Our responses to your questions

We received lots of excellent questions before and during the Hub launch, many of which reflect the widespread interests and concerns of research staff across the University. We value this as an opportunity to engage on these important topics, and hope you find our detailed responses useful.

We would be pleased to discuss the specifics of how they apply to you during one of our weekly Open Hubs. To sign up, please write to [email protected].


The Role of the Researcher Hub | The Hub’s engagement and collaboration across the University | The value of the Concordat to support the Career Development of Researcher | Career Development | Research Funding | Employment Contracts and COVID disruption | Supporting the everyday lives and work of researchers | College affiliation and alumni status

The Role of the Researcher Hub

What are the Hub’s priorities over the next two to three years?

Our four priorities in this period are:

1) to build an effective Hub team and community of practitioners working to support research staff,

2) to provide a welcoming and inclusive online and physical space for all researchers from pre-arrival to their onward move,

3) to use the signature of the Concordat to drive forward new baseline standards and deliver innovation, 

4) to provide opportunities that will progress and launch researchers’ careers.

These specific priorities are part of a broader University agenda for improving research culture. The Hub’s focus is on nurturing and empowering those who do our world-leading research. And in this work we are collaborating closely with colleagues focusing on how to do responsible, reproducible research.

How will the Hub measure its success and over what timescales?

We have identified tangible milestones within each of the four priorities for each term until end of the 2023 academic year, and agreed these with senior colleagues including the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Patrick Grant and the Academic Advocate for Research, Professor David Gavaghan.

The Hub reports monthly to these colleagues on progress in each area and termly to central governance committees (see the structure here). We also respond proactively to suggestions from research staff or their support base, as well as to opportunities relating to research staff arising in parallel University initiatives (e.g. work to further equality, diversity, inclusion and well-being in Oxford, and to expand research partnerships and funding sources).

Professor Gavaghan - you have spoken before about your experiences as a post-doc - what are you planning to achieve with the Hub which younger Dr Gavaghan would have wanted?"

I’d like the Hub to alert Oxford’s research staff to the things I didn’t know when I started out in research, and stumbled on along the way. For example, how to balance my career planning with my research, how research funding works in relation to contracts and progression, how to have open, practical conversations with more senior researchers in the University, and where to find useful professional development opportunities. Probably the most important thing for me was being given the opportunity to work with DPhil students as a formal co-supervisor very early in my career, so I would like to find ways to acknowledge more formally the huge contribution made by research staff in this area.

Who is the Hub for?

The Hub is for all staff on fixed-term contracts who are engaged in research, whether at early, mid or later career stage, including those currently on teaching contracts. We welcome all within the Concordat’s broad definition of research staff, namely “individuals whose primary responsibility is to conduct research and who are employed specifically for this purpose” by the collegiate University.

We anticipate that the Hub’s work will bring Concordat-related and other benefits to a range of staff whose roles interface with research. At the same time, our primary focus is on the large population of research staff brought to Oxford to work on projects for their research expertise in any of the four divisions or GLAM.

Is the Hub an opportunity to improve professional development for research staff?

Yes, the Hub will draw together the wide-ranging personal and professional development opportunities offered across Oxford to help researchers find what they need. We will work with researcher development colleague in the Divisions to ensure that the menu of support is accessible and relevant to onward career progression interests and opportunities across work sectors.

How can academic departments and professional services work with the Hub to benefit research staff?

Several routes for collaboration exist through the Hub’s governance and the research staff representational structure (set out in a diagram here).

One route is via the department or faculty research staff representatives who act as a two-way link and can bring suggestions to the Divisional Research Staff Forum. Two elected members from each Divisional Forum belong to the central Research Staff Consultation Group who work with parallel senior committees of professional and academic staff to allocate resources and implement change.

A second route for advocacy and collaboration is via Divisional colleagues working in these central groups; the researcher development lead from each Division is a member of Research Staff Working Group which works closely with the Hub to design and deliver professional and personal development for research staff, and to steer the design of Oxford’s Concordat implementation plan. A third route is via the Division’s academic advocate or Head of People who, along with other senior colleagues on the Research Staff Steering Committee, make policy and resource recommendations.

