Westminster gains HR Excellence in Research Award

As of 26 February 2016, the University of Westminster is delighted to confirm that it has successfully gained the European Commission HR Excellence in Research Award.

In April 2015 it was decided that Westminster should apply for the HR Excellence in Research Award and the Staff Learning and Development team in HROD drafted Terms of Reference for ou DVC (Research and Knowledge Exchange) Graham Megson to form a Steering Group, with representatives from each of the University’s faculties. The initiative is led by HROD, and the Steering Group is chaired by Graham Megson. The Steering Group oversaw the work and informed the Action Plan for the HR Excellence Award which was submitted to Vitae in October 2015.

Graham Megson said he is “delighted that we have gained this award – it recognises the day-to-day work that all staff across corporate services and in Faculties are doing to deliver a sustainable research environment at the University.”

Jean Harrison, Director of Organisational Development and Well-being, said: “I’m thrilled with the award, and give special thanks to the Academic Development team and Organisational Development team for the effort they put into this achievement.”

The Staff Learning and Development team will now take forward the action plan and a formal launch event will be held on 31 March 2016.

This Award acknowledges the University of Westminster’s alignment with a vigorous and transparent implementation strategy for improving the career development and management of researchers and ensuring it develops the capacity for Westminster's 2020 commitment to deliver research with impact.

The Award demonstrates alignment with the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for their Recruitment.  Additionally the process in the UK incorporates the QAA Quality Code for Higher Education and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Attainment of the Award is increasingly expected by the Research Council UK (RCUK) and EU funders, and is viewed by research collaborators and job applicants as an indicator of good practice. The Award recognises an institution’s progress towards a high quality research environment for research staff and postgraduate researchers and recognises the systems and practices we have in place to support researchers’ career and professional development in line with the 7 principles of the Concordat.

The UK mechanisms have been developed and managed by Vitae.

The University of Westminster joins many other UK higher education institutions who have successfully gained the Award, including the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Warwick, Bath, Bristol and Imperial College London, as well as over 200 European organisations.

The HR Excellence in Research logo tells researchers that an institution is committed to supporting their careers and can give them confidence about moving to a new institution. A main driver for the initiative is to ensure that Europe is an attractive place for researchers from all over the globe.

Vitae asked organisations with the Award to contribute to a Vitae review of benefits. Colleagues in universities particularly highlighted the value of the HR Excellence in Research Award as:

  • Contribution to strategic goals: including improving the quality and impact of research, contributing to institutional strategies to appoint, develop and retain the best staff to pursue excellence, and the preparation of researchers for wide employability and economic contribution
  • Impetus for change: supporting culture change internally
  • Support for internal processes: the focus on developing an action plan led to useful conversations about implementation and evaluation, also to recognise, refine and develop good practice
  • Raising the status of researcher development: including a perception that this marked out the institution as 'being one of the best'
  • Meeting researchers' needs: including improving managing bids and research groups
  • Attracting funding: the Award was perceived as useful particularly for European funding

Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS)

The CROS gathers the anonymous views of research staff in higher education institutions about their experiences, career aspirations and career development opportunities. It runs concurrently with the PIRLS and collectively these data indicate progress on implementation of the UK Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the European HR Excellence in Research Award.

Both surveys collect information anonymously about staff views on working conditions, career aspirations and development related to research. 

Westminster ran the biannual CROS and PIRLS surveys for the first time in May 2015. 946 staff were targeted for completion of either CROS or PIRLS – representing all academic, professorial and research staff.

The target audience for CROS was a possible 473, and with 35 members of Westminster research staff responding, the response rate was 7.4%.

There were responses from 55 members of the PI/RL community at Westminster from a possible target of 473 staff, giving a response rate of 11.6%

Given the low response rates from the CROS and PIRLS surveys, the HRERA Steering Group commissioned four research staff discussion groups, which took place in July 2015, to hear researchers’ experiences of working at Westminster and perceptions of how policy and practice measured against the 7 Principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. The research staff discussion groups were facilitated by the Human Resources and Organisation Development (HROD) Adviser for Academic Development, the Research Quality and Standards office, and the Faculty Research Directors for Social Sciences and Humanities. The four sessions were each held at a different campus and were advertised on the staff intranet and faculty newsletters. Although a relatively small number (32) members of research staff took up this opportunity, there was representation from all faculties.

All of the data sources were collated and considered by HROD, who put together the draft gap analysis.

The findings from both surveys have been taken into consideration for the gap analysis and action plan, and the results will form the baseline for future surveys.

The national results of the CROS and PIRLs surveys were published in September 2015 and can be downloaded from the Vitae website.

HR Excellence in Research Award logo

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