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Supplement (1) to Oxford University Gazette No. 4752. Wednesday, 30 November 2005.
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Oxford University Gazette, 30 November 2005

Recognition of Distinction: arrangements for 2005–2006


Recognition of Distinction: communication from the Personnel Committee

This paper details the 2005–6 round of the recognition of distinction exercise.

Please note the following changes to the procedures for the exercise since the 2003–4 round :

(a) applicants are asked to submit their applications by e-mail as a Word attachment;

(b) applicants should ask their head of department/faculty board chairman and head of house (where relevant) to send their references direct to Personnel Services by 28 February 2006;

(c) divisional committees are no longer required to use external assessors for groups of applications.


1. Timetable and general outline of the scheme

Individuals are now invited to submit themselves for consideration in this exercise. Applications, in the form of a Word attachment, should be e-mailed to recognition.distinction@admin.ox.ac.uk by 20 January 2006. Section 4(1) below details the required format for applications. All applications will then be sent forward for consideration on behalf of the relevant divisional board whose comments should be sent to Mrs Kinahan by 12 May 2006. The Personnel Committee's Recognition of Distinction Committee will then consider all the material and make decisions by the end of July 2006 or as soon as possible thereafter. Titles will take effect from 1 October 2006. Individuals will not, therefore, be eligible to apply for a title to be awarded in the year they retire. Individuals in the first year of appointment at Oxford who have announced their intention to leave before the end of their second year of appointment will not be eligible to apply for a title. The duties and stipends of those on whom a new title is conferred do not change.

It is essential for exercises such as this to be conducted as openly as possible and divisional boards are asked to send this circular to all eligible academic staff on their establishment, together with covering information about the composition of the divisional board committee which will comment on the applications. If such covering information is not yet available, this circular should be sent on now with a covering note to that effect, and a further circulation about the actual composition of the committee should be sent as soon as that information is available, and well before the deadline for applications.

Separate circulars are being sent to heads of departments and to colleges, since all employees of the University (i.e. not merely academic staff), and also persons not employed by the University but who are making a significant and sustained contribution to it in an academic capacity, are eligible to apply. Divisional boards also asked themselves to ensure that such persons in their subject area who are not members of the academic staff are aware of the exercise. Those who have retired from their substantive appointments are not eligible to apply.

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2. Previous applicants

Applicants who were unsuccessful in previous rounds may of course apply again, although they should note that reconsideration by the Recognition of Distinction Committee of the same material (i.e. an identical application and identical comments) would result in the same outcome: there is no sense in which the committee will in any year take a more lenient line than in previous years, since there was and remains no 'quota' of successful candidates. Unsuccessful applicants who wish to apply again will wish to reflect on the extent to which circumstances have changed since they prepared their previous application. They will also wish to take account of any feedback which they obtained after a previous round. Applicants from previous rounds who wish to apply again must submit new applications within twelve sides of A4 (see section 4).

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3. Criteria

Title of reader

(a) The primary criterion is a research record of a high order, the quality of which has gained external recognition, and which is comparable in distinction with that expected of readers appointed on the grounds of research achievement at other major research universities.

The definition of 'research' to be followed is that used in research assessment exercises, i.e.: 'research' is to be understood as original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding. It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce and industry, as well as to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, and artefacts, including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products, and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and analysis of materials, components, and processes, e.g. for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques.

(b) (i) Where an applicant is a member of the academic staff of the University, he or she must have undertaken undergraduate and/or graduate teaching for the University, and for colleges, concomitant with the duties of the university post and of the college fellowship (where one is held), and such teaching must have been performed well. Particular flair in teaching or in contributions to teaching would strengthen the case for the title. An outstanding contribution to teaching could compensate for a lesser contribution to high-level research. Applicants must also have demonstrated a regular willingness to contribute to the academic community by involvement in University and college administration and to have demonstrated competence in such administration. A notable contribution to college administration could compensate for a lesser contribution to university administration and vice versa, provided that contributions on both sides have been satisfactory.

(ii) Where an applicant is not a member of the University's academic staff, he or she must have demonstrated a regular and sustained commitment to the University (e.g. in teaching or administration) beyond the prosecution of high-quality research.

