Cambridge to recognise promotions

May 28, 1999

Cambridge University is expected to award long-awaited promotions to more than 200 academics, following the historic concession that staff promotions will in future be based on merit, not on budget constraints, writes Phil Baty.

Three years ago the university admitted that it did not have the resources to promote all those staff who deserved it. It has now limited its annual quota of professorships to around 15, and readerships to 30, despite complaints from academics that they are "embarrassingly undervalued". In a report on internal funding allocations, however, the university has made a vital concession after decades of campaigning.

"Personal promotions should be primarily determined by assessments of academic merit without budgetary restraint," said the report published this week. This U-turn is to be discussed by academics in June, but it is expected to reflect practice already in place at Oxford University, where titular promotions can be made without salary enhancements.

Campaigners believe that hundreds of deserving academics will have to be given readerships or professorships, after years of being victims of funding constraints. Documents obtained by history lecturer and promotions reform campaigner Gill Evans revealed that in the last promotions round, 87 applicants who were denied promotion were judged to have an "overwhelming" case.

"This is a huge victory for the reformers," said Dr Evans. "At last we can catch up with the backlog and promote the 200 or so senior distinguished people in Cambridge who have waited so long for recognition of their achievements."

Dr Evans, a council member, told members of the university senate this week that the concession was only made after she had threatened to force a ballot of the whole university on the annual budget.

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