probation Reports

Probationer is confirmed in post:

The Chair of the Panel will write to the probationer (copied to the Assistant Dean, Executive Dean, Probationary Advisor and the Assistant HR Business Partner) within 10 working days of the Panel meeting to confirm that they have completed their academic probation period satisfactorily, and confirming them in post.

Probationer has not completed probation satisfactorily:

The Chair will write to the probationer (copied to the Assistant Dean, Executive Dean, Probationary Advisor and the Assistant HR Business Partner) setting out the reasons that their progress is not considered satisfactory against the academic probation criteria, indicating one of two options:

  1. Academic probation is extended for up to one year. The Chair will request that a meeting be convened with the probationer, their Advisor, and the Assistant Dean to discuss and develop an agreed action plan (with timescales) to facilitate an improvement in the probationer’s performance against the relevant criteria. This action plan must be agreed by the Executive Dean, reviewed at regular intervals, and will be reviewed at the next Academic Probation Review Panel meeting.
  2. The probationer will be invited to attend a meeting to discuss the issues and to put forward their views and any evidence that they feel shows that they are meeting the criteria effectively.
    1. The meeting will be convened with the Vice-Chancellor (or nominee), the probationer, and the Assistant Dean. A member of Human Resources Business Partnering Team will be in attendance to provide professional advice and support. The probationer will be given the opportunity to be accompanied at the meeting by a Trade Union Representative, or by a Birkbeck colleague of their choice.
    2. The meeting will adjourn, during which time the Vice-Chancellor (or nominee), Executive Dean and Assistant Dean, will decide as to the appropriate action to take based on the evidence heard from the probationer (a member of Human Resources Business Partnering Team will be in attendance to provide professional advice and support) and will reconvene to inform the probationer of one of the following outcomes:
      •  The probationer will be given 12 weeks’ notice of their dismissal due to non-confirmation in post; or
      • Academic probation is extended for up to one year (as paragraph a above).

Appeals

A probationer given notice of dismissal may appeal in writing to the Director of HR within 10 days from the date on the letter sent from the Chair of the Panel.

The Appeal Panel will consist of:

  1. A Chair, the Vice-Chancellor (or nominee if the Vice-Chancellor had chaired the probation panel);
  2. Two members of the academic staff appointed by the Chair;

No member of an Appeal Panel shall have been previously directly concerned with the case under appeal.  A member of Human Resources Business Partnering Team will be in attendance to provide professional advice and support to the Panel.

The Appeal Panel shall hear the appellant (who may, if they wish, be accompanied by a Birkbeck colleague of their choice or a Trade Union representative) and the respondents, i.e., the Chairman of the Panel (or nominee); the Panel is free to call relevant witnesses and to see relevant documentation and take other such action as deemed appropriate by the Chairman of the Panel.

It shall be the function of the Appeal Panel to determine whether or not the Academic Staff Review Panel:

  1. Could not reasonably have reached the conclusion in question; and/or
  2. Had taken into account factors that were irrelevant or failed to take account of factors that were relevant.

The appellant will be informed of the decision of the Appeal Panel within 10 days of the Panel meeting.

The decision of the Appeal Panel is final and will be reported to the College Governors.

back to top
The HR team is based on the first floor of Egmont House
Postal address: Human Resources, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Email: humanresources@bbk.ac.uk