In addition, all staff are warmly encouraged to engage directly with the Hub team (via email and/or our weekly Open Hub hours; [email protected]) or with our wider colleagues in People and Organisational Development (POD) ([email protected]). These routes are recommended for discussing ways to improve personal and professional development for research staff and/or receiving support for the department or faculty in practical and cultural change, such as embedding effective annual Career Development Reviews for all research staff.

The Hub’s engagement and collaboration across the University

Are there any plans for cross-departmental networking and collaboration events?

Yes we plan to facilitate regular events to respond to research staff interests that complement existing provision. We will work with suggestions from research staff and supporting colleagues, particularly through the representative structure and coordinate with OxRSS (Oxford Research Staff Society) in our planning. We anticipate events starting in Autumn 2021.

How will the Hub promote communication and interaction between research staff?

We will promote interaction between research staff in a number of ways, such as welcome events with opportunities to meet and befriend fellow researchers from elsewhere in the University, links to groups of researchers with common interests, and opportunities to engage in sports, creative arts, social activities and volunteering in the wider Oxford community.

Community-building is core to the Hub’s vision. We are open and responsive to further ways of facilitating good communication and interaction amongst research staff group across Oxford; please join an Open Hub conversation by emailing [email protected] or send us your suggestion.

How will the Hub engage current research staff and make its benefits known?

We will introduce ourselves ‘face to face’ wherever possible. Hub team members will continue participating in networking or information-sharing events on the invitation of departments, faculties, divisions and professional teams across the University. The representative structure enables us to interact with research staff reps who, as two-way communicators between their peers and the Hub, can convey updates and suggestions.

We also host a weekly Open Hub (book via [email protected]). This is a great way to feed into and engage with the Hub in a personal way. Online and in-person events to connect researchers and explore benefits from the Hub are planned for the coming academic year.

We will also encourage departments to include the Hub website in induction packs, talks, and annual Career Development Review conversations for all research staff. Working with Divisional, departmental and central service colleagues, we will seek to signpost the Hub’s website from a range of University pages popular with research staff.

The value of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

What is the Concordat?

Signed by Oxford in April 2021, the Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers is an agreement between key players in the UK research landscape, namely fixed-term researchers, their line managers, universities and funders – on the minimum standards to ensure the well-being and career development of fixed term research staff. Our Concordat page outlines the three major foci and links you to national work in this area.

What is the timetable for implementing the Concordat and how will we raise awareness?

Having signed the Concordat on 22 April 2021, Oxford is committed to designing and publishing its implementation plan by 21 April 2022. This plan will be designed in a participatory process involving research staff, academics and professional staff, progress on which will be monitored by the three central research staff committees (illustrated here). The plan and related obligations will be widely communicated to Divisions and departments by the Hub, Divisional Academic Advocates for Research Staff or their equivalents, and the research staff representative structure.

How will we ensure compliance in Oxford?

Compliance will be achieved through a number of mutually enforcing mechanisms;

1) our institutional obligations to regular progress reviews, including an open access annual report;

2) the expectation and desire to share effective practice with other universities and funders to improve the whole research ecosystem over the coming decade;

3) internal pressure to improve standards of support for research staff;

4) direct participation of research staff and those working to meet their needs in university governance;

5) research staff representation in all departments and faculties and

6) a live open access dashboard showing progress on key indicators.

Importantly, we are in this together. Specific responsibilities for compliance lie with individual research staff and line managers, and professional support staff have a significant role in fulfilling the institution’s responsibility. The Concordat will become a living reality in Oxford if we all work on our respective tasks and keep collaborating.

Career Development

How will Career Development Reviews (CDRs) help in research staff career development?

Offering an annual Career Development Review ensures every fixed-term researcher the opportunity to dedicate time to their career planning in their busy research schedules, and to engage in supportive discussion on next steps with their line manager in the first instance, plus other colleagues with experience in relevant fields of interest. Oxford’s commitment to CDRs is one mechanism for the institution, line managers and research staff to fulfil their respective obligations to research staff set out in the The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. The CDR is intended to stimulate ongoing career conversations between research staff, their peers, senior colleagues and support staff on the understanding that a pro-active, exploratory approach is a wise way to keep employment options open, and to avoid inadvertently relying on one specific aspiration, such as a permanent role in academia.

