Probation policy & procedure for academic staff
Probation policy for academic (teaching & research, teaching & learning) staff
This policy covers new and experienced academic staff
Access the probation form:: Academic Probation Form with AER
1.1 The probationary period allows time for mutual assessment by the School and the academic.
1.2 The probationary period provides an opportunity for academics to develop and/or demonstrate their capabilities prior to confirmation of the appointment by the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel (‘the Panel’).
2.1 Newly appointed full or part-time lecturers shall normally serve a probationary period of three years, after which time they may be confirmed in post.
2.2 If the appointee has previous relevant academic experience, their period of probation may be reduced; the minimum probationary period is one year.
2.3 Experienced staff appointed to full or part-time lecturer posts shall normally serve a probationary period of two years, after which time they may be confirmed in their appointment.
2.4 Experienced staff appointed to full or part-time Senior Lectureships, Readerships or Professorships shall normally serve a probationary period of one year, after which time they may be confirmed in their appointment.
2.5 The initial period of probation will be decided on appointment.
2.6 For all probationers, confirmation in post will be subject to the Panel agreeing that the probationer has met the objectives set in their probationary programme, which will align with the requirements of the Academic Performance Framework.
3.1 The probationer’s progress will be assessed at regular intervals during the period of probation. The Academic Staff Probation Review Panel will assess progress during the final year of probation.
3.2 During the probationary period, the relevant Pro-Director, Head of Department and assigned Mentor are responsible for assessing the progress of the probationer and for ensuring that the probationer is provided with the necessary support to enable them to progress.
3.3 In the final year of probation, if the Panel is not satisfied with the probationer's progress, probation may be extended for a maximum of 12 months.
3.4 If the Panel decides that the probationer has not met the requirements after the extension period, the appointment will be terminated with appropriate notice, in accordance with the School’s Standing Order for Academic Staff: Dismissal, Discipline and Grievance Procedures and Related Matters (Part V: Other Dismissals, paragraph 16: Probationary appointments).
3.5 In certain circumstances (e.g. Gross Misconduct) the School’s Disciplinary Procedures for Academic (Teaching & Research) Staff may take precedence over these probationary procedures.
3.6 For employees with a fixed term contract or funding end date shorter than the length of the relevant probationary period, the normal probation process will be followed for the duration of employment. If employment is subsequently extended, the probation period will be extended up to the standard period.
4. Diversity and Inclusion
4.1 SOAS is committed to ensuring that protected characteristics are taken into consideration in the development and implementation of any policy, process or procedure, including decision making.
4.2 This policy has been developed in accordance with the terms of the SOAS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and the Equality Impact Assessment procedure. This will help ensure that the School meets its Public Sector Equality to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct that is prohibited by the Equality Act (2010)
- Advance equality of opportunity
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t
4.3 If you have any queries regarding this policy, or its application, please contact your Employee Relations Consultant or the Equality & Diversity Adviser.
Probation procedure for academic (teaching & research, teaching & learning) staff
1. The probationary review process
The Pro-Director, and/or Head of Department will be responsible for assessing progress and conducting formal review meetings with the Probationer. Progress Review Reports will be completed and discussed with the Probationer.
1.1 Appointment of a mentor
1.1.1 The Head of Department will appoint an appropriate academic colleague to mentor a new probationer. (Please refer to Section 9 for more information on the role of Mentor).
1.1.2 Where a probationer believes that a different mentor would be more appropriate, he/she should draw this to the attention of the relevant Pro-Director.
1.1.3 The Mentor is involved in the probationary review process and attends the review meetings together with the probationer and Head of Department.
1.2 Setting objectives
1.2.1 The purpose of the probationary review process is to assess progress achieved against an agreed probationary programme.
1.2.2 On appointment, the relevant Pro-Director/Head of Department and Mentor should agree specific objectives for the probationer, to be achieved by the first review meeting.
1.2.3 For those on a 2 year probationary period, these objectives would then be reviewed and revised as appropriate, with further targets set to be achieved by the time of the next review meeting.
