Introduction: academic-related staff handbook

Expand All

Most of the first section of this handbook is designed to provide a very brief introduction to the University of Oxford. Comprehensive information about places to visit in and around the city, about museums and libraries, and details of useful addresses, (government departments, sports clubs, theatres, etc.) may be obtained from the Oxford Visitor Information Centre in Broad Street (Tel.: 01865 686430), during normal office hours.

The Oxford Central Library (Tel.: 01865 815509) also holds a selection of guide books on Oxford including The Oxford Book of Oxford and Oxford, both by J. Morris.

Back to top

All those members of staff for whom this handbook is intended are employed by the University (formally by 'the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Oxford') rather than by colleges. But since it can be difficult to understand precisely what 'the University' consists of, it may be helpful for you to know a little of its structure and of the relationship, for instance, between the functions of the colleges and those of the University. 

1.2.1 The University and the colleges

Oxford University in the popular and wider sense of a loose federation of strong mutual interests embraces both (1) the central decision-making bodies and the departments and libraries, and (2) the colleges. Almost all the undergraduate colleges originated in the halls which grew up around the medieval university, and they have retained their status as self-governing, independent corporations, with their own constitutions and sources of income. They select and tutor their own undergraduates and employ their own support staff and academic staff, the latter largely in collaboration with the University. More recently, a number of graduate colleges have been established and all of the thirty-eight colleges and private halls - each with its own buildings and grounds - also provide residential and social facilities for their students and staff.

The University exists at the centre of this complex structure. In addition to conducting degree examinations and other activities demanding a consistency of treatment, the University has responsibility for maintaining libraries and laboratories, and providing central services such as computing facilities. It arranges the provision of these facilities by departments and other institutions, a full list of which may be found in the University Calendar. Each department or institution has its own staff; and, in the case of academic staff, most are also fellows of colleges.

1.2.2 The Oxford Medical School

Oxford is a modern medical centre, yet, as one of the oldest medical schools in Europe, it bears the traces of influences extending back to the Middle Ages. The University has been involved in the teaching of medicine and the awarding of medical degrees since the thirteenth century. The main part of the Oxford Medical School is based at the John Radcliffe site of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust (ORH), with teaching and research also being carried out at the other hospitals in the city. The clinical course follows on from the pre-clinical course which, if taken at Oxford, is based in the pre-clinical departments within the University's Science Area.

Back to top

The University is self-governing, making Statutes and Regulations for its own governance (subject in certain cases to the approval of her Majesty The Queen in the Privy Council). Although departments of the University are administratively and financially autonomous having their own administrative structure under the head of department or institution, they operate within general policy laid down at university and divisional level.

1.3.1 Council

Council is the executive body of the University and is responsible for the administration of the University and for the management of finances and property. Its powers and functions are set out in the University's published Statutes and Regulations. There are twenty-five positions on Council, plus provision for up to three co-opted members. Nine are ex-officio members: the Vice-Chancellor, who is the chair of Council; the Chair of the Conference of Colleges; the two Proctors and the Assessor; and the four Heads of Division. Four are external members, nominated by Council and approved by Congregation. Twelve members of Congregation are elected to Council: one by the Conference of Colleges; four by Congregation from the faculties in the Divisions of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences and of Medical Sciences; four by Congregation from the faculties in the Divisions of Humanities and of Social Sciences; and three by Congregation, not necessarily being members of any division and not in any case being nominated in a divisional capacity. Up to three members of Congregation may be co-opted to Council. One of the Pro-Vice-Chancellors with portfolios may be appointed by Council as one of its Deputy Chairs, in which case, if he or she is not anyway a member of Council, he or she fills one of these co-opted places for as long as he or she is Deputy Chair.

1.3.2 Congregation

Congregation is the deciding voice on important matters such as changes in the University's constitution and major new university policies. Congregation is the supreme governing body, which mainly consists of the members of the faculties, the members of the governing bodies of the colleges and other societies (except the Permanent Private Halls), and all those working in any university department or institution who hold posts on Grades 8 and above. Details of eligibility can be found in Statute IV, Sect. 3.