What is the 10 day Professional Development entitlement and how does it work?

The purpose of this provision is to enable research staff to identify relevant professional development opportunities to inform their career thinking and/or boost their skills, and to devote paid time to these within their working hours, rather than in annual leave or at night. The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers states that research staff, line managers and the institution each have particular obligations to ensure research staff engage in a minimum of 10 days’ professional development pro rata, per year (which may be taken at once or in smaller chunks).

Research staff are strongly encouraged to bring their ideas on professional development aims or specific opportunities to their line managers, and to agree timings that work for both parties. Examples include participating in hands-on training and project work with external clients offered through the Researcher Strategy Consultancy run by the Careers Service, a Leadership in Action course offered by MPLS, or a professional Apprenticeship in project management, or leadership and managing people.

What are the career prospects for researchers at Oxford?

The available evidence shows that the vast majority of research staff will find stable and rewarding work in their next career phase, and that most will do so in roles intersecting with or beyond academia, including in commercial or public service organisations. A very small minority move into permanent academic roles for the simple reason that the ‘supply’ of qualified, experienced research staff far outstrips the ‘demand’ within Universities for new professors or permanent lecturers (Oxford’s turnover rate of permanent staff is just a few percent per year). Testimony from former research staff from Oxford and similar Universities who now work in other sectors indicates high levels of job satisfaction and personal reward in their current jobs, and gives tips on how to prepare for these roles. For anyone keen to progress in academia, we advise a strategic approach beyond reliance on publications or grants, as outlined here by the Careers Service. Support for aspiring PIs, research leaders or managers is available through POD.

We recognise that some research staff do not wish to become a PI or apply for a fellowship, instead preferring to play important continuity and enabling roles within a broader team. The Hub is working with Oxford’s Academic Advocates for Research and HR policy colleagues to learn from other Universities pioneering the creation of new roles of this nature (Glasgow, Cambridge) and towards understanding how a senior scientist role might be introduced in MPLS and/or Medical Sciences.

What careers support is available to experienced Research Assistants without a PhD?

The Careers Service has online resources and offers regular Insight into Academia seminars looking at everyday realities in, and strategies for, academic career progression, including deciding whether a PhD is the right choice for you. The service offers insight into many other sectors that include opportunities for researchers, and how to proceed along relevant routes to keep your options open. You can also book a 1:1 appointment with a Careers Adviser to discuss these further. Also worth bearing in mind is the value of a highly pro-active, investigative approach to understanding where your core and technical skill set, or your subject expertise, can add value in a range of research institutions and roles beyond academia. Check out the profiles of people who have moved on and their experiences. Change is happening in the way research is done and we predict increasing opportunities for working within and across research teams – whether or not you have a PhD.

Does experience outside universities count in academic progression?

Demonstrable management, leadership and entrepreneurial experience is increasingly expected in senior academic roles, as indicated by the essential or desired criteria in job adverts, markers of good citizenship and criteria used for Recognition of Distinction. Similarly, the value of external experience is rising as Universities seek to expand their connections with industry, policy and public sector organisations, and to meet equality, diversity and inclusion policy objectives. One example is Oxford’s Associate Professor inclusive recruitment project.

Which strategic areas of research support are universities now developing, and do these bring career progression opportunities for research staff?

Examples of strategic areas in research support in research institutions include external partnership building, knowledge exchange and impact, diversifying funding sources and robust management of applications, research projects and their teams. Research staff at Oxford are well-placed to move into these roles when they have a good understanding of the key skill requirements, focus on building these pro-actively within their current roles and are familiar with overarching policy.

Research Funding

As a fixed term researcher, how can I cover the cost of open-access publication?

