Supplementary memorandum submitted by
A. BALANCE BETWEEN
HESA figures show that the number of Contract
Research Staff (CRS) has increased by 34 per cent between 1994-95
and 2000-01, the overall percentage of male CRS has increased
by about 20 per cent during this period, while the percentage
of women has leapt by 58 per cent. The total figures are:
The majority of researchers are on short/fixed term research
contracts as opposed to open-ended/permanent contracts. This is
a consequence of the dual support system, particularly the support
given for research projects, where often the vast proportion of
research support comes in discrete pots of restricted funds. A
significantly higher proportion of women than men in all ethnic/nationality
groupings are on fixed term contracts.
Why are women (of all ethnic groupings) more likely to be on
short/fixed term research contracts?
There might be several possible reasons for this, but all
are anecdotal; there is very little data available. In some instances,
for example, career destinations as in the Academic Research Careers
in Scotland project, it has proved possible to obtain better data
and we hope to be able to build on this.
1. THE "MOBILITY"
Mobility is important for research careers and the impact
of partnering and parenting. Women might have domestic or caring
responsibilities which means that they are unable to move around
the country for the "best" jobs, and instead have to
select a job from a "restricted" pool which might not
necessarily be the best job (for example, an open ended contract).
In association with this, it might be more difficult for
some women with caring responsibilities to go for the more prestigious
posts such as the Marie Curie Fellowships. This obviously evolves
around the issue of the "ability to manage a career".
The same could apply for the "dual science career couple"
if the male in the partnership secures a more established position,
it is more likely that the women would have to take the best available
option which would probably be a short term research contract.
2. THE GRANT
Research by Blake
on gender differences in grant application behaviour indicates
that, while women are just as successful as men in obtaining research
grants when they do apply, women make fewer grant applications
in the first place. A major reason for this is that fewer women
occupy positions where grant applications are usually made, such
as senior posts (permanent posts) or are on short-term contracts
and often people can only apply for grants for a shorter period
than the length of their employment contract.
3. "ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE"
Essentially, this refers to the environment within which
short term contract staff work and whether there might be factors
affecting women's application rates, recruitment, retention, remuneration
(gender pay gap) and career progression. Evidence suggests that
their achievements do not receive the same level of recognition
as male scientists, for example, women are still the minority
of award winners in science. Recent research by Professor Ackers
shows that occupational culture and attitudes about women's roles
and abilities have an impact on women in science, affecting the
decisions they make and the treatment they receive on both an
academic and interpersonal level.
4. "REDUCTION IN
Throughout their careers researchers build up their reputations,
professional profiles (publication output) and establish themselves
within important networks within the research field. If a female
researcher takes a career break, for example for maternity reasons,
this might be detrimental to maintaining her position in these
networks and result in a reduction in their "reputation capital",
making it more difficult to return and to secure an open ended
Universities are working to redress this balance. New negotiating
structures have been set up with the seven major HE unions: AUT;
NATFHE; AMICUS-MSF; Unison; TGWU; GMB and EIS. There is a commitment
to modernise pay structures and a range of agreements on new guidance
have been reached through the Joint National Committee for Higher
Education Staff (JNCHES). Guidance on equal pay and role analysis
and job evaluation have been issued. And guidance on fixed term
and casual employment is about to be launched. In addition, there
are initiatives to ensure recruitment and retention of top quality
staff as well as enhancing staff management, development and training
and the mainstreaming of equality. Much of this is being carried
out by the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA),
the JNCHES, and the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).
Particularly important are:
New JNCHES Guidance (Equal Pay, Role Analysis
and Job Evaluation,
and particularly the Guidance on Fixed Term and Casual Employment).
This should make a significant difference to research staff.
Revised UCEA and nationally recognised HE trades
unions "Framework for Partnership: Equal opportunities in
Employment" will be launched in Autumn 2002. This will encourage
local partnership agreements between HEIs and Trade Unions to
promote equality of opportunity for all staff throughout the HE
The Academic Research Careers in Scotland Project
is a systematic study of the career destinations of contract research
staff in Scottish HEIs and has provided useful information on
career trajectories for research staff.