1.2.4 Objectives must be set in line with the requirements of the Academic Performance Framework, under the following headings:
- Teaching and learning (ALL)
- Research and Enterprise (T&R)
- Academic Leadership and Management (T&L)
- Academic Citizenship (ALL)
1.2.5 Objectives should be reviewed and revised as appropriate at each review meeting, with further targets to be achieved by the time of the next review.
1.2.6 For those on a 3 year (T&R) probationary period, probationers should be given a reduced teaching and administration workload. Workload should be equivalent to a half load in year 1 and a two-thirds load in year 2. A full workload should be allocated in year 3.
1.2.7 At each review point, probationers should be requested to submit a brief summary of their progress against these objectives. This will provide the basis for discussion at the formal meeting with the Head of Department. Any necessary remedial action recommended by the Head of Department will be initiated following discussion with the Pro-Director.
1.3 Review period
1.3.1 The relevant Pro-Director or Head of Department and Mentor will be responsible for assessing the progress of the probationer. Part of this assessment must involve formal review meetings with the probationer and the completion of Progress Review Reports, which must be discussed with the probationer (see Probation Form).
1.3.2 1- 3 formal reviews will be conducted between 7 to 30 months in post, depending on the level of experience.
1.3.3 The Head of Department will complete the Progress Review Report, with input from the relevant Pro-Director and Mentor. A copy will be provided to the relevant HR Operations Officer and to the probationer.
1.4 Progress review meeting
1.4.1 The Pro-Director or Head of Department will be requested by the Human Resources Directorate to conduct a review of progress for new academic staff after 7 months (end of the second term) in post for those on 1 year probation period (see Probation Form).
1.4.2 Progress will be reviewed formally after 9 months and again after 18, 21 and 30 months for academics on 2 – 3 year probation periods by a panel comprising relevant Pro-Director, the Head of Department and the Mentor, where necessary.
1.4.3 Where a 2 year probation period applies a review of progress for new academic staff will be after 9 and 18 months in post (see Probation Form). The Progress Review Report will be copied to the Pro-Director, and relevant Human Resources Business Partner and to the probationer.
1.4.4 At each review, the probationer should be requested to submit a summary of their progress against the agreed objectives. This will provide the basis for discussion at the formal meeting.
1.5 Progress review report
1.5.1 The Progress Review Report must state whether:
a) Performance has been at the reasonable minimum expectation as set out in the Academic Performance Framework (in the three areas of teaching and learning, research and enterprise, academic leadership and management, and academic citizenship);
b) Performance is unsatisfactory in one or more of these areas, in which case the report must give details of the areas causing concern and the remedial action necessary.
1.5.2 Where progress is not at the expected standard, the probationary review should support the probationer to identify appropriate goals for improvement and set out a timeline to achieve the minimum requirements for probation within the probationary period.
2. The Academic Staff Probation Review Panel
2.1 Criteria for confirmation of appointment
2.1.1 In reaching a decision under this policy, the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel (‘the Panel’) will be guided by the following statement of criteria for employment at the School:
A post-probation contract of employment at the School is based on the expectation that all academic members of staff will contribute actively to the School's mission as an institution of excellence in research and teaching in Asian and African studies and related fields.
2.1.2 This contribution will be assessed against the reasonable ‘minimum’ expectations set out in the Academic Performance Framework. Staff can only be considered to have successfully completed their probationary period if they can show that they have achieved the minimum standards.
2.1.3 The probationer will be expected to complete the Unconscious Bias training during their probation period.
2.2 Teaching and learning criteria
2.2.1 The capacity to teach, develop and review teaching at all levels. This will be evidenced by the results of course assessments, student progression, and other indicators of teaching quality, including annual classroom observation by the Head of Department. This may include the review of course modules and programmes.
2.2.2 All staff are expected to have successfully achieved a Higher Education Academy (HEA) recognised qualification by the end of the probationary period (Fellowship level). Those who already hold an HEA recognised qualification would be expected to work towards the next level of qualification.