Many funders allow Open Access publication costs (Article Processing Charges, APCs) to be included on grant applications as an eligible cost and so authors should have a plan for where and when to publish, and include costs at the application stage. For authors funded by RCUK / UKRI and Wellcome Trust / CRUK / BHF see here for how to apply for payment of OA costs from their block grants to the University.

If your funder will not meet the cost APC cost or you are an unfunded researcher, you may benefit from the Transformative Agreements that the University has signed with a number of major publishers. These Transformative (“Read & Publish”) Agreements enabling corresponding authors from the University of Oxford to publish research articles and review articles open access for no extra cost. Read and Publish deals cover both subscription (read) and Article Processing Charge (OA publishing) payments. They are known as transformative agreements because they aim to transition towards a full open access model, in line with funder requirements such as Plan S and the new 2021 Wellcome Trust OA policy. See here for further details and an up-to-date list of publishers with Read and Publish arrangements with the University.

If the above routes for covering APCs do not apply, there is no central University Open Access fund to pay your Article Processing Charge.

Will the hub advocate for permanent researcher contracts rather than project funded ones?

It is important to be realistic about the systemic challenges associated with the almost universal mechanisms for allocation of research funding. Funding allocated using the long-standing Haldane principle - on a competitive basis based on peer assessment of research excellence - has benefits as well as direct and important implications for research staff. Almost all fixed term researchers at the University are externally funded. Funders provide grants and contracts for projects to be undertaken in relatively short periods which makes it difficult for the University to make long term commitments.

However, the Concordat for the Career Development of Researchers puts us in a different place because funders are committed to it, as well as the University, line managers (including PIs) and research staff. The University will work with our funders to create a roadmap that plots a pathway to improve employment security and a longer timeframe for the researcher community. The aspiration is to work towards getting a proportionately higher fraction of research staff, year on year, to longer or more secure employment security. The Concordat gives us a framework to have these difficult and honest conversations with research funders.

Furthermore, there are new external drivers that will impact on the whole community’s approach to research assessment. The rising profile of research impact, public engagement, citizenship, and research culture, as well as agreements such as DORA, are examples of the evolving landscape of research funding. These initiatives and shift of focus will bring changes to the research environment that have the potential to benefit research staff whose career path does not follow a linear trajectory.

Nevertheless, funders, the University, and research staff must all accept some uncertainty and it is important to be realistic and candid about this. This challenge involves post-doctoral researchers as well as many others engaged on fixed term contracts to undertake research, most particularly technicians.

Chasing research funding is exhausting and reduces current research productivity. How does the University support research staff in identifying viable funding sources and making strong applications to reduce dependence on funds raised by PIs?

There is significant and quite comprehensive support for research staff who are seeking funding. Your first port of call should be your local research facilitator / administrator – search your department / faculty website for the contact name. Your facilitator / administrator will be able to guide you through funding opportunities relevant to your field and career stage, as well as advise on the type of opportunity suited to your situation, such as becoming a Co-I or seeking a fellowship. Ask your facilitator about targeted support to strengthen applications. They can direct you to other support services such as Research Professional (for funding opportunities), or divisional support for specific call, and also have additional support that they can call upon such as HR or Research Services. Please note that the earlier that you contact your research facilitator / administrator, the more effectively they can help.

Can research staff on fixed term contracts apply for funds in their own name, especially when they are experienced and/or mid-career?

The University follows the eligibility criteria stipulated by research funders. Most funders will vary the eligibility criteria depending on the nature and value of the call for applications. While many schemes will require the lead applicant to hold a permanent position at the University, some are less directive about the career stage of applicants. Senior postdocs are almost universally able to apply for fellowship awards as the Principal Investigator, and these may include funding for post-doctoral researchers. Other schemes (e.g. Wellcome Career Development Awards) are aimed specifically at mid-career researchers. A further possibility in many funding schemes is to apply as a named Co-Investigator alongside a colleague who has a permanent position. Your local research facilitator / administrator will be able to provide more detailed guidance about calls relevant to your field, associated eligibility requirements and an effective application strategy. To find this person,  search your department / faculty website for the contact name.

What funding exists within the University to support researchers affected by COVID or related circumstances?

