University Agenda

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CONGREGATION 20 May 2 p.m.

¶ Members of Congregation are reminded that written notice of any intention to vote against, or any proposed amendment to, the resolutions below, signed in each case by at least two members of Congregation, must be given to the Registrar by noon on Monday, 12 May (see the Guide to Procedures in Congregation cited in the note at the end of `University Agenda').

1 Voting on Resolution approving the conferment of a Degree by Diploma

Explanatory note

By longstanding tradition, the University has conferred by diploma upon the Chancellor-elect the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law (unless, of course, the Chancellor-elect already holds that degree, otherwise than honoris causa).

Council is in no doubt that it would be appropriate to continue this tradition and accordingly seeks the approval of Congregation for the following resolution.

Text of Resolution

That the conferment of the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma upon THE RT. HON. CHRISTOPHER FRANCIS PATTEN, CH, PC, MA, Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Chancellor-elect of the University, be approved.

¶ If the resolution is approved, the degree will be conferred as part of the ceremony on 25 June to admit Mr Patten to the office of Chancellor.

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2 Voting on Resolution approving the reallocation of space from Chemistry to the University Museum of Natural History

Explanatory note

As well as space in the Dyson Perrins Laboratory and 9 Parks Road, Chemistry is to release about 640 sq.m. of floor space in the University Museum and Inorganic Chemistry buildings when the Chemistry Research Laboratory is occupied. More space may be released later. The following resolution reallocates the 640 sq.m. of space to the University Museum of Natural History, part of the space being required for a joint University Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum visitor facility.

Text of Resolution

That approximately 640 sq.m. of floor space in the University Museum and Inorganic Chemistry buildings be reallocated from Chemistry to the University Museum of Natural History, part of the space to be used for a joint University Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum visitor facility, on occupation of the Chemistry Research Laboratory by the Department of Chemistry.

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3 Voting on Resolution concerning the implementation for externally funded academic- related staff of the Fixed-Term Employees Regulations

Explanatory note

Council has considered a report from the Personnel Committee on the implications for the University of the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, which came into force on 1 October 2002. The Personnel Committee's recommendations were developed in consultation with the Oxford AUT and include a specific proposal to introduce a new open-ended, externally funded form of employment contract and associated arrangements for the termination of those contracts for reasons of redundancy. Council now invites Congregation to approve a resolution in connection with that proposal.

Fixed-Term Employees Regulations

New national legislation came into force on 1 October 2002, implementing an EU Directive and regulating the use of fixed-term contracts of employment. The legislation is relevant to some 3,500 university staff at Oxford, mainly in the academic-related research support grades, employed on outside-grant-funded, supernumerary, and other forms of fixed-term contract, and will limit the use of successive fixed-term contracts to four years, except where such use is objectively justified. The legislation is not retrospective and continuous service for the purpose of the regulations will be deemed to start on 10 July 2002. Where there is no objective justification for the use of fixed-term appointments, relevant staff with four years' continuous service may be deemed to have open-ended contracts from 10 July 2006 onwards.

The Personnel Committee has consulted extensively with departments and divisions, and with the Oxford AUT and its national officers, and has reached agreement with them on the proposed approach to the implementation of the regulations within the University. This approach is consistent with the guidance developed by a national joint working group, which included representatives of the AUT and the higher educatino unions, and university employers, under the auspices of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES).

Current university contractual arrangements

The University currently uses a range of types of contract of employment which are principally determined by the funding arrangements for the particular appointment. The University's Financial Regulations stipulate that a contract of employment may not be issued for a longer period than guaranteed funding is available. If the appointment is supported by sources which seem to represent long-term funding streams (e.g. the HEFCE block grant) an established contract may be issued. Appointments to posts funded by `soft money' are made on fixed-term contracts for the period for which funds are guaranteed and the contracts contain a clause explaining this.

The new regulations will result in an increase in the number of staff employed on an open-ended basis because there will be situations where there will not be a clear-cut objective justification, as required under the new legislation, for limiting contracts to a fixed term. These situations will include, for example, staff employed using research-grant income which departments reasonably expect to continue for the foreseeable future, but which is not formally guaranteed.

