1. Introduction

The Head of School reports to the Vice Principal/Head of College and performs a pivotal and instrumental academic leadership role in the University’s organisational structure and carries significant accountability for providing a coherent academic vision and direction for the School, through the Vice Principal/Head of College to the Principal and ultimately the University Court.

The School is a key organisational unit of the University, each led by an appointed Head of School with accountability for the strategic leadership and development of the subject disciplines within the School. The Head of School is financially accountable and the recognised budget holder for their respective School, and a full member of the College Management Group. The Head of School is responsible for determining and successfully delivering the strategic direction of the academic disciplines within its remit aligned with the strategic imperatives of the College supporting the School’s research and knowledge transfer; learning, teaching & scholarship and internationalisation ambitions, and contributing to the success of the University. This role embodies responsibility for academic staff and students in the School.

This policy outlines the key responsibilities applicable to these leadership roles and the process through which individuals will be appointed.

2. The Role

The Head of School leads and directs research activity, teaching and learning provision, planning and resource allocation, associated investment and development within the School. The post is accountable to the relevant VP/Head of College and holds shared responsibility for College and University interests as well as statutory and legal responsibilities e.g. health & safety, etc. Equally importantly, the role embodies a set of responsibilities in respect of academic staff and students within the School. Eligible applicants to these roles will be employed on the Professorial grade (Grade 10 scale). Appendix 1 - Head of School Job Description.

Individuals are appointed to the role of Head of School for a period of 4 years in the first instance, subject to satisfactory performance. Appointments may be renewed on a mutually agreeable basis, normally for a further 2 years. Where an external candidate is appointed, the incumbent will become a substantive member of staff within the School on demitting office. Exceptionally, the VP/Head of College may recommend that this period be extended by a further two years having canvassed the views of the professoriate within the School, providing there have not been any expressions of interest from other potential internal applicants.

Subject to the agreement of the Vice Principal/Head of College and where research budgets do not already provide for such; an academic support package of £10,000 per year will be made available to employ relevant support to Heads of School in the interests of maintaining a level of "normal" academic activities during the period of office (i.e. teaching assistants, research support staff for example).

Subject to the agreement of the VP/Head of College, Heads of School will be entitled to a year's sabbatical in the year following the period of office. Objectives to be achieved during any such sabbatical would be agreed, prior to demitting office with the relevant VP/Head of College.

Heads of School will be expected to appoint an appropriate nominated deputy to assume responsibility in their absence. Heads of School are supported by an appropriate School Executive, broadly representing the subject discipline base of the School.

3. Appointment Process

The role of the Head of School is a Court appointment, approved on the recommendation of the Vice Principal/Head of College. This section outlines the process to be followed in appointing to the role of Head of School:

Recruitment Planning

The recruitment policy and associated process applicable to the appointment of a Head of School broadly follows the principles of the University’s Recruitment Policy. Appropriate support is provided through the relevant Local Recruitment Co-ordinator (LRC) within each College. The VP/Head of College will give early consideration to planning for any future appointment to a Head of School role in the 9-12-month period prior to the current incumbent demitting office.

Early consideration must be given to composition of the Appointment Committee and to ensuring that the relevant assessment and selection process is applied to the position. Appendix 2 - Appointing Committee. The Director of College Professional Services will lead on the identification of the School Representative including management of the election process if required.

Posts will normally be advertised internally however there may be circumstances where external advertisement is appropriate in the interests of strategic imperatives of a School. The centrally based Strategic Recruitment Team will provide support in undertaking an appropriate search and attraction strategy. The VP/Head of College will agree and execute a communication plan in relation to the recruitment for the role.

Interview & Assessment

Following advertisement, the Recruitment Team will circulate relevant documentation to members of the Appointment Committee for their consideration with regards to interview and assessment.

A wide range of selection tools will be considered to effectively test ability and related personality factors directly linked to the requirements of the role and its associated duties and responsibilities to ultimately inform the decision-making process. This will include but will not be limited to:

  • Presentation to representatives of the School on their future vision and strategic plans for the School
  • Relevant assessment tools including emotional intelligence & leadership behaviours analysis
  • Presentation as part of the formal interview
  • Formal interview

Prospective candidates will be expected to present to the School or representatives of the School. The Director of College Professional Services will announce the shortlisted candidates to members of the School. Candidates will be assessed and selected against the selection criteria with a particular emphasis on the academic leadership and people management responsibilities which are essential requirements of the post in accordance with the principles of the University’s Recruitment & Selection Policy.

Once the appointment is confirmed and approved by Court, the VP/Head of College should consider any further communications required in line with the relevant communication plan.

4. Leadership Development

Prospective or soon to be appointed Heads of School will be required to undertake the University’s Strategic Leadership Programme, ideally in advance of their formal appointment where possible.

The programme is designed to embrace the distinctive nature of strategic leadership. It provides the opportunity to programme participants to develop their leadership capabilities in the context of a world class institution and support the concept of career development and succession planning for those undertaking or planning to pursue leadership related roles within the University.

The programme is specifically designed and delivered in partnership between senior management, organisational development, an external facilitator and each participant in which programme delivery can be tailored to individual needs accordingly. Programme participants will have the opportunity of benefiting from executive coaching, action learning sets, mentoring and other related sponsorship activities.

Further information can be found at on the Employee and Organisational Development Team's Leadership and Management webpage.

5. Performance and Reward

Heads of Schools participate in the annual Performance & Development review process on an annual basis.

A successful period of office would be determined by the Principal and VP/Head of College which will normally be achieved based on successive satisfactory levels of performance or above in the annual PDR process over the period of office.

In the event of poor performance evidenced through either the PDR process and/or the Managing and Supporting Performance Policy, a Head of School appointment may be terminated via a recommendation to the University Court. Such a recommendation to Court will normally be made by the VP/Head of College with support from the Principal and the Executive Director of People & Organisational Development (P&OD).

6. Remuneration

Heads of School will receive a salary enhancement in one of 3 bands, reflecting the scale of the leadership role.

Remuneration levels will be: Band A £6,250; Band B £8,750; Band C £12,500 per annum.

The responsibility allowance is pensionable (during the term of office and the period over which a proportion of the allowance is payable beyond the term of office) but will not be consolidated into future salary.

Appointments to the position of Head of School will normally be at professorial level and those appointed are eligible to participate in the professorial zoning review process which occurs on an annual basis as appropriate.  A successful period of office of 3 years or more, would provide prima facie evidence that zone 3 has been achieved in Leadership, Management & Citizenship, subject to an application for zone movement being made.  Role-holders will receive any national agreed award subject to satisfactory performance and will be considered for any annual performance related award, in respect of performance in their role or as part of any team-based recognition on the basis of performance of which the Head of School plays a part.

In the year following the period of office, and subject to the Head of College receiving satisfactory reports on sabbatical activity, the former Head of School will receive a transitional payment equivalent to 50% of the responsibility allowance (i.e. £3,125; £4,375; £6,250).

If after a period of successful leadership of three years or more, 50% of the responsibility allowance will continue whilst the member of staff remains employed at the University.  The 50% retention allowance will not attract any cost of living inflationary increases and would continue on top of future changes in salary due to rezoning. If the member of staff accepts a future post that attracts a responsibility allowance the 50% retention would be offset against this amount.

Document Control


Policy name

Head of School Appointment Policy & Process

Last reviewed

April 2019 

Next review

April 2020