2.2.3 Part time staff (0.6FTE or lower) would be expected to achieve at least an associate fellowship by the end of probation
2.2.4 The normal route for achieving the HEA qualification would be through the Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education Practice (PDHEP) with resulting HEA Fellowship (early career staff would not normally have sufficient teaching experience to follow the portfolio route). Probationers interested in completing the portfolio route in lieu of the PDHEP should discuss this with the Director of the Centre of Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT).
2.2.5 Those on fixed term contracts will be expected to complete the core units of the PDHEP and further participation in the programme as is appropriate to the length of their contract. It is expected that if the contract is extended to full three years, that probationers on fixed-term contracts would have completed the course and achieved the HEA Fellowship by the end of the three years.
2.2.6 Any proposed exemption from achieving a teaching qualification must be agreed with the Director of the Centre of Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT), with input from the Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching) where appropriate.
2.2.7 For those on a 3 year probationary period, probationers should be given a reduced teaching, leadership and administration workload in years 1 and 2, equivalent to a half load in year 1 and a two thirds load in year 2. A full workload will be allocated in year 3. For those on the Teaching and Learning (AER) route, the reduction may not be as significant. Teaching workload will be agreed with the Head of Department.
2.2.8 For those on a 1 or 2 year probation period, it is important that a probationer should be allocated a no greater than average teaching and administrative load so that s/he can meet the requirements of the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel in respect of teaching and research. This is particularly important where the probationer is undertaking a HEA qualification (or similar).
2.2.9 It is essential that any remedial action required for teaching is undertaken by the end of the second year in order to enable a full report to go forward to the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel.
2.3 Research and enterprise criteria
2.3.1 The capacity to have a productive research career as demonstrated by the publication of articles and books of a standard appropriate for submission in research assessment exercises.
2.3.2 The conclusion of a PhD is normally an expectation before appointment. Where this is not the case, it will be made clear at the outset whether completion of a PhD is a pre-requisite for the successful completion of probation. In cases where the PhD thesis is about to be submitted, the Panel may recommend confirmation of appointment subject to the successful completion by the beginning of the following academic session.
2.3.3 Probationers who have completed their PhD or have an equivalent record of published research on appointment will be expected to provide evidence of continuing research achievement during the period of their probation. The Panel will expect that by the time the panel meets, such probationers will have obtained commitment to, or evidence of, material sufficient to satisfy research assessment exercise requirements.
2.3.4 Probationers failing to meet the requirement regarding successful completion of their PhD and for whom a further six months of probation is recommended, will be expected, to have met the conditions of publication (2.3.3), in addition to successfully completing their PhD, by the end of the extension period.
2.3.5 Probationers failing to meet the requirement will be expected, by the end of any extension, also to have met these conditions regarding publication, if they have not already done so.
2.3.6 Staff should reach an acceptable standard in teaching and administration, but it is their contribution to research that will be given the greatest weight. Staff can only be considered for a permanent contract if they can show that they have reached the necessary standard of research as established through publication in peer-reviewed outlets, or acceptable alternatives in disciplines where this is not appropriate.
2.4 Academic Leadership and Management criteria
Academic Leadership and management should focus on pedagogic and disciplinary contributions across SOAS and externally. Academic leadership is about leading the development of the discipline or subject outside of own teaching commitments, both in terms of SOAS and externally. This is different from citizenship, which is about contribution to the working of SOAS as a well-functioning institution.
- The capacity to provide leadership within the department or university in areas needed or where called upon.
- The probationer performs such leadership duties that have been given to him/her in a competent and timely manner. For example, coordinating successful internal academic processes or cross-institutional strategic priority areas (e.g. admissions, quality assurance, and examinations), etc.
- The probationer has made a significant contribution to departmental or university projects or working groups, including through collaboration with/furthering of the work on Culture @SOAS.
- The probationer will demonstrate leadership of departmental engagement with the implications of research-based education leading to changes in practice.
- The probationer has contributed to SOAS’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion groups and committees either directly by membership of the groups or through participation in group discussions.
