Academic promotions

Promotion information and procedures for Academic staff

If you have any questions about the promotion procedures you may contact the Executive Assistant to the Head of Physics.

Academic Staff Promotions are for the conferment of titles of, or promotion to, the positions listed below:

  • Senior Lecturer - non-clinical
  • Reader - non-clinical
  • Reader - clinical
  • Associate Professor
  • Professor - non-clinical
  • Professor - Clinical
  • Senior Research Fellows
  • Principal Research Fellows

The departmental champion for 'Experiencing the promotion process' is Martin McCall and he welcomes your questions.

 *Please note - Information on Promotions and job level review for Learning & Teaching Job Family (inc Teaching Fellows and Learning Technologists) can be found at the bottom of this page. *

Important dates

There are important Departmental deadlines before the College HR deadlines.

  • HoGs to submit Citations for promotions to the HoDs Office: Monday 25th October 2021 by 12:00 noon
  • Meeting of Professors: Monday 1st November 2021 at 09:30-10:30 (Teams & LT3)

Candidates to submit draft paperwork to be considered by the Departmental Review Panels to the HoDs Office:

  • Meeting of Wisepeople Review Panel: Monday 22nd November, Submit draft paperwork:  Monday 15th November by 9am
  • Meeting of Readers/Senior Lecturers Review Panel: Monday 22nd November, Submit draft paperwork: Monday 15th November by 9am
  • Candidates to submit first set of final paperwork (Application and Referees forms) to the HoDs Office: Monday 29th November 2021 by 12 noon
  • Candidates to submit second set of final paperwork (SOLE and Publications) to the HoDs Office:  Monday 24th January 2022 by 12:00 noon

Informal Briefing Session

The Academic Promotions Committee are holding two, informal briefing sessions to inform potential applicants about the promotions process.  Dates of these sessions are to be confirmed. 

The sessions will focus upon:

  • The range and level of activities required to help ensure success
  • The process itself
  • The documentation

There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

The sessions will be held  on the following dates and times: TBC.

If you would like to come along, contact one of the contacts for Academic Promotions.

Overview of General Promotion Procedures in the Department of Physics

 This is intended as an informal guide to the early stages of the promotion procedure that take place in Physics. 

  1. All staff are invited annually (usually in May/June) to submit a 2-page summary of their achievements to the HoD, which may be accompanied by a request that they be considered for promotion. It is the individual’s choice whether to consult with the HoG and copy the HoG into this correspondence.
  2. Prior to the annual ‘promotion procedure email’ from the HoD’s Office (usually Oct/Nov) – the HoG will check with all staff whether they wish to be considered for promotion, if that discussion has not already taken place during the course of the year. The HoG will usually consult other senior staff in the group, the Department, or even academic staff outside the College (for example people who are potential referees should the case proceed), about the timeliness of proposing that a member of staff in the group be considered for promotion. An important consideration in relation to timing is that should a promotion case prove unsuccessful, the normal College practice is that the individual concerned would not be reconsidered the following year.
  3. In this way, through either being contacted directly by the staff member, or through a recommendation from the HoG, the HoD will know that the academic staff member has requested that they be considered for promotion.
  4. The Personal Review and Development Planning (PRDP) process is not used either to construct a case for promotion or to refuse a request for promotion. Its purpose is to assist staff in their personal and professional development and to identify and address any issues that may have arisen, proposing suitable development opportunities, for example via courses offered by the Staff Development Unit. The PRDP can inform the promotion procedure, in so far as it provides an opportunity to review achievements in the past year and some staff find it useful to discuss their prospects for promotion. It is usual for the HoG and other senior academics to conduct an annual PRDP with each academic staff member in the group. HoGs have PRDP meetings with the HoD and the HoD with the Faculty Principal. Alternative arrangements can be made for any member of staff who feels that they would benefit from a meeting with someone from outside their group in order to obtain a different perspective.
  5. If the promotion being considered is to a chair then the HoG will write a 1-page case-for-promotion document to present at the Professors meeting for approval. If the promotion being considered is for other positions the HoG will make the case for promotion at the annual HoGs meeting where such cases are considered. Input from the Director of Undergraduate studies regarding contribution to teaching is usually given at this time.
  6. The HoG will report back to each member of staff whether the Department is, in principle, supportive of their case for promotion and will provide feedback on any suggestions as to how the proposal might be strengthened.
  7. In cases where the Department is supportive it is usual practice to then solicit informal (but nevertheless confidential) references from external sources, having asked the member of staff for suggestions on who would be suitable, in order to ensure that there is likely to be sufficient support to be able to make a strong case to the College promotions panel. This step is taken to give the promotion candidate the best chance of success should the case go forward and also to ensure that the Department does not mistakenly put cases forward that have little chance of success: The Department’s past success rate in putting staff forward for promotion when their case is strong is also a good indicator to the promotions panel of the validity of the case being made.
  8. The HoG will continue to work with the academic to review progress and provide further advice as needed on the completion of the draft paperwork for the application.
  9. The applicant’s completed draft paperwork and selected publications together with the informal references will then be reviewed by the appropriate departmental committee. A final decision is then made to support the case or not.
  10. For supported cases, constructive criticism is fed back to the candidate via the HoG on any areas that could be improved to ensure that the best case is presented and the candidate then finalises their paperwork for submission to College.
  11. For unsupported cases, constructive criticism is fed back to the candidate via the HoG on why the case was not considered suitable for support at the present time.
  12. If the Department does not support a request for promotion the member of staff concerned may submit their case for promotion directly to the College as an “unsupported personal application”.  Visit the College web pages for more information.
  13. The HoG will offer interview practice and support and guidance for the College interview. The HoG will try to anticipate any areas of concern that the College committee might have as a result of formal referee reports.