Congregation's business consists of considering the Statutes or resolutions put to it by Council, and electing members of Council and certain other university bodies. Procedures for raising issues at congregation can be found on the governance website. Congregation is required to approve nominations for the appointment or reappointment of the Vice-Chancellor. It has the standing to discuss or to ask questions about the Vice-Chancellor's Annual Oration and the University's Annual Report. It is also formally the body which confers degrees of the University (including honorary degrees proposed to Congregation by Council).

1.3.3 Convocation

Responsible now only for the election of the Chancellor and the Professor of Poetry and consists of all those holding a degree of the University of Oxford.

1.3.4 Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor is elected to hold this full-time office for five years with the possibility of a further two and is the Chief Officer of the University. He or she is the chairman of Council and normally of any other committees of which he or she is a member and presides over Congregation (except on formal occasions, when the Chancellor presides).

1.3.5 Pro-Vice Chancellors

There are six, normally full-time, Pro-Vice-Chancellors with responsibilities respectively for Academic Services and University Collections, Education, Research and Innovation, Planning and Resources, Development and External Affairs, and Personnel and Equality. In addition, there are up to six other Pro-Vice-Chancellors who deputise for the Vice-Chancellor on formal occasions such as degree days and university sermons.

1.3.6 Committee structure

Council operates through five main committees. These are as follows:

  1. Education Committee - responsible for the educational standards, philosophy, and policy, liaising with the Oxford colleges.
  2. General Purposes Committee (GPC) - responsible for the long-term strategic development of the University nationally and internationally, and relations with government bodies and external bodies. It also recommends appointments to other committees by Council.
  3. Personnel Committee - responsible in light of employment legislation and other requirements for development and review of policy on personnel matters, for example recruitment and selection, staff development and training, equal opportunities, salaries and conditions of service. In addition it oversees employment relations issues and makes recommendations on complex appointments.
  4. Planning and Resource Allocation Committee - responsible for the maintenance of a five-year rolling plan for all aspects of academic, academic services, and other activities of the University, and for the review of the overall financial position of the University and in particular, resource allocation procedures, student numbers and fees and research policy.
  5. Research Committee - responsible for the University's policies and procedures for costing and pricing of research, including full economic cost recovery, risks associated with research and maintains a register of international research collaboration agreements to which the University is a party.

In addition there are several other committees reporting directly to Council.

1.3.7 Divisional Boards

Divisional Boards have responsibility under Council (subject to plans, policies, and guidelines set by Council) for dealing with the academic, financial, IT, resource, and staffing plans and policies for each division, and for the divisions' relations with the colleges, Continuing Education, and external funding agencies. These divisions are as follows:

  • Humanities
  • Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences
  • Medical Sciences
  • Social Sciences

1.3.8 Faculties and Sub-Faculties

The faculties comprise all the holders of academic posts whose duties include research or teaching, together with any other persons made members by the divisional or faculty board concerned on account of work being done by them in Oxford in the relevant subjects. Many of the faculties are divided into sub-faculties. The faculties or sub-faculties meet at least once a term to consider the lecture list, and other matters relating to teaching syllabuses. Eleven faculties also have faculty boards, elected by them, to exercise academic supervision over these activities, under the relevant divisional board.

1.3.9 Academic Services

These services (such as libraries and museums) are overseen by representative over-arching committees; all chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Services and University Collections) who has an integrative role across the sector. There are also separate boards of visitors or committees for individual museums.

1.3.10 Other Key University Officers

Proctors and Assessor - the two Proctors (Senior and Junior) and the Assessor are appointed in an annual cycle which ensures that each college or other society in turn elects one of these officers (the current cycle is printed at the beginning of the University Calendar). They are non-voting members of many of the main university bodies, and have the right to see the papers of and attend any other university body. The Proctors see that examinations are properly conducted and have a general disciplinary function in relation to students. The Assessor takes a special interest in student welfare, and chairs a number of committees responsible for the award of bursaries etc.

