Code of Practice for the employment and career development of research staff

This Code of Practice sets out the University's provisions and guidelines for the employment of research staff - broadly defined as individuals whose primary responsibility is to conduct research and who are employed for this purpose. This broad category covers a wide range of staff with different disciplinary backgrounds, levels of training, experience and responsibility, types of contract (fixed or open ended, full or part time), and different career expectations and intentions. The code applies to those research staff employed by the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford. 

The code replaces the former code of practice originally introduced in 1997. It was developed by the Research Staff Working Group and issued by the People Committee (formerly known as Personnel Committee) in the light of the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (2008) and the European Charter for Researchers (2005), following appropriate discussion within the Joint Consultative Committee with the Oxford UCU. 

The code sets ambitious goals for the University and will therefore be implemented in phases according to a plan approved by the People Committee. 

Guiding principles 

In its Strategic Plan, the University acknowledges the very significant contribution made by the wide range of researchers on externally funded contracts to the research undertaken in Oxford. The development of career opportunities for these researchers (whose career patterns vary significantly and who come to Oxford from all over the world) and their further integration into the life of the collegiate University are important issues on which the University will continue to work. This code of practice articulates Oxford's aspiration, as a world-leading research-intensive university, to continue to provide a supportive environment for research and research careers at an international level. 

The following principles underpin this code of practice. They are based on the principles contained in the national Concordat. The remainder of this code of practice is structured around these principles. 

  1. The University aims to recruit and select researchers with the highest potential to achieve excellence in research.  
  2. Researchers are significant participants in and contributors to the University's success in research.  
  3. Researchers must be equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse, mobile, global research environment.  
  4. Researchers' personal and career development are recognised and promoted at all stages of their career, and individual researchers share the responsibility for their own personal and career development. Researchers should pro-actively engage in their own personal and career development.  
  5. Equality and diversity are promoted in all aspects of the recruitment and career management of researchers.  
  6. The University will work with other key stakeholders in the sector to undertake regular and collective reviews of progress in strengthening the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK.  

The full detail of each of these principles is given below. 

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The University aims to recruit and select researchers with the highest potential to achieve excellence in research. 

a.  All appointments of research staff will be made in accordance with the University's Equal Opportunities Code of Practice on Recruitment and Selection, as well as in accordance with the management guidelines on recruitment procedures issued by University HR, which promote the principles of fair and open selection and provide for training in fair selection. 

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Researchers are significant participants in and essential contributors to the University's success in research. 

a.  The University abides by the provisions of the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, in ensuring equal treatment of those on fixed-term contracts compared with those on other types of contract; the use of fixed-term contracts only where objectively justified; and in this context the promotion of the use of open-ended terminable contracts where appropriate. Detailed guidance is provided on the use of appropriate contracts. 

Job titles 

b.  Job titles for research staff may be determined by departmental employing authorities, provided (i) that formal university titles, such as associate professor, reader, professor, and research lecturer are not used unless the relevant divisional authority has been obtained; and (ii) that appropriate care is exercised to avoid confusion with college titles of Fellow and Senior Research Fellow. Standard titles for research staff are: 

  • Grade 6: Research Assistant 

  • Grade 7: Researcher or Research Associate 

  • Grade 8: Senior Researcher, {name of department} Research Fellow, or Senior Research Associate 

  • Grade 9 and above: {name of department} Senior Research Fellow 

c.  Researchers may apply to be considered for the award of the university title of Research Lecturer, and under the University's arrangements for recognising distinction they may apply for the titles of Reader and Professor. 


d.  All research staff must receive the same forms of employment documentation as other staff of the University: 

  • Formal letter of appointment issued normally before the start date of employment and signed by the relevant appointing authority (usually the head of department), specifying the person to whom the researcher is responsible for the performance of his or her duties; 

  • Written confirmation of any changes in the terms of employment 

  • A job description and, where available, a list of expected research goals 

  • The University Handbook for Academic-related Staff via the HR Support website  which includes a link to this code of practice

Responsible conduct of research 

e.  All researchers should receive a copy of the University’s Academic Integrity in Research: Code of Practice and Procedure, which expresses the University's expectations that all members of the University including staff and students, and those who are not members of the University but who are conducting research on University premises or using University facilities, will observe the highest standards in the conduct of their research. Researchers should also have their attention drawn to other university policies and guidelines on research integrity, such as research involving human participants, conflict of interest and requirements to work under legal licence where applicable, eg Home Office. 