Athena Project within the ECU aims to increase
the numbers of women academics in SET at all levels and improve
their career development and includes initiatives such as the
development of a support networks for contract researchers and
mentoring and professional development programmes.
HEFCE's rewarding and developing staff in HE initiative,
is funding to support the development of human resources management
in the sector. This relates to the recruitment, retention, reward
and development of staff as well as helping to modernise management
processes in the sector.
HEFCE have commissioned a scoping project to develop
a research specification which will take forward its policy to
enhance equality of opportunity for all staff. This might involve
a longitudinal study on academic staff.
The Greenfield Report: ECU (in partnership with
other SET stakeholders) is working with Baroness Greenfield to
develop a stronger and more strategic approach to increasing the
participation of women in science and engineering. The focus is
on action and consideration will be given to looking at support
for women, infrastructure for delivery, the policy environment
and tackling cultural issues.
ECU is actively encouraging all HEIs to mainstream
equality. Emphasis is placed on the need to ensure that this is
carried forward in relation to:
the institution's strategic vision, mission
its aspirations in teaching and learning;
its aspirations in research.
and in the more operational level in:
all units of activity (academic, support,
all staff-related policies, procedures and
all administrative/management functions;
all staff development (including appraisal);
all recruitment, retention, progression and
promotion procedures and practices; and
all contractual relationships, including procurement,
work-placement, teaching and training agreements.
B. MATERNITY LEAVE
Universities give research staff on short-term contracts
the same entitlement to maternity leave and pay as any permanent
academic. Hence, if a member of staff moves from one short-term
contract to another within the university, without a long break
in service, all service will be counted as continuous and cumulative.
This is the same as for permanent academics. As with normal standard
employment practice elsewhere, it is unlikely that service would
be cumulative if research staff on short-term contracts moved
C. PERMANENT RESEARCHERS
The Select Committee suggested this as a way forward. We
entirely agree that this could be appropriate in some select instances.
However, there are major academic disadvantages. These are:
the research projects which bring the funding
require a broad range of specialist skills and a limited pool
of expertise on offer would seriously restrict the university's
ability to compete for the fundingspecifically to match
the research with the right skills. It might, therefore, be a
technology is developing rapidly and many of these
research projects are at the leading edge of developments. A university
with a pool of permanent researchers might soon find its expertise
academics would be prevented from using their
own post-doc students on the research;
it restricts academic freedom to select the research
they consider appropriate at the time;
it inhibits individuals who see this work as a
temporary interim stage to a permanent academic career or career
The Select Committee will appreciate that all these issues
need to be considered in deciding where such an approach might
There is a further major problem for pre-1992 universities,
where most short term contract staff work. A Model Statute was
introduced into pre-92 universities in 1990 by the University
Commissioners appointed by the Privy Council in accordance with
section 202 to section 205 of the Education Reform Act 1988. Its
procedures are more demanding than normal redundancy procedures
in employment elsewhere or, indeed, for any other university staff
group. For example, the Model Statute procedures require the university
Council to take the decision in each and every case of a potential
redundancy. The termination of a fixed-term contract is almost
always a redundancy. A large university might have up to 300 of
these terminations annually.
Having identified a potential redundancy, the university
cannot then actit has to appoint a redundancy committee,
which must include two members not employed by the university
to carry out the selection for redundancy. In this way, the management
of the university is distanced from dealing with what elsewhere
would be a relatively straightforward management issue.
The Committee, itself, has no power to decide on appropriate
action. It, in turn, has to report back to another Council meeting
which has to approve its recommendations. If any employee is dismissed
for redundancy, s/he quite properly has the right to appeal. However,
under the model statute procedures, that appeal must be heard
by an independent barrister or solicitor with at least 10 years
experience. Again no university management is involved. This whole
process can take up to a year to complete, takes the whole decision-making
outside the university management and throughout all this process,
the employee would continue to be on full pay. At the end of this
process, the individual would still have the right to complain
to an employment tribunal and the independent process would start
all over again. All the costs throughout this process fall on
"Who applies for Research Funding?", January 2001. Back
The participation of women researchers in the TMR Marie Curie
Fellowships, Professor Ackers, 2001. Back
The UCEA and the unions, with the exception of AUT, are parties
to the JNCHES Guidance on Role Analysis and Job Evaluation. Back