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Human Resources

Guidance for Staff on Promotion to Readerships and Professorships

1. Foreword from the Vice-Chancellor

"Commitment to academic excellence"

Durham University is one of the UK's leading Universities with a strong commitment to the highest international levels of excellence in research and education. As a leading academic your primary role is within your department, although you have very considerable freedom to enable you to undertake research at the international forefront. This also places obligations on you to take personal responsibility for developing your role, and to show excellence in leadership in working with your students, your academic colleagues and the professional support services staff. You are also expected to engage with students and academic colleagues outside your immediate discipline through membership of a College Senior Common Room.

Durham University has the highest expectations of all its academic staff at every stage of their career, as individuals and as part of an educational community. Your colleagues expect every individual to make a sustained contribution at the highest level to research and education, and to the University community.

To be promoted to a Readership or a Professorship we therefore expect you to provide evidence which demonstrates your sustained and substantial experience and abilities as a teacher and as a leading independent researcher, at a world class level, addressing major research questions which ensure that all of your research outputs and outcomes will be recognised internationally leading.

You will also be expected to demonstrate how you have met the requirements of delivering learning and teaching at a senior level to the standards expected by Academic Progression Committee. This includes offering teaching that is research-led and this and your research supervision is underpinned by a reflective approach to enhancing significantly the learning experience of your students. Finally, as a senior member of staff, you will be expected to demonstrate leadership both within our University community and also externally in promoting the interests of the University.

Professor Stuart Corbridge

Vice-Chancellor and Warden

2. Promotion

The number to be promoted to Readerships and Professorships in any one year is not subject to any quota but is determined in the light of the quality and quantity of applications as well as broader financial considerations.

Promotion to a Readership or a Professorship is an acknowledgement that the majority of your work is at least internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour with a substantial number of outputs at the level of world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour (see paragraph 7, Research), that you have a sustained track record of publishing at this level and demonstrate the potential to continue to do this into the foreseeable future.


Promotion to a Readership is a mark of personal distinction to members of staff who have made a distinguished contribution to the advancement of their discipline, by way of original research and/or innovative application. The award recognises a member of staff's high international reputation resulting from their research. The reputation may be further judged by some or all of the following:

  • invitations to present conference papers;
  • editorships of learned journals;
  • requests to referee the work of other scholars;
  • membership of national and international bodies relevant to the research field;
  • contribution to the work of professional societies;
  • citations by other researchers and practitioners;
  • prizes and awards; and
  • referees' reports.

Success in attracting external funding is generally necessary for the award of a Readership. While outstanding research can be done by an individual working alone and without the benefit of research grants, staff are normally expected to have competed successfully for external research income.

Whilst emphasis is laid on the quality of research, qualities as a teacher and leadership in education will also be taken into account in assessing a member of staff for the award. An application for a Readership therefore requires you to demonstrate how you have met the requirements of delivering learning and teaching to the standards expected by Academic Progression Committee. Applicants who simply make their case for a Readership on the basis of research achievements alone will not be recommended for promotion to a Readership.


The award of the title and status of Professor is a mark of personal distinction to a member of staff who has made an outstanding contribution to original research over a significant period of time, and is widely and internationally recognised as a distinguished authority in their field with a scholarly reputation over and above that expected of a Reader.

The University does not have Research Professors whose contracts exclude them from teaching our students and/or providing leadership in education. Durham's commitment to research-led teaching requires that all academic staff contribute not only to research but also to our teaching and student experience, albeit to different extents.

Candidates must therefore be able to demonstrate ample evidence of academic leadership both in research and teaching. An application for a Professorship therefore requires you to demonstrate how you have met the requirements of delivering learning and teaching to the standards expected by Academic Progression Committee. Applicants who simply make their case for a Professorship on the basis of research achievements alone will not be recommended for promotion to a Chair. Whilst comparability is often difficult, candidates for the award of a Chair should stand comparison with those awarded a Chair at other leading universities of international standing.

Newly promoted professors are likely to be recognised as distinguished academics who have demonstrated the research, educational and associated requirements as set out in the Durham criteria for promotion to a Chair. Their CV will demonstrate an appropriate combination of some or all of the following activities and outputs, considered in the context of excellence in their own discipline.

