SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Academic Promotion Procedure

  1. General Information
  2. Eligibility
  3. Schools Promotions Panel
  4. Criteria
  5. Referees
  6. Material to be provided by the Applicant
  7. Individual circumstances
  8. School Promotions Panel Procedure
  9. Feedback
  10. Timetable
  11. Staff Retention
  12. Appeals
1. General Information

1.1. This document details School procedures for academic promotions on the Teaching & Research route or the Academic Education-Focused Route (Teaching & Learning).

1.2. Promotion from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer is subject to internal procedures, but appointments to Reader and Professor follow University of London procedures that have been devolved to the federal Colleges.

1.3. The School has adopted a new strategic plan which emphasises our research-intensive character, and this will inform the panel’s decision making on promotions for the relevant roles. The School will establish more rigorous research criteria for promotion pathways which academics will have to satisfy in the future. This reflects the School’s new operational requirements and the adoption of a new strategic plan.

2. Eligibility

1.1. This document details School procedures for academic promotions on the Teaching & Research route or the Academic Education-Focused Route (Teaching & Learning).

1.2. Promotion from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer is subject to internal procedures, but appointments to Reader and Professor follow University of London procedures that have been devolved to the federal Colleges.

1.3. The School has adopted a new strategic plan which emphasises our research-intensive character, and this will inform the panel’s decision making on promotions for the relevant roles. The School will establish more rigorous research criteria for promotion pathways which academics will have to satisfy in the future. This reflects the School’s new operational requirements and the adoption of a new strategic plan.

3. Schools Promotions Panel

3.1. Academic promotions are considered by a School Promotions Panel. Decisions are reported to Executive Board and the Board of Trustees, with the Board formally endorsing appointments to Reader and Professor.

3.2. The membership of the School Promotions Panel will reflect a gender balance as far as is reasonably possible, and comprise:

  • Director (Chair) ex officio
  • Deputy Director and Provost and Pro-Director ex officio
  • Chair of Equality & Diversity Committee ex officio
  • Eight Professors who should not be Heads of Department or senior office holders.

3.3. A Professor from the University of London will normally sit in on meetings of the School Promotions Panel as an external member.

3.4. The Director of Human Resources or nominee will act as Secretary.

4. Criteria

4.1. Applicants will be expected to have successfully performed the duties outlined in their current job description as detailed in their job description and the Academic Performance Framework. 

4.2. Applicants must not be subject to a formal disciplinary sanction (for misconduct or performance) at the time the promotion would be effective, including any sanctions imposed after the application has been submitted. 

4.3. For purposes of promotion, applicants will be assessed by reference to their scholarly and other contribution to the School as evidenced in the Academic Performance Framework by three performance criteria:

  • Research & Enterprise (Application for promotion on the Teaching & Research route only)
  • Academic Leadership and Management (Application for promotion on the AER only)
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Academic Citizenship

4.3.1. Lecturer (Education)
Promotion to Lecturer on the AER route will be on the basis of evidence of successful participation with education activity with all teaching of a consistently high standard, as established by satisfactory performance in all three of the above AER performance criteria;

4.3.2. Senior Lecturer
Promotion to Senior Lecturer will be on the basis of excellence in at least two of the above three performance criteria, as well as satisfactory performance in the third.

4.3.3. Reader
Promotion to Reader will be on the basis of standing and promise in the relevant subject or profession as established by excellence in at least two of the above three performance criteria, as well as satisfactory performance in the third.

4.3.4. Professor
Promotion to Professor will be on the basis of international standing in the relevant subject or profession as established by outstanding contributions to at least two of the above three performance criteria, as well as excellent performance in the third.

4.4. The Academic Performance Framework and the Academic Performance Framework (Education) sets out the required evidence of achievement under each criterion.  These are further expanded in the Academic Promotions Procedure Applicant Guidance Notes, which are updated periodically. 

4.5. In addition, SOAS may also identify appropriate training requirements for promotions applications.  From 2019-20 completing of the online Research Ethics course is a requirement for promotions on the Teaching & Research route, all applications must have completed Unconscious Bias training and any non-attendance on the Race and Whiteness: Introduction and/or SOAS debates on race and racism training should be explained adequately.  From 2021-22 attendance at Race and Whiteness: Introduction and/or SOAS debates on race and racism training will also be mandatory for all T&R and AER promotions. 

5. Referees

5.1. An initial sub-panel meeting will decide whether there is a prima facie case for promotion, and if there is, agree the names of the referees to be approached.   Both applicants and Heads of Department will be asked to identify suitable potential referees.  Alternative referees may be agreed by the Chair of the School Promotions Panel if needed. 

