The practice described by Martin Hollis (requesting references to accompany applications rather than following shortlisting) is already not uncommon. I have been asked to follow this procedure by applicants for posts at the universities of Birmingham and Edinburgh. I have sent the references and at the same time complained.
While it is clear that is saves administrative time, it is ultimately not in anyone's interests. It effectively holds academics' time in contempt and devalues the written reference by inviting the inference that it is a standard letter printed off someone's word processor. This practice should be boycotted.
MARCIA POINTON Department of history of art University of Manchester