Defining roles and expectations 

f.  At the beginning of any appointment, the head of department (or their nominee) should clearly identify the immediate supervisor of the researcher and establish the nature of that supervision. Supervisors are responsible for regularly discussing with researchers their research objectives and their work performance; and provision must be made for a clearly-defined probationary period with appropriate probationary review meetings, training needs assessment, and career planning. Departments should ensure that newly appointed research staff are aware of and given time to attend the relevant university induction programme. 

g.  In exercising their responsibilities, supervisors and other departmental managers should take into consideration the advice provided by the Personnel Committee. 


h.  Research staff must be paid on the relevant university scales. Research staff will be entitled to in-scale incremental salary progression on the same basis as other staff. Salary scale revisions approved by Council and the Personnel Committee will be applied to all research staff, subject to any special provisions required by the funding body concerned. Research staff are eligible to be considered for promotion and merit pay in the same way as other staff. 

i.  Where a member of staff is re-employed on a subsequent research contract, the new appointment should reflect both the requirements of the role and the experience and professional contribution of the individual concerned. The salary should therefore normally provide, subject to the approval of the funding body concerned, for continued in-scale incremental progression within the grade which the individual held at the end of the previous appointment. Where a researcher has reached the maximum of a normal scale range at the end of a previous appointment, or is likely to reach that maximum during the lifetime of a new project, the grant applicant should consider whether to apply to the funding body and the university authorities for re-grading or use of discretionary increments. 

Conditions of service 

j.  Research staff will be entitled to the same conditions of service as other academic-related staff in relation to: 

  • hours of work 

  • annual leave 

  • long service leave 

  • membership of the appropriate staff pension scheme 

  • disciplinary and grievance provisions 

  • union representation (the University and College Union being the union recognised by the University for research staff) and time off for union duties. 

Arrangements for personal development review should include research staff. 

k.  Subject to the agreement of the funding body concerned to the provisions of the RCUK Concordat, researchers whose position are funded from external grants will also be entitled to the same provisions as other staff for sick-leave, sick pay, and maternity and paternity leave. 

Facilities and support 

l.  Research staff will have access to the appropriate facilities for the performance of their duties. 

m.  Research staff will also have access to non-academic facilities, such as the University Club and sporting facilities offered by the University, and other benefits available to university staff. 

n.  Where possible and appropriate, researchers will be offered a mentor to serve as a sounding board, information source, critical friend or career guide. 

Intellectual property and academic freedom 

o.  Subject to any special requirements imposed by the particular funding body and which will be notified to staff on appointment, researchers have the same intellectual property rights as other academic-related staff. These rights will be specified in the terms of letters of appointment and should be in accordance with published university policy. 

p.  Supervisors and grant holders will ensure that researchers receive appropriate credit for work they have undertaken. Researchers have a duty to report the results of all work undertaken to their supervisor and grant holder, and should not normally publish or communicate the results of work outside a research group without the written agreement of the supervisor or grant holder. Research staff who feel that their work is inappropriately restrained, or that their right to publish or promulgate the results of their work is not being respected, or that they are being denied due credit for their work, or that they are improperly restricted from exercising appropriate intellectual freedom of thought or expression, should raise the matter in the first instance with the supervisor or grant holder concerned. If the matter remains unresolved, it may then be raised within the University's grievance procedures, which allow for both informal and formal resolutions and access to trade union support. 

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Researchers must be equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse, mobile, global research environment. 

Personal development and career planning 

a.  Researchers should recognise that the skills and achievements required to move on from a research position may not be the same as the skills and achievements which they displayed to reach that position. Researchers should seek out appropriate opportunities to acquire new skills, through training, developmental activity such as attendance at conferences, or experience; and their supervisors should support them in this. An early discussion to identify the researcher's aspirations and likely career trajectory should take place, usually within the first three months of employment. Researchers may aspire to academic posts at Oxford or at other universities; research careers outside academia; or careers drawing on their research skills but without a specific research focus. They and their supervisors should keep their aspirations under review in the light of progress, and the activities agreed should reflect the trajectory while also enabling the researcher to acquire flexibility and adaptability. In planning and managing their careers, researchers are encouraged to make use of the guidance from the Personnel Committee and the resources available from the divisional skills co-ordinators and the Learning Institute on training and development and the Careers Service on career planning and management. 