Registrar - appointed by Council, he or she is the principal adviser on strategy and policy to the Vice-Chancellor and Council, and formally the Secretary to Council and all its Committees. Ensures decision-making and governance systems work effectively and is responsible for central administrative services and their development.

Deputy Registrar - he or she is responsible to the Registrar for the Academic and General Division of the University administration. This division is divided into four sections; Divisional offices, Academic Policy Support, Planning and Resource Allocation and Student Administration. Through this structure the section provides support for two major committees of Council (Education Policy and Standards Committee and the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee), for the academic divisions and faculty boards and for functions such as the exam schools, the Graduate Studies Office and student records.

Director of Finance - the Director of Finance is the Chief Financial Officer for the University with direct access to the Vice-Chancellor and Council on financial, technical, and professional matters. He or she is responsible for advising committees and officers on financial policies and planning; for the provision of financial information and management for budget holders, and for ensuring that adequate financial controls are in place. He or she is also Head of the Finance Division within Central Administration which includes the Land Agents Office and Purchasing.

Director of Estates - he or she is Head of the Estates Directorate of Central Administration, which includes Security Services. In the role of Director of Estates he or she acts as the executive officer to the Buildings and Estates Sub-Committee and is responsible to the Sub-Committee for estates strategy and space planning, the management of all building works and the maintenance of the functional estate.

Director of Human Resources - he or she has  responsibility for the people-related functions of the University, including University HR, the Equality and Diversity Unit, Childcare Services, the Occupational Health Service, the University Safety Office, and the University Club.

Director of Occupational Health and Safety - he or she provides leadership and management for both the Safety Office and the Occupational Health Service, and reports to the Director of Human Resources. He or she also works closely with the Chair of the University Health and Safety Management Subcommittee and Consultative Committee on Health and Safety and with senior staff across the University on all occupational health and safety issues.

Director of Legal Services and General Counsel - he or she is responsible to the Registrar for the provision of legal advice and services to the University and its departments, including the procurement of external legal advice as appropriate.

Director of Research Services - he or she is responsible to the Registrar for the running of the Research Services office. This office is concerned with research grant and contract administration, the proper costing, pricing and submission of all research grant and contract applications, intellectual property policy and protection, and administrative interaction with all university research sponsors.

Head of Council Secretariat - he or she reports to the Registrar and is responsible for all secretariat services to the University Council, plus a range of Council committees, the Equal Opportunities team, Data Protection issues, Freedom of Information issues and certain ethical and other policies.

1.3.11 Conference of Colleges

The Conference of Colleges, comprising two representatives of each college (often the Head and the Estates Bursar) acts as a forum for discussion amongst the Oxford colleges. It is also an important channel for communication between the colleges and the central University. It has a number of standing committees, including the Academic Sub-committee, the Admissions Committee (at Oxford, undergraduate admissions are the responsibility of the colleges, not the central University), and the Finance and General Purposes Committee. The Chairman of the Conference and a second representative (normally the Vice-Chairman) are members of Council, and there are representatives of the Conference on many of the other main university bodies.

Back to top

Each department or institution operates on annual grants fixed centrally, the finance coming from the grant the University receives from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). In addition, an increasing amount of income is received for specific projects from research councils and other outside organisations. Income is also received from tuition fees and research training support grants.

Back to top

1.5.1 Libraries

The Libraries Committee considers all matters relating to the provision and co-ordination of library facilities in the University. It also exercises financial supervision over a group of 12 of the University's major libraries, comprising the three central research libraries (Ashmolean, Bodleian and its dependent libraries, and the Taylorian) and 11 faculty-type libraries.

The University has many libraries. In addition to the principal libraries listed below, there are departmental and faculty libraries. Enquiries about the use of university libraries should be addressed to the librarian of the institution concerned.

Bodleian Library, Broad Street. This includes the Old Library, the New Library and the Radcliffe Camera. There are also seven dependent Libraries:

1.5.2 Museums

Back to top