The context for the programme
During the years immediately preceding this project, the University of Lincoln had been actively working to gather an accurate picture of its academic workforce and their HE teaching qualifications/professional recognition through the UKPSF, in support of its teaching excellence and professionalism. For this Management Information, the institution learned that at recruitment, a large percentage of new staff (approximately 80%) did not hold the relevant expected professional HE teaching qualification/recognition.
After joining the workforce, it then took a significant length of time to educate staff regarding the institution's expectations, identify the support required, and then ultimately convert this into a submission to achieve a minimum of D1 status through the UKPSF. An opportunity to join the HEA programme in relation to Career Progression and the University of Lincoln's Academic Probationary Requirements was therefore welcomed, to further embed the UKPSF into HR processes.
It was considered particularly timely for the following reasons:
- The University was in the process of reviewing and re-launching clearly articulated minimum expectations for academic staff;
- At the time they were newly re-accredited within the UKPSF, and therefore it was the ideal time to enhance the working practice through collaboration between HR and our Educational Development and Enhancement Unit (EDEU);
- HR had just received central agreement for a University project to move Academic Probation on-line, so the programme would provide direct benefit and support for this initiative;
- HR had recently transferred to a new IT system and this was an opportune time to review how the new HR system was used in support of career tracking and progression.
The areas intended for development
At the start of the project the University of Lincoln were in the process of embedding new clearly articulated minimum standards for academic staff. To ensure there was a focus on this, and that these were lived within the institution, it was critical that this be reflected within their key HR processes, such as academic probation.
This provided ideal opportunity to review their academic probation scheme, particularly through the enhancement of process at this critical time, and provided clarity of expectations and support available.
The existing process was based on sound principles - however the outcomes, such as teaching standards and excellence, along with submission to the UKPSF, during the current process can be comprised due to the following:
- Variable quality and standard of objectives set at the beginning of the probationary period;
- In some cases a lack of shared ownership between the probationer and line manager, along with little desire for a member of staff to control their own development in respect to career progression and professional recognition;
- No external intervention during the process unless the individual staff member/manager seeks HR advice, otherwise progress during probation is only seen once probation has been ‘signed off’.
In light of this, the enhancement activity undertaken was to develop an agreed set of core objectives reflecting the minimum standards/expectations that would be placed within all year 1 probationary plans - core objectives would include achievement of an HE teaching qualification to encompass these standards.
At the end of the first 12 months probationary period, the proposal was that there would be an expectation that staff would develop and agree a further Academic Career Development Plan (ACDP) which they would work towards over the next two years. This was not formalised, so the HEA programme would therefore allow the opportunity for the working group to develop, implement and review this process.