  • Research outputs and impact recognised in terms of originality, significance and rigour, reflecting an international standing in their area/discipline
  • Academic leadership in beginning to shape the future of their discipline
  • Effective management, helping to enhance excellence in their Department, Faculty or the University as a whole.
  • Proven track record of successful PhD supervision;
  • Demonstrable leadership in winning external funding for their research and building research teams, internally and/or externally;
  • Membership of national or international policy-making bodies, review panels and advisory boards, funding councils, editorial boards or other equivalent bodies;
  • Working with professional practice at a national level and scholarly manner
  • Excellent record of achievement in research-led teaching, demonstrated by student feedback and which may also include teaching awards and/or the publication of major textbooks.

Submissions for promotion are considered by the University's Academic Progression Committee. Promotions are normally determined in order of Readerships and then Professorships.

3. Workload

You are expected to have a full and balanced academic load commensurate with your role as a leading academic, and this may require you to teach subjects within your discipline but which are not central to your personal research. You are also expected to play a full role within your Department, undertaking service and promoting the University internally and externally when requested to do so.

4. Mentoring and Support

While mentoring may be thought mainly to apply just to those at the start of their careers, it can also prove highly beneficial throughout working life, and particularly following promotion or taking on a new role. You may find it helpful to consider the benefits of different approaches to mentoring by visiting the University's mentoring website at

Heads of Departments, Directors of Research and Directors of Learning & Teaching are regarded as an integral part of the peer review process, and as such they have responsibilities to provide both positive and negative feedback in order to help staff develop their careers. Before submitting a case for promotion, it is advisable to seek and act on advice from these postholders.

As a leading academic you are also expected to be active in supporting, mentoring and developing the careers of your academic colleagues, and this may be through formal appointment as an academic mentor.

5. Annual Staff Review

You will have an Annual Staff Review (ASR) meeting with a reviewer assigned by your head of department, who has formal responsibility for the conduct of ASRs within your department. Your Head of Department will see your full review report and may wish to discuss it with you.

An integral part of the review is the completion of a Personal Research Plan which you are required to complete as part of your ASR. This has been introduced to enhance and support the strategic planning of research within research groups and departments, to ensure that individual research trajectories are in line with departmental strategy, and to ensure that the research environment within departments is supportive and responsive to the needs of academic staff. In line with the principles of the ASR process, the focus of the Personal Research Plan is developmental for both individuals and departments.

The ASR meeting with your reviewer will provide an opportunity for you to discuss your role and to highlight any development you require to help you carry out your role. The ASR will also provide you with feedback on your performance and an opportunity to agree priorities for the coming year. The ASR procedure supplements more regular reviews of progress, performance, and support.

If you have concerns about the level of support you require or are receiving, you should raise this straightaway rather than wait for your ASR meeting.

As a senior academic it is expected that you will act as an ASR Reviewer of the work and progress of other staff in your department. This is a serious responsibility which if done well will be of benefit to you as well as the member(s) of staff whose ASR you are tasked to conduct. You should be making full use of the Annual Staff Review process to develop your personal research plans, as well as using ASR to provide support and advice as appropriate to your research group to maximise the benefit to their research career of opportunities available in Durham.

Reviewers are obliged to undertake training so that they have the necessary skills to conduct annual reviews and you will find details of courses on the University's HR website.

6. Research

You are expected to undertake research of the highest quality and to publish regularly in appropriate outputs for your discipline. The emphasis is on ambition of research questions and quality and impact of output. Your research-assessment submissible research outputs are required to be internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour with a substantial number recognised as world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour, and you should demonstrate the potential for continuing to produce the majority of your work at least at the level of internationally excellent or world-leading, as defined in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, i.e.

Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour

Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence

You should make extensive use of your knowledge of the UK and international research funding landscape, and have achieved a significant number of research grants. You should be playing a full part in developing a research environment within your department, including for example membership of your Departmental research committee, and within Research Institutes where appropriate.