However, it would clearly be extremely imprudent for the University to increase its long-term commitment to such staff in these cases without its having a reliable provision to limit its financial exposure if external funding is in the event discontinued. There is no increase in university resources, nor in the University's likely income from external sources, to accompany the introduction of the new national legislation. It has been recognised by all the parties to the consultation referred to above that, if the University were to make more open-ended appointments for staff hitherto employed on a series of fixed-term contracts, it would need to have appropriate redundancy procedures available to ensure that the open-ended contracts could be terminated if the funding were to cease and, after due process, all attempts to redeploy the individual concerned to suitable alternative work had failed. It was also recognised that if agreement on redundancy arrangements could not be reached, the University would be ill-advised to enter into open-ended contracts, an alternative being that fixed-term appointments of over four years' duration which could not be renewed on objective grounds for a further fixed term would have to terminate on the expiry of the previous fixed term.

The current redundancy procedures for academic and academic-related [1] staff are set out in Statute XII, Part B and require the initial approval of Congregation before any permanent member of academic or related staff can be considered for redundancy. Under the statute Congregation must decide `that it is desirable that there should be a reduction in the academic staff (a) of the University as a whole; or (b) of any faculty, school, department, or other similar area of the University by way of redundancy'. Where Congregation so decides, a Redundancy Committee is set up and is responsible for considering the selection of staff for dismissal on grounds of redundancy and making recommendations to Council.

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Proposal to create a new type of open-ended contract for academic-related staff funded from external sources with appropriate termination procedures

The Personnel Committee has long recognised the issues surrounding uncertain career prospects for research staff employed on fixed-term contracts, and has supported a range of initiatives under the auspices of the Research Careers Initiative to address these concerns. The Personnel Committee's consultation exercise has established that departments wish in appropriate circumstances to have the facility to make initial appointments of some such staff on some form of open-ended contract, and to move some existing fixed-term staff to such contracts. The proposal would constitute another step towards enhancing job security for relevant members of this important staff group. The Oxford AUT has consulted its members employed on fixed-term contracts and established that they would also welcome a greater degree of employment security. However, all parties accept that, given that the funding for such staff will ultimately remain uncertain, a balance needs to be struck between increasing security of employment through the greater use of open-ended contracts and having available appropriate arrangements to terminate any such contract if the funding or the work required should cease or diminish and all avenues for redeployment or securing alternative funding had been exhausted. Thus it has been agreed that the introduction of the new form of open-ended, externally funded contract must be contingent upon the approval of appropriate redundancy procedures. The Personnel Committee has also reached agreement with the Oxford AUT on detailed procedures for the operation of a Redundancy Committee and has revised its guidance to departments and divisions on the arrangements for the redeployment of staff and the avoidance of redundancy.

Council recognises that the Statutes require that Congregation be approached if there is a question of a `general' reduction in academic staffing, or a local, but structural, reduction: if Congregation accepts the need for such a reduction it is then the role of the Redundancy Committee to select individuals and recommend their redundancy to Council. This would of course be a very different proposition from the one which Council now puts to Congregation, which is that since the Fixed-Term Employees Regulations will increase the numbers of academic-related staff on open-ended contracts if such contracts are introduced, and since it is regrettably inevitable that additional external funding will not be forthcoming in every case to fund the new open-ended contracts, there will be an equally inevitable need to reduce the academic-related staff on such contracts (the number of which will be increased by the introduction of open-ended, externally funded appointments). Before introducing the proposed new open-ended contract, Council therefore seeks the approval of Congregation to establish a Redundancy Committee under Statute XII, Part B in the light of the changed circumstances caused by the new regulations. That committee would consider solely any cases that might arise in respect of academic-related staff employed on the new open-ended, externally funded contract whose appointments could not be sustained financially, and who could not be redeployed. Council is clear that it would be irresponsible of the University to increase the academic-related staff in this way without having appropriate arrangements to deal with the consequences, and that it is essential to have general arrangements in place before specific cases arise. It very much welcomes the contributions made by the Oxford AUT in developing this jointly agreed approach.

Text of Resolution

That this House endorse the introduction of the proposed new open-ended, externally funded contract of employment for certain academic-related staff, and associated redundancy procedures, and in particular agree that Council should appoint a Redundancy Committee in accordance with section 10 of Statute XII, Part B to deal with the termination of such contracts for reason of redundancy.

[1] At Oxford University, Statute XII and its provisions on redundancy cover both academic and academic-related staff. The references to academic staff therefore include both staff groups.
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