LECTURERS at Southampton University may remain on probation for up to six years under plans being drawn up by management.
The university, which will decide on the change within the next few weeks, says it does not want to judge staff on potential alone before confirming them in post.
The current probation period agreed nationally with the Association of University Teachers is three years, with a further year's extension in exceptional circumstances.
Southampton wants to extend this to a minimum of four years and maximum of six. A university spokesman said: "Differences in working practices mean people have less time to do research. The idea is that by the time someone is assessed at the final stages they will have had the chance to have their work published. It is to ensure that everyone who has a permanent post is going to be able to be entered in the research assessment exercise."
She said other universities tackled the problem by offering temporary contracts but Southampton wanted to avoid this.
University College London and the London School of Economics have six-year probation periods.
Tom Wilson, AUT assistant general secretary, said other universities had extended the probation period in consultation with unions and had offered reassurances about how performance would be measured and monitored.
But Tim Jewell, AUT honorary secretary at Southampton, said: "This is a regressive step. It is a move towards shifting the financial and policy risks of running a university away from the institution towards individuals."