Promotion prospects

July 31, 1998

LOUISE Casella, in her letter outlining Cardiff's research assessment exercise strategy (THES, July 18), points to the various career paths open to academics here. True, staff in Cardiff can move from research to teaching and administrative contracts and achieve promotion to the senior lecturer scale. However, promotion beyond lies with the Federal University of Wales. Whether that has a policy of promoting teaching excellence is an entirely different matter, as is the question of why it should regulate promotions.

It is odd that institutions as large and robust as Cardiff are not in charge of their own senior promotions, but no odder than the lack of national guidelines or criteria for promotion. This might be something the new pay review body looks at. It already has some evidence on which to work from both the teaching quality assessment and RAE exercises. There is no shortage of statistics about productivity and efficiency gains achieved through the efforts of university staff. Universities have all sorts of systems in place, but there must be a suspicion that these are so diverse as to be no longer transparently equitable.

A review of the university promotion system is long overdue on several grounds, including, of course, issues of gender. But it is also clear that universities will not be able to deliver the second phase of expansion and the lifelong learning package without some rethinking about the deployment of personnel between teaching and research.

Cardiff is starting to adopt a mature attitude towards these questions, but what we now need is something more than a local agreement so that new entrants to the profession can think about their future role in, and contribution to, higher education in more diverse ways than at present seems to be the case. The tired cliche of "publish or perish" has outlived its usefulness as a way of managing complex organisations.

Martin Coyle School of English studies, communication and philosophy Cardiff University

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