5.2. The Human Resources team are responsible for sending or arranging for reference requests to be sent. Note that since 2020-21 no external referees have been required for applications for Lecturer or Senior Lecturer. 

5.3. Referees should not normally be an applicant’s PhD supervisor or a close, present or past collaborator. If it is proposed to use a PhD supervisor or collaborator as a referee this must be approved by the Chair of the School Promotions Panel. 

5.4. Referees for promotions should be at least the status of the level applied for.

5.5. References are required from:

5.5.1. An internal referee proposed by the Panel (who will provide a publications review in the case of Teaching & Research applications);

5.5.2. Independent external referees nominated by the applicant or Head of Department (1 for Readers and 2 for Professors)), and;

5.5.3. An external reviewer of the published work proposed by the relevant Pro-Director (for T&R applications).

5.6. Heads of Department are also required to provide an evaluation to accompany each application in their area (or Deputy Director and Provost if the application is – exceptionally - made through them).

5.7. From the Academic Promotions exercise from 2020-21 being a member of the HEA is a requirement for all promotions.   Any level of HEA qualification is acceptable (i.e. applicants must at least hold the FHEA qualification) however, achievement of higher levels (SFHEA or PFHEA) can be taken into account by the Panel as positive evidence against the Teaching & Learning criteria.

5.8. In response to the significant move to teaching online during the Covid-19 pandemic, the deadline for achieving membership of the HEA for promotion applications has been moved to later in the year.   Unlike for publications (which must be published prior to 1 February 2021 to be considered) confirmation of HEA membership can be accepted any time up until 31 May 2022. 

6. Material to be provided by the Applicant

6.1. Before putting forward an application, it is strongly recommended that applicants seek advice from their Head of Department as to the appropriateness of the application.

6.2. It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that all paperwork provided by them is complete and compliant. Supplementary materials are not required and will not be provided to the Promotions panels. Incomplete or non-compliant applications will be disqualified from consideration in that year’s promotions round. Applications cannot be modified after the application deadline.

6.3. The applicant will provide the following documentation:

  • Completed Cover Sheet (applicants for Reader or Professor must include details of two potential external referees)
  • Completed Academic Promotions Application Form
  • Completed Individual Circumstances Form if relevant (see section 7 below)
  • HEA certificate (FHEA, SFHEA or PFHEA). 

6.4. In addition, applicants on the Teaching & Research route must provide:

  • A full Publications List, with complete bibliographic information for each publication
  • Electronic copies of three examples of published work which the applicant considers to be representative of their best work to date. Research outputs other than monographs and articles in peer-reviewed journals will be considered, including performances, electronic media, exhibitions. Copies of work should be provided electronically; where electronic copies are unavailable, two hard copies of each example should be provided. The Promotions Panel will also be looking for evidence of continuing research activity. For this reason, at least one of the pieces of work should give an indication of the likely future direction of the applicant’s research and publications.
7. Individual circumstances

7.1. The Application Form asks for information from all applicants about contracted hours (FTE) and any absence due to parental leave or long-term sickness absence.  The School recognises that some individuals may have other serious circumstances that have affected/continue to affect their performance, whether by reduction in the volume or range of activities that they were/are able to undertake, or in other ways.

7.2. Circumstances that may be taken into account include:

  1. Breaks in employment due to non-consecutive fixed-term contracts
  2. Disability, injury or ill health (permanent or temporary lasting more than six months)
  3. Absence from the workforce whilst acting as a carer or undertaking domestic responsibilities
  4. Career breaks unconnected with academic responsibilities
  5. Time spent working in own professional discipline outside academia
  6. Substantive absences that the School is legally obliged to permit (including involvement as a representative of the workforce or for religious observance)
  7. Agreed special leave of absence on secondment to other organisations
  8. Other personal circumstances having comparable impact on an individual’s achievements to those listed above.
  9. 7.3. The list above is not exhaustive.  Individuals who feel that such information needs to be taken into account in accessing their performance should declare it on the Individual Circumstances Form and submit this to Human Resources at the time they make their application. Applications are sent to Heads of Department, but Individual Circumstances Forms can be sent separately and confidentiality.  Any information declared will remain confidential and will only be seen by the Individual Circumstances Panel.

