The Variation of Duties scheme was agreed by Conference of Colleges, Education Committee, and Personnel Committee in 2015, and the right is reserved to make changes to the scheme in the light of experience. The scheme does not establish any contractual right to any variations of duties.
The variation available to any one member of staff necessarily has to be limited on grounds of fairness to others (in terms of the availability of opportunities for all and the equitable distribution of academic work) and on financial grounds. It may not be possible, therefore, to agree to all requests, and some may need to be deferred.
Information about agreed Variations of Duties and other buyouts will be held by Colleges and Departments/Faculties, and anonymised data will be collected periodically for review by the Advice and Oversight Group overseeing the operation of the Variation of Duties Scheme and for report to Personnel Committee, Education Committee, and the Conference of Colleges.
The parameters of the scheme are as follows
- The postholder must normally have held office for at least 5 years, during which time they have carried out the normal duties of the post satisfactorily.
- The scheme may involve a reduction of almost any aspect of contractual duties, with the exception of the duty to act as an examiner for the University.
- The maximum duration for a single period of Variation of Duties is normally three years.
- The duties owed to one employer cannot normally be reduced by more than 50% (for example, in the case of college teaching, the limit is 50% of the college teaching stint and its associated duties).
- Over an individual’s career the time allowed with maximum variation of duties should not exceed one half of the time spent working to standard contractual duties. So for every year with maximum variation of duties (50% reduction) there should be at least two years worked to full duties; for a year with a 25% reduction there should be one year's full service, and so on. Reckoning for this purpose runs from Michaelmas term 2009 or the start of the individual’s appointment, whichever is the later.
- Proper provision must be made for replacement teaching, either via provision in-kind or via a buy-out (see Tab 3 Steps 3 and 4 for details).
- In the case of academics whose initial period of office has been extended, meeting the requirements attaching to that extension must take priority in any consideration of that individual's duties.
- Exceptionally, consideration may be given to a proposed reduction greater than 50%, but only if it is taken over a period significantly shorter than three years to meet some defined need: consideration may also be given to a proposed variation for a period of up to three years with a pattern (to be agreed in advance) of varying amounts of reduction averaging to no more than 50% overall.
Variation of Duties is strictly subject to tripartite agreement in each case between the individual, the University, and the College. There is an optional form (VoD Record of Agreement) [LINK] for recording agreements for Variation of Duties should any of the parties (individual, College, or University) wish to use it. It also acts as a checklist for what needs to be decided before a request for Variation of Duties is agreed.
Variations which do not fall within the scope of the scheme
- Initial period of office for newly-appointed APTFs
Any modifications to duties during part or all of the initial period of office are not part of the scheme, and time worked under such arrangements will count as time worked to full duties.
- Sabbatical, family leave, illness, and disability
Sabbatical leave, parental leave, and periods when duties are reduced or altered on account of illness or disability are outside the scheme: time taken under such arrangements counts as working to full duties. Entitlement to such arrangements is not affected by an individual's having taken a period of Variation of Duties.
- Minor variations of duty
Periods involving minor variations not exceeding 25% of duties and not extending beyond two terms fall outside the scheme and are counted as working to full duties: this would include arrangements typically made to facilitate the taking on of tasks such as Chair of Examiners.
- Teaching leave for major administrative duties
Major university roles such as Chair of the Faculty Board or Head of Department typically require a college teaching buyout of more than 50% and/or of longer than 3 years. Such buyouts lie outside the scheme and are not counted as time taken with Variation of Duties, nor are they counted for the purposes of the Scheme as time working to full duties. Similar considerations arise when an individual takes on a major college office.
- Prestigious external research fellowships
Prestigious externally funded research fellowships that provide explicitly for a buy-out of teaching duties, and which often involve a complete buy-out for several consecutive years, lie outside the scheme. Such leave is not counted as time taken with Variation of Duties, nor is it counted as time working to full duties.
- Work for third parties
Any proposal to reduce the duties owed to either employer to accommodate work for a third party falls outside the scheme unless it is agreed that such external work is of benefit to the academic purpose of the collegiate University (as might apply, for example, to work for learned societies).
- Permanent contractual changes
Any proposals for permanent changes to an individual’s contract fall outside the scheme.
Advice and Oversight
- A small Advice and Oversight Group will have oversight of arrangements that are agreed across the University. This Group will consist of four members: one to represent divisional interests; one a representative of Education Committee with particular concern for teaching quality and the student experience; and two appointed by the Conference of Colleges to address senior tutorial and bursarial interests. The Group will be neither a regulatory nor an appeal body, but it could, on request, offer advice and guidance on precedent, especially in circumstances where a particular request for variation proves to be problematic.
- The Group will review the working of the scheme every three years and will report to the Education and Personnel Committees of Council and to the Conference of Colleges.
For example, Leverhulme, UKRI, Royal Society, Wellcome, ERC.
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