The University has recently launched the second round of the COVID Rebuilding Research Momentum Fund, see details here. Applications are invited from academic and research staff from all divisions, for funding to support the development and progression of their research career following significant disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, associated restrictions and/or their personal circumstances.  The scheme is open to members of academic and research staff employed by the University who:

  • have experienced significant disruption to their research career (defined as a reduction of 50% or more in their research productivity over a period of at least 3 months)
  • are in the process of establishing an independent research career. This includes associate professors in the initial period of office, holders of early career fellowships and postdoctoral researchers. Clinical research training fellows are also eligible to apply in this round.

Employment Contracts and COVID disruption

How will the Hub respond to the uncertainty that research staff experience related to fixed-term contracts?

The Hub will help clarify understandings of employment contracts at Oxford, contribute actively to realistic processes within Oxford and nationally for improving employment arrangements for researchers, and support research staff in managing the realities of a career choice that contains uncertainty (see career development above).

First, some clarification: A ‘permanent contract’ is technically simply a contract without an end date, but with a prescribed notice period (typically up to 3 months) which allows the employer to end the contract by giving notice. An employer might give notice for example if their need for the work carried out by the employee ‘ceases or diminishes’ and they therefore need to make the employee redundant. There can be a perception that other employers, including other Universities are able to offer more stability of employment by offering permanent contracts rather than fixed-term contracts but, as noted, a permanent contract is terminable with notice when circumstances require. Employment in the University of Oxford is governed by UK employment law and also the University’s own Statutes and Regulations which impose more onerous and lengthy redundancy procedures than most other employers have.

The University values its research staff at all career stages, and recognises the issue of job insecurity. However, the majority of research at Oxford is funded by time-limited external funds: funding patterns vary widely but an estimated 75% of research staff fixed-term contracts are for 2 years or more . All employees – regardless of contract type – are eligible for the full range of University employment benefits, including enhanced contractual family, sickness and annual leave, as well as a huge range of training and development resources. And Research Staff also have access to resources such as the Careers Service and the newly launched Research Staff Hub as well as divisionally-offered skills training which are not available to other staff groups.

In all cases where a fixed-term contract is to be used, the University policy requires that it is objectively justified. The most common grounds for objective justification are that the employee has been appointed to work on or provide specialist expertise or experience to a research project which is dependent on an external research grant and for which there is no expectation that the work will continue beyond the availability of that external funding. Where contracts do end, support is available to employees in seeking redeployment within the University, including a priority candidate process.

For many research projects, particularly in scientific disciplines, salary costs are only one element of the research costs, with the non-salary but essential research costs often being considerable. There is unlikely to be a substantive change to employment security by moving to an open-ended contract in the current funding environment as employees would still be made redundant with the same frequency when projects end and external funds are no longer available: it is the lack of funding that causes the contract to end, not the contract type.

However, the issue is a very active focus for the sector and the Concordat does not just make demands of individuals and institutions, it also sets out expectations of funders including to “Review the impact of relevant funding call requirements on researchers’ employment, particularly in relation to career progression and lack of job security.”

What is the University’s current policy on the use of ‘open-ended, externally-funded contracts?

HR teams work closely with departmental colleagues to ensure that open-ended contracts are used where possible. Open-ended contracts can be used where there is a reasonable prospect that external funding will continue for the foreseeable future, and the work is central to the future research plans of the department. The University’s working practices on use of OECs can be found on the HR Support website.

Following due process, as with permanent contracts, open-ended contracts may be lawfully terminated by the giving of an appropriate period of notice and as allowed for in the specific contract of employment in circumstances such as resignation, ill health, misconduct and redundancy. For open-ended contracts at the University, Statute XII provides for a significantly more lengthy redundancy process for academic-related employees who have passed their probationary period than in other higher education institutions. The redundancy process needs to begin at least six months before the end of the externally funded project. The process of ending an open-ended contract is more resource intensive and costly than those for fixed-term contracts, where there is a well-recognised process that takes place in the three months before the end-date of the fixed-term contract.

Is the University considering non-tenured, long-term positions for research staff?

