Russell Group publishes joint statement on working practices

03 March 2020

Today the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading universities, published a joint statement on contractual and working practices for staff at our universities.

Over the course of 2019 and into this year our members have been in discussion over how to develop and share best practice as good employers.

It builds on our work over the last 18 months to create a more supportive and inclusive research environment, an effort which has since expanded to examine not only how we support research staff, but also the broader workforce across our universities. This is designed to complement the excellent work that UCEA, UUK and others are also championing.

Our universities are committed to showing leadership on this issue and this joint statement is just part of our work in this area. The Russell Group will continue its efforts to support discussions, share best practice and drive improvements so that all staff have opportunities to develop their careers at our universities.

The full statement is below.

Russell Group statement on best practice in contractual and working practices

As leading universities and major employers, Russell Group universities know a successful higher education sector relies heavily on the contribution of a broad workforce, and it is important we have the contractual and working practices in place that help all of our staff to thrive. We are determined to ensure that our working practices and employment models are fit for purpose, recognising the diverse needs of staff, students and institutions themselves. We acknowledge we may not always have got this right, and it is essential we learn from this, share best practice and work harder now to change things for the better.

An area we are all concerned about is how some short-term contracts are used. On the one hand there will always be a need for flexibility: institutions need this, some staff prefer this and it can also create real opportunities. However, we recognise that over-reliance on some forms of employment models and associated contractual arrangements may not serve the best interests of staff, for example in supporting their development and career aspirations. Ultimately, they may also impact on the wider academic mission and the staff and student experience at university.

We believe there is now an urgent need and an opportunity to address these challenges. Working collectively and individually across the Russell Group, we have all committed to collaborate on this to make real progress. We have started by establishing a small working group of senior leaders that will gather and analyse examples of best practice and ensure this is shared across all our universities. We will look to develop a set of principles we can all use from the start of the next academic year and will monitor these. We will also engage with key funders – on the research side, in particular – to explore how improvements to their own funding practices can help universities deliver the best possible outcomes for their staff and students.

Some of this will take time, but we have already started sharing our expertise and experiences and we have agreed this is a priority for our universities in 2020.

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