This discussion was a starting point. Please if you have further comments and questions, email or Jennifer Catto, and they will collate and pass them through to the Deans.
Promotions & after-COVID perspectives.
The early career promotions are not on hold at the moment, and they are proceeding (almost) as normal. Please, check the online statement about how COVID is affecting recruiting at the University page on coronavirus. The main suspensions are related to promotions to professorial positions. It is expected that post-Covid, promotions will be as before.
Opportunities coming up – Lectureships
As finance is uncertain, it is unrealistic to think that there will be opportunities coming up before 6 months/1 year. When things go back to normal after COVID, there will be more discussion on this.
At the moment, the strategy on staff is not to replace the same position when it becomes available, but instead, expand areas that are financially sustainable for the future. This opens up more space for opportunities, but it also means they are less predictable. This is the case for Maths lectureships that have become available due to various circumstances.
Geography might have opportunities coming up with the new research centre in partnership with South West Water, as well as Global System Institute. This is not entirely sure, there will be announcements when opportunities arise.
An important point is that you can create the opportunity yourself via external funding (such as fellowships from the Research Councils). The university wants to hire people who develop their own opportunities.
PhD Extensions & COVID support
Although UKRI said they will not provide extensions, there still room for manoeuvre. There are discussions going behind the scenes, and there is a lot of pressure on UKRI for coming up with a more supportive solution.
Self-funded students should start applying for fee-waivers. Non-UKRI students need to consult with their funder. There is not much money available, but the colleges are willing to provide help though teaching and demonstrator positions; by providing opportunities to work in the college, it is hoped that the students will have some support while they complete their studies.
Also, for PhD students that are approaching thesis examination, the colleges are re-evaluating how PhD assessments take due consideration of the delays caused by COVID.
The front line are the supervisors and pastoral tutor. If the students are not getting enough help, they need to contact the PGR Director. If discussions with supervisors, tutor and the PGR director do not resolve the issue or extra support is needed, then the student should reach out to the Head of Department.
PhD Teaching – more than labs and tutorials?
Due to education quality and delivery expectations, it is unusual to have a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant deliver lectures or be in charge of a module in the sciences at top universities. That’s why academic staff are hired.
However, if the student wants experience, it is good to talk to the Teaching Director and/or the module leader of a subject that interests you in case there are opportunities.
REF2026, what will be prioritised?
The emphasis will continue to be quality over quantity. The balance between the two is difficult. At the moment, quality counts more than quantity at an international level, and that’s what the University sees as important. Quality is hard to define, it is not just the journal impact, but more the scientific impact of the research.
It is important to think about community and working with other people within or outside of your area. Publishing with a wide network in their early career can help you accelerate your career. Think of the impact of your research.
There is a lot of thought/discussion given to how space will be used post-COVID, as it opens possibilities to other ways of working, and Universities may re-think the space distribution and building construction plans. Space needs change often, it can be redistributed and rethought. We also need to think about the carbon footprint related to commuting and construction.
There are still no conclusive decisions, but there might be more flexibility so that people can work from home. Also, there might be a reassignment of spaces and re-distribution among departments. There is a trade-off between what people need, what people can compromise and the financial budget. A survey was recently sent out about wellbeing, and among the questions, staff will be asked about working from home/office. Do complete the survey!
The mentoring programme ‘One step beyond’ is still in operation, but there are not enough mentors (especially senior mentors).
Early career vs. lecturers or more senior positions mentoring is different. If you think that you are not getting enough mentoring is worth mentioning it to your supervisor, line manager, or senior member of your department. There is a range of possibilities out there, but usually, they need to be adjusted to the needs of the mentee. A mentoring relationship that develops organically based on suited personalities may be more successful than a random pairing, so do approach people that you may be interested in developing a mentoring relationship with.
People reaching a critical moment in their career should feel free to reach out to people that are higher in the chain. Even a small chat can be very important. Be specific and ask the question that you need to ask.
Equality Diversity and Inclusion
There are two sides to this, support and promotion of existing staff and recruitment.
It is important to have role models, have women in important positions. The University is taking it very seriously. CLES and CEMPS both have a very inclusive hiring committee. There are active discussions around gender and BAME.
Aurora is a great leadership programme that is available to female researchers and academic staff up to Senior Lecturer level at University.
For recruitment in CLES, to avoid bias in the selection of academic positions, there is an EDI representative looking for issues. When shortlisting candidates, the recruiter is asked to look for gender balance, but also look back to the non-shortlisted list and see if they can bring other candidates up.