The University is exploring the possibility of some longer-term career structures for research staff. As part of the joint work between the Hub and the University’s Divisions, initial exploratory talks have been held with other institutions who have introduced similar structures, and we are considering whether and how this might fit within Oxford’s particular Statutes and Regulations.

What are you doing to ensure that research interruptions caused by COVID are being addressed and that those on fixed-term contracts will be able to complete their projects?

The University, principal investigators and departments continue to work with research funders and collaborators to agree steps to mitigate the effects of disruption to research. The response of research funders due to interruptions caused by the COVID19 health emergency and associated lockdown can be found here. Most funders will grant a no-cost extension on request. On many awards, the University has secured flexibility to enable any underspend to be dedicated to extend contracts of employment for research staff. Additional funding granted by UKRI has been allocated by divisions strictly in accordance with project needs.

Research staff need opportunity to seek future research funding, and the University has the ability and opportunity to engage with funders to ask that ensure that funding opportunities continue to flow during this time of crisis. It is encouraging that both research applications and awards have increased over the last year.

It is also important that the University continues to invest in research staff via the John Fell Fund and Strategic Research Fund. Accordingly, the University has recently launched the second round of the COVID Rebuilding Research Momentum Fund, see details here. Applications are invited from academic and research staff from all divisions, for funding to support the development and progression of their research career following significant disruption (by at least 50%) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, associated restrictions and their personal circumstances.  The scheme is open to members of academic and research staff employed by the University who:

  • have experienced significant disruption to their research career (defined as a reduction of 50% or more in their research productivity over a period of at least 3 months)
  • are in the process of establishing an independent research career. This includes associate professors in the initial period of office, holders of early career fellowships and postdoctoral researchers. Clinical research training fellows are also eligible to apply in this round.

Research activity at the University is continuing through a mixture of on-site and remote working. Under Stage 3 of the business continuity-planning framework, on-site research is allowed and encouraged where it cannot be carried out remotely – and where this can be enabled by the availability of a COVID-secure environment within University buildings and facilities.

Supporting the everyday lives and work of researchers

Childcare: Are there any plans to improve the access to childcare, such as increasing capacity and decreasing costs?

Oxford has one of the highest ratios of nursery places to staff in any UK university with 465 places across its own five nurseries as well as places in community nurseries. Fees at the University nurseries are approximately 20% lower than community rates. A salary sacrifice scheme, which is available for the University and community nurseries in addition to other schemes are available and assist employees to reduce the costs as far as possible. In order to continue to be able to offer preferential rates the nurseries need to operate at an optimum level of occupancy, meaning that maintaining a balance between unpredictable demand and capacity is complex. Regrettably, it is not always possible to offer places to staff at the time, location or split that we would like. However, at present places are offered within 40 days of the requested start date (this time is longer than usual due to delays caused by the pandemic, typically most places are offered within 16 days of the requested start date).

We are always looking to improve our offering and have just contracted a new supplier, Kids Planet, who will take over running our nurseries this summer. Expansions underway include The Early Years Nursery in Kidlington for those living close to Oxford Airport, and in easy reach of the proposed new park and ride site.

Our comprehensive website details is full of information for parents: Home | Childcare Services (ox.ac.uk). You can apply via our online portal, providing that our eligibility criteria have been met. Parents are able to book days in nursery in line with the days that they work, e.g. a 3 day working week = 0.6FTE nursery place. General queries can be directed to [email protected] and finance queries to [email protected]

How is the University thinking about enabling full-time remote working in the near term future for research staff considering that Oxford with its high-living costs it not very attractive to early career researchers.

The New Ways of Working Project is exploring how the University will work in the future, building on experiences during the pandemic. The initial focus is considering implications for professional services staff and it is expected that how recommendations could be applied to academic and research staff will also be explored.

We would recommend contacting the project team with any ideas and suggestions as they are seeking to be bold and creative, and to support the University to evolve.

Please note that it is recognised that the cost of living in Oxford is high and the University’s strategic plan for 2018-2024 includes a commitment “By 2023, in partnership with the private sector, to have started the construction of at least 1,000 new subsidised homes for University and college staff.”

