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New policy for academic staff careers: transparent and nonsexist

MAASTRICHT. There will be a tenure track policy throughout the UM that should give researchers a reasonable chance to get promotion and receive a permanent appointment, as long as certain well-defined conditions have been met. Women will receive extra encouragement.

A year and a half after the first announcement that personnel policies for academic staff would be overhauled, and after repeated promises by rector Rianne Letschert, who took office in September, that there were too many temporary jobs and that extra attention needed to be paid to women moving on to higher positions, there is now a policy document that deals with exactly those issues.

Yesterday (Wednesday), she was complimented by the Lokaal Overleg, the body in which unions negotiate with the Executive Board. There was some criticism too, but that focussed more on the exact implementation rather than the broad lines. The University Council has the opportunity to speak out on the matter next week, which could also lead to changes.

Tenure Track (TT) stands for career policies that allow researchers to move on to higher permanent (tenure) positions. There were some initiatives on that front within the UM, but there was no such thing as a uniform and transparent policy, says Letschert.

The regulation includes a period of five years in which the candidate grows towards the requirements of the higher position. It must be clear from the beginning what those requirements are and how they should be met; the document mentions “definite, univocal and attainable” criteria. This should put an end to the arbitrariness in appointment policies.

Each faculty will set up its own TT committee, which will decide whether or not a candidate has met the requirements and thus should be appointed or dismissed.

A remarkable element in the document is the great emphasis that has been put on diversity but especially on the representation of women. The faculty committee, for example, must consist of at least 30 per cent women. Furthermore, the text in recruitment advertisements (both internal and external) “should be in line with the UM's diversity policy,” and faculties will “strive” to fill at least half of the TT vacancies by appointing women. A hard quota is not being set, but the intentions are clear. All the more, because the Appointments Advisory Committee, which is the committee that puts candidates forward for a position when there is a vacancy, will have to submit a written statement to the Faculty Board as to their exact “efforts” in taking on women.

At least equally disposed to equal opportunities for women, is the policy to take into account “exceptional circumstances” that might prevent someone from being ready to take a step up within five years. The maximum extension is even another five years: one will therefore be able to take ten years for the whole track. For those who work part-time - but have at least a 0.6 appointment - will receive a proportional amount of extra time. Parenthood (“many candidates are at a stage in their lives when they have children. The UM wants to take this into consideration”), illness, volunteer aid; these can all be reasons for requesting an extension.

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