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Title of professor

(a) The primary criterion is that research must be of outstanding quality, have led to a significant international reputation, and be comparable in distinction with that expected of a professor in other major research universities.

The definition of 'research' to be followed is that used in research assessment exercises, i.e.: 'research' is to be understood as original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding. It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce and industry, as well as to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, and artefacts, including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products, and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and analysis of materials, components, and processes, e.g. for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques.

(b) (i) Where an applicant is a member of the academic staff of the University, he or she must have undertaken undergraduate and/or graduate teaching for the University, and for colleges, concomitant with the duties of the university post and of the college fellowship (where one is held), and such teaching must have been performed well. Particular flair in teaching or in contributions to teaching would strengthen the case for the title. An outstanding contribution to teaching could compensate for a lesser contribution to high-level research. Applicants must also have demonstrated a regular willingness to contribute to the academic community by involvement in University and college administration and to have demonstrated competence in such administration. A notable contribution to college administration could compensate for a lesser contribution to university administration and vice versa, provided that contributions on both sides have been satisfactory.

(ii) Where an applicant is not a member of the University's academic staff, he or she must have demonstrated a regular and sustained commitment to the University (e.g. in teaching or administration) beyond the prosecution of high quality research.

In all cases, in accordance with the University's equal opportunities aims, account will be taken of factors which might have affected an individual's performance during the time under review, thus making the contribution to research, in particular, smaller in quantity (but not in quality) than would otherwise have been expected.

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4. Detailed procedure

(1) Information required from applicants

Applications from individuals holding neither title should be for 'distinction', leaving it to the judgement of the committee, after due consideration of all relevant material, to determine whether the title of professor or reader should be awarded. Such applicants should indicate clearly in their application whether they would accept either title if offered it.

Applicants are asked to present their case by the submission of a curriculum vitae arranged under the following headings and within twelve sides of A4.

(1) Title applied for (if you hold neither the title of reader, nor of professor, please indicate whether either title would be acceptable);

(2) any relevant information such as might normally appear in a curriculum vitae, including contact address, employment history and current post;

(3) university lectures and classes given (over the last three years or such period as may be required to demonstrate fulfilment of the criteria outlined in section 3);

(4) graduate supervision and other graduate teaching undertaken (over the last three years or such period as may be required to demonstrate fulfilment of the criteria outlined in section 3);

(5) university examining (over the last three years or such period as may be required to demonstrate fulfilment of the criteria outlined in section 3);

(6) university administration (over the last three years or such period as may be required to demonstrate fulfilment of the criteria outlined in section 3);

(7) undergraduate teaching for college(s) (over the last three years or such period as may be required to demonstrate fulfilment of the criteria outlined in section 3);

(8) college administration (over the last three years or such period as may be required to demonstrate fulfilment of the criteria outlined in section 3);

(9) advanced study and research, including publications, grants, etc. (please mark with an asterisk your six most significant publications);

(10) future plans for research.

All of those who put themselves forward should feel free to mention any factors (domestic or otherwise) which may have led, for instance, to academic achievements appearing less in quantity than they would otherwise have been.


Referees

Applicants must also supply the names of referees as follows:

1. Head of house (who may however delegate the writing of the reference) in all cases where applicants have a college attachment;

2. Head of department or chairman of faculty board (who may however delegate the writing of the reference). Applicants who are not university employees should give the head of the department/chairman of the faculty board with which they are most closely associated.

Applicants are requested to ask these referees to send their references, commenting primarily on the extent to which the applicant meets criterion (b), direct to recognition.distinction@admin.ox.ac.uk or to Mrs R. Kinahan at the University Offices, by 28 February 2006.

3. One further referee, preferably external to Oxford, with full postal and e-mail addresses.

Applicants are asked to send this referee a copy of their application. Mrs Kinahan will write to this referee requesting a reference primarily on the extent to which the applicant meets criterion (a), and the referee should be chosen accordingly.

Applications should be sent as a Word attachment to recognition.distinction@admin.ox.ac.uk by 20 January 2006. Applicants are asked to put in the title field of the e-mail their surname and the name of the division (or divisions in the case of interdiscplinary applications) by which they wish their application to be considered.