Moving costs: The university has a policy that facilitates reimbursement of moving costs for staff coming to work at Oxford, yet there is no similar policy on repatriation when one's term ends. The effect is to seriously disadvantage research staff on fixed contracts, particularly international staff. In light of the fact that projects able and willing to pay such costs have their hands tied in the absence of a policy, could this issue be looked into and addressed?

Some research funders will meet ‘mobility’ costs where the aim of the scheme is to encourage mobility and the researcher is expected to return to their country of origin at the end of the fixed term project. A relocation allowance is an eligible cost which can be charged to research projects supported by many funders. In the event that the grant-giving body will not support the full cost of relocation expenses it may be possible for a contribution towards such costs to be made by the appointing department, subject to the availability of departmental funds. The University operates a discretionary Relocation Scheme that may be available to new staff, depending upon circumstances, eligibility and the availability of funding from their department/grant provider. With respect to relocation costs associated with a move from Oxford to a subsequent post, it is the norm for these to be met by the new employer. The Hub will look into possibilities for extending policy to include repatriation.

Management: How will you tackle the current situation which prevents many research staff from challenging poor management practices including discrimination, bullying and harassment, because they fear non-renewal of their contract, and/or withdrawal of meaningful help with securing new funding for their work?

The University does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation and expects all members of the University community, its visitors and contractors to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration. Any staff who are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination is encouraged to report it. Any negative consequences as a result of reporting harassment, as you describe, would constitute victimisation and should also be reported. As well as a network of local harassment advisers, there is a confidential central harassment advisory service: you can find out about how to report and sources of support on the University’s Equality and Diversity Unit’s website. Many external funders also impose requirements on those that they fund with regard to appropriate workplace behaviours and reserve the right to impose sanctions on those who are found to have behaved inappropriately.

Mortgages and families: Will the support for research staff career development include support for making long-term, career-impacting commitments like house purchases or family plans which are difficult on casual (fixed term or open ended) contracts?

With regard to family plans, the University’s generous family leave benefits are available to all research staff, regardless of their contract type or funding source for their post. The University expanded its family leave provision in January 2020 by removing the length of service criterion for access to the benefits making it a Day 1 benefit. The Research Hub team plan to explore the issues related to securing mortgages on fixed term contracts.

Visas: What specific services will you provide for overseas staff, particularly in regards to visa/ residency issues?

The University has a specialist Staff immigration team, which provides free and impartial advice on immigration matters to current and prospective University employees, visitors and their accompanying dependants Please visit their comprehensive website for more information.

College affiliation and alumni status

Is there a plan to provide all research staff (who would like this) with a college affiliation?

Professor David Gavaghan, University Advocate for Research Staff, and Sir Tim Hitchens, President of Wolfson College, have been actively pursuing this medium-term aspiration over the last year or so. A survey on college support for research staff was undertaken in 2019 and considered by the Conference of Colleges in 2020. The Summary Report is available. Heads of House were enthusiastic about the paper and the proposal to encourage colleges to increase the number of research staff with college affiliation. The form and number of affiliations and/or associations offered to research staff is a decision for each College to make. Some colleges have developed forms of association which are not resource intensive; examples of these have been collated and shared with all colleges with a view to encouraging wider adoption. This conversation is ongoing.

What is the status of Oxford researchers after a research contract ends?

Research staff who have matriculated from Oxford will have Alumni status. Research staff who did not study at Oxford may be eligible to apply for Associate Alumni status. Associate Alumni status can be granted to staff who have conducted academic research or engaged in academic teaching for one academic year or more. More information about eligibility and the benefits afforded to Alumni, can be found here.

Those wishing to apply for associate status need to contact the Alumni Office by email ([email protected]) and provide the following information:

  • Department
  • Job title
  • Start date
  • End Date
  • Engaged in University teaching* (Yes or No)
  • Engaged in University research** (Yes or No)
  • Engaged in private research (Yes or No)

*Teaching is classified as having a contract of employment for one academic year or more, with a college or department of the University
**University research is classified as being funded by the University or by a grant under the University’s name.

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