Cambridge defends promotion policy

August 22, 1997

Phil Baty reports on the final rounds of a lecturer's long legal fight to open up Cambridge's promotions system

Cambridge University maintains that there is not enough money to promote everyone.

A spokesman said: "We already have a new system for promotions for the next round, which allows candidates to nominate themselves for promotion, rather than waiting to be nominated. It also allows candidates to appeal if they are turned down and to get some feedback.

"But even if we made more money available, by deciding not to build a new science building, for example, we still couldn't promote everybody," he said.

The whole point of promotion was that it acknowledged people who had achieved a certain level. "It has to be highly selective, otherwise it would be just like an annual wage rise," he said.

There were still issues that would probably be back on the agenda in the autumn. "We are considering whether the university should have an extra rank at senior lecturer level, to identify potential," he said. It had also been suggested that Oxford's system be adopted, where the title of professor is given without a pay increase. But some had serious reservations about this.

The spokeman added that with regard to equal opportunities, the university supported the Government's Opportunity 2000 initiative, which aims to ensure that there is a sufficient number of women at the higher levels.

"It is true that only 6 per cent of Cambridge's lecturers are women, but when the statistics were analysed this year we found that the percentage of female applicants was similar. If we had a situation where 50 per cent of the applicants were women, but we still had only 6 per cent women lecturers, then there'd be a problem," he said.

The problem was lower down the system. "We have to address why fewer women apply. Over 25 per cent of the members of our Regent House are women, and there are a number of women on our council," the spokesman said.

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