- The probationer has contributed to the development of the discipline or subject area outside of their own teaching commitments, both in terms of SOAS and externally.
- Those on the roles senior lecturer and above will demonstrate evidence of personal impact in leading, motivating and developing colleagues to achieve department or SOAS goals.
- Involvement in departmental recruitment and widening participation activities.
2.5 Academic Citizenship
2.5.1 The probationer has performed such administrative tasks as have been given to him/her in a competent and timely manner. Examples include programme/module convening, chair of a board, research or learning coordinator, serving on a departmental or school wide committee, etc.
2.5.2 The probationer has undertaken outreach by making some contribution to society and the economy through the application of knowledge to the benefit of the broader community (i.e. NGOs, business, government and the general public).
2.5.3 This section should also cover any activities which contribute to promoting positive collegial behaviour across a department as well as contributing to the effective running of the administration and governance of SOAS.
2.6 The Academic Staff Probation Review Panel meeting
2.6.1 The Academic Staff Probation Review panel will consider the progress review reports for all probationers in their final year of probation (or earlier if recommended by the Mentor and Head of Department and relevant Pro-Director).
2.6.2 The Panel meets annually, towards the end of the academic session .
2.6.3 The Panel is chaired by the Pro-Director (Research and Enterprise), and includes the three Pro-Directors, plus two additional panel members nominated by the Pro-Director in consultation with the HR Directorate at the beginning of each session. Panel members will be drawn from the academic staff cohort and will normally be at the level of Senior Lecturer or above.
2.6.4 The Panel will consider whether the probationer’s performance in three key areas from learning and teaching, research and enterprise, academic leadership and management, and academic citizenship have been satisfactory, and fully meets the minimum expectation set out in the Academic Performance Framework for the relevant grade/post.
2.6.5 Where the panel recommends an extension to the probationary period, the relevant Pro-Director, Head of Department and Mentor are responsible for setting appropriate and reasonable objectives, and timescales for achievement, within the period of the extension.
2.6.6 If, following a discussion with their relevant Pro-Director, Head of Department and Mentor, the probationer contests the decision of the Review Panel, they can request a meeting with the Chair of the Review Panel to highlight their concerns. They may be accompanied to this meeting by a colleague or trade union representative. A Human Resources representative should also be present. There is, however, no right of appeal against the Review Panel’s decision at this stage.
3. Confirmation of the appointment
3.1 Confirmation of the permanent/fixed term appointment shall be deemed to have effect from the end date of the probationary period. This does not affect the probationer's date of continuous employment.
3.2 The HR Operations Team will write to the probationer confirming their appointment, copying in relevant Pro-Director or Head of Department.
3.3 A probationer on a 1 year or 2-year probationary period is entered from the date of appointment into the School’s Research or Development Leave Scheme that entails an opportunity to apply for one term’s paid research or development leave after twelve terms.
3.4 A probationer on a 3-year probationary period is eligible for two terms of research or development leave on successful completion of the probation period if they have 3 years continuous service, subject to the following conditions:
- Leave should be taken within one year of the probationary panel;
- Leave will be subject to the procedure for paid research or development leave allocation.
Staff will not be eligible for research or development leave in cases where:
- the staff member has been promoted to Senior Lecturer during the probationary period; or
- leave has already been taken as part of an extension to the probationary period.
4. Extending the probationary period
4.1 Dealing with unsatisfactory performance
4.1.1 The relevant Pro-Director, Head of Department and Mentor should seek advice from their designated ER Consultant where a probationer’s performance/conduct gives cause for concern or when problems first arise. If appropriate, a member of the HR Directorate may be present at formal review meetings.
4.1.2 Where difficulties in meeting the appropriate standard(s) and/or relevant training needs are identified, appropriate opportunity/support shall be provided to assist the probationer in meeting the agreed objectives.
