A UK Higher Education (HE) sector working group co-ordinated by RCUK, with a membership largely drawn from within the HE sector and representing the interests of employers, employees and funders, is working to create a new framework for the management of research staff. This workstream has been endorsed by the UK Research Base Funders' Forum, which represents all the major public and private funders of public good research in this country.
This document explains the background to this project and the steps that will be taken to ensure wide consultation and engagement with the sector during development of the new concordat. This document has been issued as an Information Note to all Universities UK (UUK) members.
In 1996, the UK Research Councils, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP, now Universities UK), the Standing Committee of Principals (SCOP) and several other bodies signed a 'Concordat on Contract Research Staff Career Management'.
The Concordat set standards for the career management and conditions of employment of researchers employed by Higer Education Institutions (HEIs) on fixed-term or similar contracts and funded through research grants or analogous schemes. It has been used as a general reference point for good practice across the UK higher education sector.
Since the Concordat was signed, researchers' expectations of their career development and working conditions have grown. The interests and responsibilities of research funders and HEIs have also changed in response to new legislation affecting staff on fixed term contracts, amendments to UK Research Councils harmonised grant terms and conditions and the publication of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (alignment with which could, in time, be linked with research funding from the European Commission).
Development by the Working Group
The Concordat should provide a clear, high-level statement of each signatory's expectations for the support and management of researchers; an explanation of the purposes for which it has been developed; and a small number of key principles. The Code of Practice should provide an operational framework for the Concordat within which institutions could consider the effectiveness of their individual approaches to the management and support of researchers. It would be modelled on the "Code of Practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, section 1: Postgraduate Research Programmes", giving principles on a wide range of topics, supported by explanations and illustrations of effective practice. The Code would include advice about the rights and responsibilities of employers and researchers.
By adopting the principles of the Concordat and implementing the Code, institutions should expect to fulfil the expectations of all funders.
The main benefit of the revised Concordat would be to provide a single, unambiguous statement of the expectations and responsibilities of research funders and institutions with respect to the management of researchers. The Concordat would also demonstrate internationally – including to researchers considering coming to work in the UK - the high standards of management and support that can be expected by UK researchers.
The proposed Code of Practice would provide details of effective practice for the support and management of research staff. The Code would also provide a single reference point for institutions seeking to meet the expectations of a number of different funders within the UK as well as the European Commission.
The working group will publish a statement on the principles and suggested content of the revised Concordat to the HE community at the end of January 2007.
A draft document for comment will be published by Easter to be followed by a consultation period over the summer with a view to publishing the revised Concordat by October.
Rosie Beales or Iain Cameron – RCUK
Davina Foord or Christopher Hale – UUK