All data supplied by applicants will be used only for the purposes of assessing their application for a title of distinction and will be held in accordance with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the University's Data Protection Policy.


(2) Consideration of applications at the divisional board level

(a) It is not open to divisional board committees to invite individuals who have not put themselves forward to consider doing so.

(b) Each divisional board should delegate the consideration of the applications to a single committee, chaired by the head of the division. Divisional board committees should be broadly based, covering as far as possible the major disciplines or broad areas of study under the aegis of the particular board. Boards may, if they wish, arrange for departmental/faculty board scrutiny of applications before consideration by the divisional board committee; in such cases the divisional board should provide any necessary guidance to the department/faculty board.

(c) Divisional board committees (including any local departmental/faculty committees) should not contain anyone who is a member of the Recognition of Distinction Committee of the Personnel Committee. It is open to divisional boards to include on their committees those who do not hold the title of professor or are not substantive professors, on the obvious understanding that they would not be eligible to apply in that year's exercise. Provided suitably qualified individuals exist, each committee must contain at least one member of each sex. It is normally expected that divisional board committees will contain an appropriate mixture of internal and external members (although external members are not compulsory) and an appropriate number of professors and/or readers.

(d) Divisional boards are asked to obtain two further references, additional to those identified by the applicant. Pro forma letters are available on request from Mrs Kinahan. These references should normally be external and should be passed on to the Recognition of Distinction Committee with the other material forwarded by the divisional board committee.

(e) References received by Mrs Kinahan will be passed on immediately to the divisional board secretary for consideration by the divisional board committee. That committee must assess all of the applicants in the light of the material they have submitted and all of the references received, including the external ones, and strictly by reference to the criteria in section 3 above. The committee must seek whatever supplementary information it may need, beyond the external referees' comments, in order to address fully and fairly the question whether the applicant meets these criteria. The committee should then submit its comments (plus the additional references) to Mrs Kinahan for consideration by the Recognition of Distinction Committee. The divisional board's committee is expected to provide a reasoned statement which addresses explicitly in each case, including the most straightforward ones, the question whether in its opinion the individual meets the key elements of the relevant criteria, namely

(i) quality of research achievement and its comparability with that expected of professors/readers in other major research universities;

(ii) extent and quality of contribution to teaching and administration for University and college.

The attention of divisional boards is drawn particularly to the definition of the research criterion at the reader level. The Recognition of Distinction Committee is clear that what might be regarded as the criteria for the award of the title of 'senior lecturer' in other institutions (i.e. long and loyal service, with extremely conscientious performance of duties) is not sufficient to meet the research criterion for the conferment of the title of reader.

(f) Divisional board committees are in particular asked to explain specifically why in their opinion an applicant for distinction (as distinct from the title of professor on its own) meets the criteria for whichever title the committee believes is appropriate.

(g) Divisional board committees are asked to recommend suitable fields for the titles of their applicants, should they be successful, e.g. Professor of English Language and Literature, Reader in Inorganic Chemistry.

Divisional board committees must consult between themselves in cases where an individual has asked for consideration by more than one board.

In making their comments to the Recognition of Distinction Committee, chairmen or secretaries of committees should state expressly that these bodies have observed the following elements of the above procedure: composition of selection committees, circulation of all information to all eligible academic staff, consideration of factors affecting academic performance, and consideration of all information against the criteria, in particular whether it interpreted the criteria in any specific way.

The comments made on behalf of each divisional board must be forwarded to Mrs Kinahan by 12 May 2006.

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5. Composition of the Distinctions Committee

The composition of the Distinctions Committee is as follows.

(1) the Vice-Chancellor;

(2) the Chairman of the Personnel Committee;

(3)–(14) twelve persons not necessarily being members of the Personnel Committee, and comprising at least one member of each sex;

(15) One of the Proctors or the Assessor. The full membership of the committee for the 2005–6 exercise will be published in the Gazette as soon as possible.

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6. Title of visiting professor

Please note that the committee may wish to confer the title of visiting professor if it considers that an applicant who is not a university employee more appropriately fits that category.

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Supplement (1) to Oxford University Gazette No. 4752. Wednesday, 30 November 2005.