Concordat on the Career Management of Contract Research Staff

Executive Summary: Implementation Plan, May 1999

The Concordat on the Career Management of Contract Research Staff has been examined. The aim of this report is to recommend an implementation plan for Cambridge University Engineering Department (CUED) to ensure that the department is addressing the issues in the Concordat.

The Concordat was formally recognised by Cambridge University in September 1996 and recommends five key areas for attention during employment of contract research staff: recruitment; performance management; rewards/terms and conditions; in-service training; career guidance. Guidelines for departments of the University of Cambridge were issued by The Old Schools in March 1997.

A qualitative analysis of the current position at CUED has been made, based on The Old Schools guidelines. Recommendations for change have been listed in Tables 1-3, in three categories: systems, documentation and communication. These recommendations are planned for the period June 1999 to December 2000 and the following staff time will be needed during that time:

  • Director of Research: 13 days
  • Other academic support: 37 days
  • Administrative staff: 28 days
  • Contract Staff Working Parties (total time): 104 days

It has also been recommended that these changes are implemented alongside an overall strategy for co-ordinating Human Resources at Cambridge University Engineering Department, i.e. students, assistant staff, established staff, as well as contract staff.

Executive Summary: Progress Report, Dec 1999

An implementation plan for the Concordat on the Career Management of Contract Research Staff (CRS) was written for Cambridge University Engineering Department (CUED) in May 1999. Members of the departmental council agreed it in June 1999. It is attached in Appendix 1. It tabulates recommendations against the five key areas of the Concordat: Performance Management; Recruitment and Induction; Rewards, Terms and Conditions; Training; Career Guidance.

The recommendations were listed in sections: Communication; Systems; Documentation. The aim of this progress report is to summarise those activities, which have taken place since June 1999 in accordance with these recommendations.

Communication. All contract research staff (136) were invited to three workshops in September and October. The aims of the Concordat were introduced, the departmental implementation plan presented, and feedback was collected from the staff in attendance (36, representing 29%). A summary of this qualitative feedback can be found in Appendix 2. Volunteers (10) were recruited to form a working party to act as a communication channel between the departmental administration and the CRS in different divisions. Regular contact has been maintained with CRS by using e-mail groups, internal newsletters, CRS working party and questionnaire (see next section). Communication with the Old Schools has also been maintained. (A summary of the University’s response to Research Careers Initiative 1998 report can be found in Appendix 3). It is recommended that this level of communication should be increased, particularly using CRS Working party.

A performance measurement system was implemented using a baseline questionnaire written to collect information on the five Concordat areas (Appendix 4) and sent to all staff. Replies in excess of 50% were received. An early quantitative analysis of the results can be found in Appendix 5. The appraisal and mentoring systems, and working arrangements, scored the lowest marks. It is recommended that a more comprehensive analysis is conducted and the questionnaire design is improved for issue in the September workshops, 2000.

The current appraisal system was revised and approved for internal use at CUED (Appendix 6). It is recommended that this should be launched early in 2000.

A new mentoring system is under development. In excess of 30 volunteer mentors have been identified. These are listed in Appendix 7. It was agreed that implementation of any new CUED mentoring system should align with the aims of the WISET Mentoring Families initiative at the Old Schools (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology). It is recommended that this should be implemented in the first quarter of 2000.

To improve the induction of new CRS, a Welcome Event was organised (the first of its kind). It was agreed that these should take place every quarter.

Documentation. Documentation associated with the systems above was designed and produced as required. In addition, CRS records were updated to record male/female and contract issue data. It is recommended that other fields should be added: for example, appraisal data, contract renewal data, mentor data, leaving data.

Remaining recommendations in the implementation plan should be progressed in 2000. This should be alongside an overall strategy for co-ordinating Human Resources at CUED, i.e. students, assistant staff, established staff, as well as contract research staff. CRS Statistics can be found in Appendix 8.