In addition to this process, the HoD’s Office also requests annually from each HoG recommendations for discretionary pay awards and bonuses for staff in the group. Recommendations for discretionary pay awards and bonuses do not usually involve a consultation with the academic in question but the HoG may consult other senior staff in the group.


General Advice about Promotions Interviews

Chris Phillips, a member of the department, shares his experiences from both sides of the interview table:

For all grades it pays to focussing on the “delta” i.e. what has changed since you were last appointed or considered for promotion. It goes without saying that this should be a positive quantity.

For almost all grades they’ll need to cover the two principal elements of teaching and research, but just how they do that varies a lot. We are often asked why the promotions guidelines aren’t more prescriptive and less vague; the answer is that there are so many ways of pursuing an academic career that drafting a “one-size-fits-all” set of promotions rules is counter-productive, or even impossible.

That said, although the guidelines aren’t rigid, they’re taken pretty seriously. If you haven’t “ticked one of the boxes” (e.g. landed a grant, graduated a PhD student etc.) for the grade you’re going for, you can expect to be asked why. Definitely prepare an answer as to why your case should be considered as a special.

It pays to take advice on this (e.g. from your HoD). Many of the failures happen because candidates think they are unusually strong in one area, strong enough in fact not to have to meet all the other criteria. They may go forward before they’re ready and the result can be quite a bruising experience for all concerned. At the risk of sounding negative, it may be better just to wait until that PhD student has submitted, you’ve got your first set of SOLE scores, or that fancy paper has been accepted, especially given that you have to wait 2 years before coming back from a failed attempt.

Nearly all interviews kick off with gentle questions about your research, probably led by the panel member with the most expertise in your area. However, this might not be much expertise! Don’t get too technical. Remember, you also need to impress the non-experts there as well. The way to do this is to show that you can deliver complicated ideas in the sort of clear way that might make you a good teacher.

Don’t think you have to cover the whole show either; the panel have read your papers and already know what you do. The interview is your chance to show them how good it is. A few judiciously selected highlights (prestigious papers, seminal contributions, new grants) will probably sway the panel more effectively than an exhaustively detailed account of your activities. Less is more here.

If someone on the panel interrupts you with a question, stop, think and address it. Whatever happens, the worst thing is to just plough on with a set-piece you prepared in advance.  They’ve interrupted you precisely because that’s not what they want you to do!

On the teaching side, the panel want to see someone who is keen on teaching. As well as successful outcomes (nowadays evidenced by good SOLE scores of course) keenness comes through by people trying innovations in teaching, by accepting duties gladly and, in the interview, by talking like someone who has thought about the process off their own bat.

There’s a huge variety of equally valid teaching styles across the college, and you shouldn’t be shy about describing you own views. It’s only when you  do that your passions can shine through.

Don’t be suspicious either about hidden agendas behind teaching questions; panel members are often senior staff who relish interviews simply as a way of learning what’s new and what’s going down well in their own departments!

An area that’s changing rapidly right now it that of outreach/PR/schools liaison etc.  This used to be worth a few Brownie points (especially if it was your research that was in the spotlight) but now, with the fees changes, and the associated imperative for the elite institutions to demonstrate “widening participation” activities, these issues are moving centre stage. Note the distinction though; WP activities specifically mean targeting sections of society (particularly schools and teachers) that we might not have engaged with well in the past. WP means doing something that could be argued will change the profile of students applying and succeeding here.

In the paperwork there’s a section headed something like “Details of circumstances that I believe have affected my career progression”. The panel want to hear about such circumstances, and you should not feel shy about filling in the box. If you do they well may explore the issues at interview, to get an idea of how they might have impacted on your career, but such considerations will always be to your advantage. Please do not miss this chance to improve the fairness of the promotions process.

Job Level and Performance Reviews

All reviews in Physics are started by an annual notice from the Head of Department's Office. If you have any questions about the reviews procedures you may contact the Executive Assistant to the Head of Physics.

Level of staff memberDate for paperwork to be submitted to HoD's Office
Academic - Level C, D, E October to December
Research & Education - Level A, B and all levels non-admin staff September to October
Learning & Teaching September to October
Professional Services (Admin) - All levels September to October
Technical and Operational Services September to October

Exact deadlines are communicated to the Physics Department via email.  Further information can be obtained on the procedures, forms and decision dates for Job Level Review.