Our expectations of you are therefore that you will:

a. produce appropriate research outputs that are recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour;

b. regularly publish research or produce other outputs in a form suitable for the REF or other equivalent peer review, with careful planning to maximise its quality and the communication of its outcome and impact;

c. ensure that publications referred to in your promotion application are uploaded to Durham Research Online and/or included in your web profile - see further guidance in Section 10;

d. make a significant contribution in terms of research impact and outcome;

e. contribute significantly towards recruiting and winning support for research students, and demonstrate excellence in the supervision of your research students, ensuring successful completion of research degrees within required timescales and ensuring the quality of their wider development and training.

f. apply for appropriate research funding in support of your research, individually and/or collaboratively, and have demonstrable success in winning external research funding competitively and through peer review on a sustained basis;

g. contribute in a sustained manner to the research life and culture of your department or School or Institute, for example through collegial behaviour such as participating in research workshops or attracting distinguished academic visitors to your department;

h. lead and manage successfully your research, research projects or programmes, mentoring, supporting and promoting the development of early career researchers and other colleagues, and building up a research group or demonstrate teamworking, demonstrating a contribution to the wider planning of research through department, faculty, centre or institute;

i. contribute more widely to the development of your subject, through a combination of regular presentations to national and international conferences, invitations to give key lectures, membership of peer review panels and major Research Council and other funding organisations'committees, or editorial responsibilities relating to major journals or reviewing research papers and applications;

j. engage directly with non academic external organisations or users to transfer your knowledge and expertise for cultural, societal and/or economic benefit and so contribute under the 'impact' heading in REF, and to use the experience you find there to enrich your research agenda;

k. make extensive use of Research Council and other funding bodies' policies and research funding mechanisms, including international and collaborative research funding opportunities;

l. show evidence of external recognition of research quality, for example by the award of relevant honours, prizes or higher doctorates.

7. Education

You will be expected to set the highest standards in learning and teaching, linking research and education in distinctive and creative ways to provide a unique and stimulating environment for our students to learn and develop their full potential. Your application for promotion must provide empirical evidence of this.

As Professor you are expected to have and continue to play a senior leadership role in design, delivery and organisation of learning and teaching within the University. APC recognise leadership will take many forms, but this might include: leading a review of a programme or developing a new undergraduate or postgraduate programme, department-wide quality enhancement intiatives eg introducing new or diverse assessment methods, or improvements to feedback methods, contributing to University, national and international level policy making on learning and teaching or contributions to subject centres.

Our expectations of you are therefore that you will:

a. undertake teaching which is research-led and intellectually challenging to your students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, including research supervision, helping to contribute to a distinctive student experience which develops and hones employability skills and attributes, such as teamwork, creativity, leadership social responsibility;

b. undertake teaching when required of subjects within your discipline but which are not central to your personal research or research plans;

c. be readily accessible to your students concerning teaching and assessment and if appropriate agree means by which to have regular contact if away from Durham;

d. support, including mentoring where appropriate, and help to develop the highest standards in learning and teaching amongst your academic colleagues;

e. reflect on feedback from your students to improve your teaching, and contribute to curriculum development where practicable;

f. be innovative in learning and teaching, and assessment methods, incorporating available technology where appropriate;

g. undertake examinations work and course assessment as directed by your head of department or School, and contribute within your department or School to the development and conduct of fair and transparent assessment;

h. provide appropriate feedback, support and guidance to students;

i. demonstrate continuing professional development in academic practice;

j. actively contribute to your discipline and be part of the Durham scholarly community.

8. Good citizenship and conduct

As one of the most senior members of Durham's academic community, you are expected to adhere to the principles of good citizenship, being generous with your help and support to others and collaborating with your academic colleagues in matters relating to research, learning & teaching, and knowledge transfer, and working for the benefit of your department and the University as a whole.

You will be expected to be a member of a College Senior Common Room and actively promote the academic ethos of the Durham College community. You may also wish to act as a College Tutor.

As a Reader or Professor you are expected to undertake effectively and efficiently administrative tasks that are assigned to you by your Head of Department, as well as participate in the governance of the University by putting your name forward to serve on appropriate senior University committees. You are also expected to support and collaborate appropriately with administrative and technical colleagues, making an active contribution to an inclusive community in which diversity is embraced and celebrated.

In every respect you will be an ambassador for Durham University and through your work and conduct you will be expected to enhance Durham's national and international reputation, adhering to the University values and being aware of, and contributing to, the University Strategy.

With this in mind, it is important that you note that certain non-collegial types of conduct are extremely damaging to the good order, performance and morale of a department, school, faculty and across the University, and are unacceptable. Examples of good citizenship and conduct are:

  • active engagement with colleagues and accepting delegated responsibilities;
  • ready co-operation with legitimate requests;
  • creating good working relationships with colleagues and others;
  • acceptance of legitimate criticism of conduct or job performance;
  • fulfilling commitments; being punctual, notifying sickness absence in good time to avoid disruption to the teaching timetable;
  • adherence to the University's policies on equality and diversity and promoting good campus relations and health and safety;
  • respect for colleagues at all levels and avoidance of verbal aggression;
  • contributing positively to meetings or training events;
  • maintaining confidentiality.

