New University Code of Practice on the Employment and Career Development of Research Staff

The Personnel Committee, on the recommendation of its Research Staff Working Group, has approved a revised Code of Practice on the Employment and Career Development of Research Staff.

The new code supersedes the code of practice on the same subject adopted in 1997. It reflects the legislation in respect of employees on fixed-term contracts and the principles of the national Research Concordat, to which Oxford is a signatory.

Implementation arrangements are under discussion with divisional officers and it is expected that over the coming months each division will, in discussion with departments and with appropriate support, establish its own arrangements for career support for research staff.

The new code and its supporting guidance documentation for research staff, principal investigators (PIs), and departments are now available on the university web site at staff/codes/crsindex.shtml.

1.       Action required of departments and faculties

Departments and faculties are asked to:

 (i)     display this circular on notice boards and local websites;

 (ii)     ensure that the new code is attached to contracts of employment for research staff;

(iii)     draw the attention of Principal Investigators and others with responsibility for managing research staff to the supporting document ‘Researchers’ careers’;

(iv)    draw the attention of research staff to the supporting document ‘Checklist for researchers’;

(v)     follow relevant provisions of the code when appointing and managing research staff.

2.       Background

The University’s former Code of Practice for the Employment and Career Management of Contract Research Staff had been in place for over ten years and some of its contents required updating in the light of new legislation, particularly on fixed-term employees. The national concordat on research staff careers had, over the same period, undergone a redraft and the new version was published in the summer of 2008. It is available at and a hard copy is enclosed for information.

The new Concordat, and the new Oxford code of practice which is closely based on the Concordat, have been introduced in recognition of the realities of research employment in the UK and internationally, in which relatively small numbers of permanent jobs are available. The code adopts the principles of the Concordat, which include a recognition that research staff should pro-actively engage in their own personal and professional development.

The following bodies were consulted in the course of developing the new code of practice: all divisional boards; the Conference of Colleges; the Oxford UCU; the Personnel Services Change Group; and the Education Committee’s Graduate Skills Advisory Group (now the University Skills Group). In addition, the document was placed on the Learning Institute website and those consulted formally were encouraged to circulate it widely and seek informal feedback from as many colleagues as possible. An external consultant with experience of research and researchers at Oxford was commissioned to run focus groups and solicit feedback as widely as possible.

A group of officers has been formed to support implementation of the code, and is working with divisional colleagues to establish local arrangements for the career support of research staff.

Further information about the code of practice is available from Rebecca Nestor (2-86802;, chair of the implementation group.


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