4.1.3 The relevant Pro-Director, Head of Department and Mentor shall meet formally with the probationer to:
- discuss any problems identified;
- explain what aspect of the work/conduct is not considered satisfactory;
- explain which objectives/standards are not met and the shortfall between standards and/or timescales expected of the probationer and those achieved;
- discuss what remedial guidance and training will be provided;
- give clear early warnings of what may happen if required standards are not met;
- give an unambiguous indication of any necessary improvements;
- agree a course of remedial action and timescales;
- record the outcome of the meeting in writing and give a copy to the probationer.
4.1.4 The probationer may be accompanied at the meeting by a colleague or trade union representative.
4.1.5 If the required standards of conduct are not met, the disciplinary procedure may be invoked.
4.2 Extending the probation period due to absence
4.2.1 Exceptionally, SOAS reserves the right to extend the probation period where, due to sickness or other authorised absence, it has not been possible to adequately assess the probationer’s performance.
4.2.2 The probationary period will not normally be extended if the period of absence relates to a disability. In this regard, due cognizance will be taken of SOAS’s obligations under the Equality Act. Advice should be sought from the designated Employee Relations Consultant.
4.2.3 Where the probation is extended, the following must be communicated in writing to the probationer by the Human Resources Department, in liaison with the Head of Department:
- The reason(s) for the extension;
- The length of the extension period;
- The assistance/training that will be given during the period of extension;
- The areas for improvement and specific objectives relating to these areas as appropriate (i.e. learning and teaching, research and enterprise, academic leadership, and, academic citizenship);
- That the appointment will be terminated at the end of extension period if the probationer fails to meet standards of performance expected for their grade/post.
Where the probationer is unhappy with the decision of the Review Panel, following their discussion with their Head of Department, they can request a meeting with the Chair of the Review Panel to highlight their concerns. They can be accompanied to this meeting by their trade union representative and a senior member of HR should also be present. There is, however, no right of appeal against the Review Panel’s decision at this stage.
5. The extended probationary period
5.1 During an extended probationary period (up to twelve months), the relevant Pro-Director, Head of Department and Mentor are responsible for monitoring the progress of the probationer against set objectives. This will include:
- The Head of Department and Mentor holding regular meetings with the probationer (at least monthly) to discuss progress against objectives and the assistance/training required by the probationer to achieve them;
- Providing written feedback to the probationer about their continued performance following each review meeting, including alerting them that where objectives have not been met, this may result in their dismissal;
- Providing a written report on the performance and progress against objectives of the probationer to the Review Panel Chair (see below) at the end of the agreed extended probationary period, including copies of all written feedback reports following the review meetings conducted during the probationary extension period.
6. End of the extended probationary review period
6.1 Immediate confirmation in post
6.1.1 If progress and performance/conduct are satisfactory at the end of the extended period, the Head of Department will discuss this with the probationer, and the probationer’s Mentor and recommend in a written report to the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel Chair that the appointment be confirmed.
6.1.2 Confirmation in post following an extended period of probation is subject to the approval of the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel.
6.1.3 The probationer will be advised in writing by HR of the successful completion of their probationary period.
6.2 Review by the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel
6.2.1 If progress is still considered unsatisfactory, the Head of Department will inform the probationer and the Employee Relations Consultant of his/her assessment.
6.2.2 The Head of Department will send a report of their final assessment of the probationer to the relevant HR Operations Officer.
6.2.3 HR will arrange a meeting of the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel to consider the assessment.
6.2.4 No further extension of the probationary period will be possible.
6.2.5 The probationer will be invited to attend the meeting of the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel. They will receive written notification at least five days prior to the meeting. The invitation letter will confirm:
- That this meeting constitutes the final review;
- That their performance/conduct is not reaching the required levels;
- The date, time and location of the review;
- That the probationer has the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or colleague;
- That a representative from human resources will also attend the meeting;
- That the outcome of the review could result in the termination of the appointment;
- The probationer will be provided with all necessary documentation relating to the probationary period and extension, including a copy of the Head of Department’s final written report.