When funding ends 

b.  All researchers should be kept informed about the state of funding for their post and project, and about the likelihood of future funding or employment at the end of the present appointment. Researchers should initiate discussions of future career options with their supervisors, and such discussions should take place well before the end of each individual's fixed-term contract (around nine months before the end may be appropriate in many circumstances). Efforts should be made to consider realistic career options outside universities as well as within, so that any decision to pursue a further research appointment may be taken consciously, rather than by default. Where a subsequent research appointment at Oxford is to be pursued, limited Bridging and Career Support Funds may be available to provide for continuity of employment across gaps in funding. 

c.  Researchers wishing to pursue a continuing career in research at the University of Oxford following the expiry of their present appointment will be supported by their supervisor and/or grant holder in the endeavour to find suitable alternative employment. A nominated supervisor will be responsible, under the University's procedures for staff reaching the end of a fixed-term appointment, for drawing the researcher's attention to the University's jobs webpage, and for meeting regularly with the researcher (if the researcher wishes) to discuss potentially suitable alternative employment opportunities. 

d.  Research staff should also be encouraged to make use of the dedicated careers advice for research staff provided by the Careers Service. The Service can advise researchers on effective CVs, application and interview techniques, as well as on career management and transition skills for those wishing to pursue alternative employment outside of the University. 

e.  In the event that no suitable alternative employment is found, the researcher may be entitled to statutory redundancy pay 

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Researchers' personal and career development are recognised and promoted at all stages of their career, and the responsibility for this is shared between the individual and the University. Researchers should pro-actively engage in their own career development. 

a.  Researchers have responsibility for managing and pursuing their own career. They and their supervisors are encouraged actively to seek out developmental opportunities - such as becoming involved in aspects of research management (eg budget and project management), teaching, publication and conference attendance, membership of committees and other community service, the preparation of research proposals, suggesting new research possibilities and sources of funding, and attending relevant courses. 

b.  Normally only permanent university staff may act as grant holders, but provision exists for researchers graded at 8 or above to be joint holders with permanent staff; and in certain circumstances (for example in the case of senior researchers in small departments, or researchers who hold prestigious external career awards) researchers may be authorised by their head of department (and duly endorsed by Research Services) to act as sole grant holders. 

c.  Researchers whose likely career trajectory is towards an academic post should be encouraged and supported to undertake teaching and research student supervision duties, if those duties: 

  • are consistent with the conditions of the funding body 

  • provide student teaching of the required standard in accordance with the division's quality assurance requirements, and 

  • have been approved by the person to whom the researcher is formally responsible for the performance of his or her research duties or, where appropriate, by the head of department/faculty board chairman. 

Where relevant, researchers will be briefed and advised by the person responsible for commissioning the teaching; and they will have access to appropriate facilities, including courses provided by the People and organisational development and their divisions, to support their development needs associated with teaching. 

d.  Research staff are encouraged to play a full part in the life of their department, research group, or relevant academic network. The Regulation governing the composition of departmental committees provides for senior researchers to be members of such committees. Individual members of research staff may also be elected to membership of the relevant faculty and as such would then be eligible to apply to become a member of Congregation.  Research staff holding posts in a university department or institution at grade 8 or above are also eligible to apply to become members of Congregation. Attachments to colleges are, however, limited; but in addition to teaching opportunities (including college lecturerships that may carry common room rights) and junior and senior research fellowships, some colleges provide attachment schemes for small numbers of post-doctoral research staff. Such schemes enable research staff to make appropriate and valued contributions to the college's academic and social life. 

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Equality and diversity are promoted in all aspects of the recruitment and career management of researchers. 

a.  Research staff, like all other staff of the University, are protected by and have responsibilities under the University's Equality Policy, and supervisors should ensure that they understand the implications of the policy for their management practice. The policy applies (but is not limited) to advertising of jobs and recruitment and selection, to training and development, to opportunities for promotion, to conditions of service, benefits, facilities and pay, to health and safety, to conduct at work, to grievance and disciplinary procedures and to termination of employment. 

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The University will work with other key stakeholders in the sector to undertake regular and collective reviews of progress in strengthening the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK. 

a. This code of practice will be implemented according to a plan to be approved by the Personnel Committee. 

b. The University will keep this Code of Practice under review and will regularly monitor its operation, via staff surveys, via the Joint Committee with the Oxford University and College Union, and via its normal HR reporting mechanisms. It will also take part in periodic reviews of research careers through participation in national forums 

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Those responsible for implementing and supporting this code of practice include researchers themselves and their supervisors; heads of department and departmental administrators; those providing support services for research staff such as the divisional skills co-ordinators, the Careers Service and the People and organisational development; and the University's Personnel Committee. Training will be provided to support implementation in accordance with the implementation plan approved by the Personnel Committee. 

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