7.4. Individuals are not obliged to declare any individual circumstances if they do not wish to. However, if not declared, such matters cannot be introduced in any subsequent appeal against the decision of the Promotions Panel

7.5. An Individual Circumstances Panel, chaired by the Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee including a representative from Human Resources and a senior member of the academic staff, who may be an Emeritus Professor, will meet before the prima facie panel to consider the individual special circumstances.  Individuals who have declared that they have special circumstances may attend the meeting, should they wish to address the panel in person.

7.6. The Individual Circumstances Panel will consider how much time has effectively been lost from normal work activities as a result of the circumstances involved. An assessment of this time will be provided to the Promotions Panel by Human Resources. No details of the circumstances involved will be released.

7.7. The time assessment may be given as time lost in months in any one or more of the three areas that form part of the Academic Performance Framework The period of time since the person joined SOAS or was last promoted will be included in the application so that the Promotions Panel can make a realistic assessment of the impact of the time lost.  The quality expected for promotion would still need to be present. No loss of fewer than 6 months in total will normally be reported to the Promotions Panel.

8. School Promotions Panel Procedure

8.1. The School Promotions Panel will operate in accordance with the following main procedures, taking account of the School's commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. The Panel may, in addition to the information provided by the applicant and Head of Department or Deputy Director and Provost call for any further information or take such other advice as it considers necessary at any stage in the process.

8.2. The Panel will consider all applications against criteria for all possible levels of promotion and not only for the one applied for. The panel will take a decision in all cases if it is considered that a prima facie case has been made for promotion to another level. This may mean that some applicants are promoted above or below the level they applied for, subject to additional satisfactory references being sought where this is necessary for the level of promotion proposed.

8.3. The School Promotions Panel will report all promotions to the Executive Board and Board of Trustees.

9. Feedback

9.1. All applicants will receive written confirmation of the outcome of their application.

9.2. All unsuccessful applicants will initially be offered the opportunity to discuss the outcome with a relevant member of the Panel.

9.3. All unsuccessful Professorial applicants will be offered the opportunity to discuss the outcome further with the Chair of the School Promotions Panel.

10. Timetable

10.1. Human Resources will issue an invitation for applications to Heads of Department and to all eligible academic staff in the Autumn term.

10.2. All submissions must be submitted electronically to the Head of Department (or Deputy Director and Provost) by the deadline.

10.3. The School Promotions Panel will make every reasonable effort to finalise outcomes by the end of July.  Promotions are implemented with effect from 1 September following the consideration of applications.

11. Staff Retention

11.1. It is possible, in exceptional circumstances, for applications to be considered outside the promotion cycle as set out above. This might apply to individuals who had not applied for promotion in the current year, but who have been offered an appointment at a university elsewhere at a level that would involve a promotion.  Evidence of this offer may need to be provided.

11.2. The option to apply for promotion out of the normal cycle should not be seen as the right of everyone offered a post elsewhere. The decision to allow an application, should the individual wish to make one, would be made by the Chair of the Promotions Panel after discussion with the Deputy Director and Provost and Head of Department (or Deputy Director and a senior academic in the relevant department, in the case of a Head of Department).

11.3. The process by which the application would be dealt with would reflect that of the regular promotions process. The requisite number of referees would need to be selected, and references obtained, by the relevant Promotions Panel.

12. Appeals

12.1. Once the deadline for applications has passed, members of staff should not discuss their application for promotion with individual members of the School Promotions Panel. The decision of the promotions panels is final, except where there has been a material breach of these promotions procedures. Appeals may only be initiated on procedural grounds, and the appeal process may not be used to challenge the academic judgment of the Promotions Panel.

12.2. Where an applicant believes such breach has occurred, they may make a written representation to the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, outlining exactly why they believe a material breach of the promotions procedures has occurred. This appeal must be made within 40 days of the applicant being informed of the decision of the School Promotions Panel.

12.3. The Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, in consultation with the Clerk to the Board of Trustees, will determine whether there is prima facie evidence of a material breach of the procedures. If prima facie evidence is found, Human Resources will set up Appeal Panel. This panel will be made up of three professors of the School, none of whom will have been a member of the School Promotions Panels that originally considered the application. One of these professors will be appointed as Chair of the panel. A member of Human Resources will advise the panel.

12.4. The panel will consider a written submission from the appellant, giving full details of the reason for the appeal, and will call for any other evidence it feels necessary. The panel is not empowered to vary the decision of the Promotions Panel. However, if the panel finds that there has been a material breach of the procedures, it is within its power to ask the Promotions Panel to consider the application for promotion again. The outcome of the appeal will be communicated to the appellant in writing.

Human Resources
Last updated January 2022