6.2.6 At the Academic Staff Probation Review Panel meeting, it is the responsibility of the Chair of the Panel to:
- Ensure that the necessary processes and procedures have been carried out;
- Ensure that the meeting is conducted fairly, in line with this procedure;
- Ensure that, as far as possible, all relevant facts relating to the issues are raised at the meeting;
- Decide what action, if any is reasonable and necessary based on the facts;
- Ensure that the probationer and/or his/her representative can present his/her case and respond to the issues raised;
- Ensure that they have consulted a senior member of the HR Directorate prior to and during the meeting;
- Inform the probationer of their right to appeal the decision taken.
6.2.7 The probationer will be informed in writing by HR of the outcome of the meeting, with a copy to the head of department and the relevant Pro-Director. In cases where the probationer is not confirmed in post, the reasons for the decision will be confirmed in writing, together with the right of appeal.
6.2.8 A decision to dismiss would not normally be expected unless problems had been identified at an earlier stage and appropriate formal corrective action taken at that time.
6.2.9 The outcome of the Review Panel will be reported to the Executive Board and the Academic Board.
7. Appeal procedure
7.1 In circumstances where a probationer is given notice that the confirmation of their appointment has not been agreed, they may appeal on procedural grounds.
7.2 Grounds for appeal may include:
- irregularities in the conduct of Panel business;
- failure of the Panel to take account of all relevant information
7.3 The probationer must appeal in writing within fourteen days of the notice of termination to the Director of Human Resources, stating the full reasons for the appeal.
7.4 The Director of Human Resources shall put the matter before an Appeal Panel, which will be constituted in accordance with the School Standing Orders (Standing Order X: Academic Staff: Dismissal, Discipline and Grievance Procedures and Related Matters, Part V: Other Dismissals, paragraph 16. Probationary appointments).
7.5 The Appeal Panel shall normally comprise the Pro-Director other than the original Chair, a Head of Department other than that of the probationer, an academic member of HR Committee and one member of the Academic Board Panel nominated annually.
7.6 All review reports will be made available to the Appeal Panel, together with any additional documentation as they see necessary.
7.7 The Appeal Panel will interview the probationer, the original Chair of the Panel, Head of Department, the Mentor and other such persons as they consider appropriate.
7.8 The probationer has the right to be accompanied to the interview by a work colleague or trade union representative.
7.9 It is for the Appeal Panel to determine the exact procedures by which this process is conducted, but they would need to be in accordance with ACAS guidelines extant at the time relating to appeals against a decision to dismiss.
7.10 Appeals against the decision of the Panel may have one of three possible outcomes:
- uphold the decision of the Panel
- overturn the decision of the Panel and confirm in post
- refer the probationer back to the Panel for agreement of a further period of probation
7.11 The decision of the Appeal Panel shall be final.
8. Support systems
8.1 Probationers require information, support and guidance throughout their probation period and Heads of Department and other staff have a responsibility to ensure that this is provided.
8.2 On the probationer’s appointment, the Head of Department will be required by the School to nominate an appropriate Mentor following discussions with the relevant Pro-Director.
8.3 All Mentors must be post-probationers and normally be of Senior Lecturer status or above.
8.4 The Head of Department will not normally be a mentor but may decide to take on this role for new staff in senior positions within his/her department. (More detail on the role of Mentors is given in Section 11 below).
8.5 In consultation with the Heads of Department, the Human Resources Directorate will maintain a list of mentors for probationers who will be briefed on the contents of these guidelines and who should normally have attended a mentor briefing session.
9.1 The success of the probation scheme requires the careful co-ordination of activities of all those concerned. These include the Head of Department, the Mentor, the relevant Pro-Director, the probationer and the Human Resources Directorate. It is important that, where problems are identified, remedial action is taken as quickly as possible.
9.2 The probationer will progress to the School's Staff Development and Review Scheme on successful completion of the probationary period.
Staff undergoing probation may be promoted through the School’s Academic Promotion procedures. They must be able to demonstrate evidence of achievement across the Academic Performance Framework and meet the School’s Academic Promotions criteria.
 The panel will normally meet in the summer term for staff who started at the School in September. Those probationers starting employment on other dates will be assessed through correspondence, or a specially convened panel as necessary.