The university's history and English departments are revving up their recruitment drive in pursuit of the much coveted 6* status in the next research assessment exercise. Caroline Davis reports.
Lancaster University's faculty of arts and humanities has begun its biggest recruitment drive since the university was created in 1964. The department of history and the newly merged department of English and creative writing have been singled out in the faculty of arts and humanities as potential 6* units in the next research assessment exercise, expected in 2007. This week, they are advertising for two new professors each, three new history lectureships and four new English lectureships, which will swell both departments by more than a quarter.
Although some staff see the recruitment push as remedial action after a long fallow period, others are grateful that Lancaster has recognised the importance of investing in staff.
Stephen Constantine, head of 4-rated history department, is delighted that the university is being proactive rather than waiting to replace people as they leave. "There are a substantial number of people who are expecting to retire in the next five to six years," he says. "The university has agreed that it is sensible to invest now."
The new appointments will be in the fields of medieval history, diasporas and migration of communities, the history of science, technology and medicine and the history of the Northwest.
For the 5-rated English department, the increase will boost both teaching and research. Over the past five years, the number of undergraduates has almost doubled, so a major part of the new staff's remit will be teaching.
But head of department Lynne Pearce admits: "It's a tricky balance trying to be a major teaching department while at the same time striving to be a top-class research outfit. The real drive is research. The university is keen to make sure this department becomes a 6* in the next RAE."
The English department is looking to recruit experts in Renaissance studies, 19th-century studies, contemporary literature and women's writing.
The chairs, which will be tenable from August 2004, carry a minimum salary of £42,246. The lectureships begin in September 2004 and will be on the lecturer A/B scale (£22,954-£34,838).
Nick Abercrombie, Lancaster's deputy vice-chancellor, says: "The humanities have had a rough ride in British universities because of the way the funding regime works. But we have a big humanities faculty that is here to stay."
He says the university wants to boost its 4-rated departments and that politics and engineering will also be recruiting. Funding for the new staff will come from "prudent financial management" as well as from early and natural retirement programmes.
Lancaster's senate has invited departments to put forward strategic cases for taking on staff, so other areas may be set to join the recruitment bonanza.