New Career Development Regulations for Academic Staff

From final post to career development

The new Career Development Regulations for Academic Staff were adopted at Maastricht University (UM) on 21 January 2020. What does this mean? For starters, academics will no longer be appointed to a final post; rather, they will follow a career path in which they have room to develop and grow. Temporary contracts will become less common, and when they are used, they will be for shorter periods of time; and every faculty will draw up transparent criteria for academic advancement and install committees to oversee promotions.

Why the new rules?

In the previous Career Development Regulations for Academic Staff, employees were appointed in a final post and assigned to a preliminary salary scale. A new Assistant Professor 2, for example, was placed in a preliminary salary scale for a certain period and could, over time, progress to the final salary scale of that position. To advance to a higher position, either you could apply for an advertised vacancy or you were invited. This process lacked transparency. Moreover, it was no longer compatible with UM’s HR vision as set out in the strategic programme CORE. In this new HR vision, we aim to promote sustainable employability by maximising the development opportunities for all employees. The main change is the shift from final posts to career paths. Promotions will also become fairer and more transparent thanks to the use of publicly accessible criteria and committees. In addition to this new UM policy, the national project Recognising and Rewarding Academics (more on this below) will further broaden the career paths for academics.

What's new?

The new regulations move away from a policy of fixed appointments to a policy based on Tenure Tracks and Career Tracks. UM no longer sees academic appointments as final posts, but as positions from which to develop and grow. In this new approach, all academics can develop at every job level until they reach their personal development ceiling. They may arise as a result of their abilities (i.e. they reach their full potential) or of their level of ambition (they may prefer to continue operating at that level). Preliminary salary scales will no longer be the norm but rather the exception, if the academic in question does not yet perform all parts of the job. Open selection for vacancies will no longer be mandatory, although it remains the preferred method. In addition, each faculty will draw up a Strategic Personnel Plan based on central UM guidelines. This plan will provide insight into whether and when appointments can be made. So if you have the ability and ambition for advancement, but there is no room for this in the Strategic Personnel Plan, this may mean you cannot (yet) be promoted.

"We want to retain good academics who are committed to UM. This means guiding them throughout their careers, giving them opportunities for advancement, assessing them based on their performance in the areas of Research, Education, Social Impact and Leadership – in which everyone has their own particular strength – and working on the basis of Team Science and Open Science. As a university, we have a duty of care towards our employees in all these areas. And I feel personally responsible for that!”

 

“I will monitor compliance with the new policy by evaluating the changes every year, both qualitatively and quantitatively."

Prof. Rianne Letschert, Rector Magnificus

Fewer and shorter temporary contracts

Previously, many academics held successive short-term contracts, or one temporary appointment for a very long time. As a result, PhD candidates, postdocs and lecturers often remained on temporary contracts for many years, with little job security and no hope of getting a mortgage. That is now changing. Junior lecturers will be appointed for at least two and up to four years. After a maximum of two years, one of three possible decisions will be made: the employee will be offered a permanent contract as a lecturer, the contract will be converted to a Tenure Track position (assuming the candidate holds a PhD), or the employment will come to an end when the contract expires. This will give all parties clarity at an earlier stage as to whether a junior lecturer has a chance of continuing their career at UM. Lecturers will be appointed for two years, during which a decision will be made on the three options outlined above. The same applies, in essence, to postdocs and researchers. This measure will greatly reduce the number of long-term temporary contracts, which is good for job security and sustainable employability. For all these positions, the employee will be required to obtain a University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) certificate and complete the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme every year in order to qualify for promotion. Academics whose employment at UM will not be continued will receive support from the Staff Career Centre in taking their next career step.

Tenure Tracks and Career Tracks

Each faculty will draw up transparent criteria for every job level in the Tenure and Career Tracks. These criteria will be published and freely accessible. The existing UFO profiles will serve as guidelines, but can be supplemented with faculty-specific criteria. Tenure Track and Career Track committees will also be installed, tasked with monitoring whether academics meet the criteria at each job level and can be appointed or promoted. These committees will have multiple members whose names are made public. In other words, appointments will no longer be dependent on one person, but assessed by the committee on the basis of transparent criteria. The published criteria and the committees will provide clarity as to the grounds on which an individual is being promoted.

Recognition and Rewards

The nationwide project Recognising and Rewarding Academics by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) will soon play a role in the criteria for appointments. The key premise is that academics should no longer be evaluated and rewarded purely on the basis of their (quantitative) research achievements. As a university, we have three objectives – research, education and social impact – which we can only achieve if we also have good leadership. Leadership is therefore the fourth pillar of Recognising and Rewarding Academics. As an academic, you will no longer be expected to be a jack of all trades; instead you can excel in one of these four domains. Moreover, the composition of tasks may change over the course of your academic career. As this project is elaborated further, it will undoubtedly also influence the faculty-specific appointment criteria. UM decided not to wait for the results of the nationwide project in drawing up its new Career Development Regulations for Academic Staff, so academics can already profit from this new approach.

"We considered whether we should wait for Recognising and Rewarding Academics or forge ahead. We decided that we can already implement the basic principles of career tracks as opposed to final posts, transparent criteria and supervisory committees. The criteria may change in the coming years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they initially still largely revolve around research. It will take time to extend the criteria to all four domains. After all, the Recognising and Rewarding Academics project is the biggest cultural change the university world has seen for two decades." 
 

"These regulations will greatly improve academics’ career prospects."

Antoon Vugts, director of Human Resources Management