Behaviour not in keeping with the above principles of collegiality, if proved, may provide a valid reason for disciplinary action, which may include termination of contract. You are expected to be knowledgeable about University policies which relate to your work and relationships with staff and students and to conduct yourself appropriately.

9. Formal Promotion procedure

The normal promotion route to Reader or Professor is through a recommendation from your Head of Department to the Academic Progression Committee on the basis of agreed factors which apply to standard and fixed-term University- and outside-funded staff.

Promotion is dependent upon individual performance and is not competitive. Promotion is determined by fair, transparent and objective criteria referenced to the University's general role evaluation methodology. There is no separate complement of Readerships and Professorships so that financial criteria are not taken into account. Academic Progression Committee approves academic promotions on behalf of Senate and Council.

If you wish, you may also submit your own case directly to the Secretary to Academic Progression Committee (the University's Director of Human Resources). You should note that if you choose this approach, the Committee will seek the views of your Head of Department on your submission, and he/she will be asked to consult other senior members of your department, in particular the Directors of Research and of Learning & Teaching, as well as your ASR reviewer.

To be promoted to Reader or Professor, the University must be satisfied that you have fulfilled all the expectations and requirements as set out in sections 6, 7, 8 and 9 of this guidance, i.e.

  • to have clearly demonstrated independence and originality in your research programme, and
  • to have the potential to continue to produce research with outputs and outcomes recognised as internationally-leading, and
  • to have offered research-led teaching, demonstrated a reflective approach to enhancing learning & teaching and provided leadership in teaching to the standards expected by the Academic Progression Committee.

Candidates who are re-submitting a case for promotion must also demonstrate that they have acted on feedback from the Committee.

The case for promotion is submitted by your Head of Department and, if appropriate, your Head of House.

The submission from your Head of Department should include:-

  • your completed Evidence for Progression and Promotion pro-forma;
  • a statement of the quality of your research and teaching;
  • consistent with the evidence, a clear recommendation.

To help your Head of Department prepare his/her submission, you are expected to provide

  • a detailed account of your work in the pro-forma set out in Evidence for Progression and Promotion.
  • specifically, details of your future research and learning & teaching plans.
  • the name and contact details of 3 referees from other universities or research centres, one at least of whom should be from outside the UK.

Your Head of Department will also be asked to provide the names of three external referees to provide an assessment. Faculty PVCs are tasked with choosing an appropriate mix of referees from the UK and internationally. You should not send or seek to provide unsolicited references or statements of support with the required documentation supporting your case.

Before submitting the case your Head of Department has to consult members of your department as appropriate. It will be for the Head of Department concerned to select the appropriate members in each case, but in all cases he/she is expected to consult your ASR reviewer. You should let your Head of Department know if there are particular members of staff whom you think it is important to consult. Your Head of Department's submission will also be signed by your Department's Directors of Research and of Learning & Teaching.

Faculty PVCs are full members of the Academic Progression Committee, and following the meeting of the Committee, it is the responsibility of Faculty PVCs to provide detailed feedback to candidates as a form of academic mentoring.

10. Promotion/Probation Open Access Requirements

Important: this message supersedes all previous advice on this subject

Making research available in an open access format is increasingly a requirement of many funding bodies and will form an important element of the next REF. It also helps to raise the profile of the breadth and depth of the excellent research conducted by Durham University academics.

In 2013, it was also agreed by Senate and Academic Progressions Committee that, where possible, publications referred to and considered in promotion applications and probation reports must be deposited in the university’s institutional repository, Durham Research Online (DRO).

This specifically applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers published on or after 1 January 2013. The author’s final, accepted peer-reviewed manuscript should be provided within 3 months of the date of acceptance for publication.

Details of journal articles and conference papers published before 1 January 2013 should also appear on the author’s Durham University web profile page.

Future promotion applications will only be considered if these requirements have been fulfilled.

As part of the university’s wider commitment to open access and the widespread promotion of its excellent research, authors are also strongly encouraged to deposit the final accepted, peer-reviewed manuscript of pre-2013 material in DRO, where possible. However, this is not part of the promotion and probation requirements. The University’s Open Access policy can be found at:

A guide on how to deposit in DRO is available from:

Revised January 2015