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RCA Develops New Employment Framework to Support Academic Staff in Teaching and Research

The Royal College of Art has worked in partnership with the University and College Union (UCU) to develop a new framework for academic staff, offering new, permanent contracts for its 100+ senior tutors and tutors that properly support research and teaching, providing protected research time.

The new framework proposes a new, forward-thinking model for academic employment that looks at the whole role – academic, research and other key activities – and allocates contracted time for all three. It offers a modern employment contract, which is designed to take College through the next strategic planning period and beyond. The Strategic Plan 2016–21 envisions the College offering a greater number of taught programmes across an expanded campus. As new programmes lead to growth in student places, the number of academic staff will grow commensurately, as the College continues to support and invest in world-leading practitioners, teachers and researchers.

Pay and grades are unaffected, and for current staff the offer is opt-in, so contracted staff can choose whether to stay on their current contract. Benefits to current staff include an end to fixed-term contracts (except when there is a demonstrable reason, such as maternity cover or time-based research funding), and defined roles for tutors and senior tutors that are equitable and transparent, and which specify time spent on teaching, research and activities that support College culture.

Each of the four new academic role profiles (senior tutor, teaching; senior tutor, research; tutor, teaching; and tutor, research) has a defined bandwidth of time dedicated to teaching, and on research activities, guaranteeing research time for all academic staff for the first time. The remaining time is allocated to activities including knowledge exchange, line management, College citizenship, executive education and academic development. Senior tutor posts are offered internally before being advertised, and the framework is designed to allow movement between research and teaching roles.

Designed to support and nurture a robust research culture, the new framework replaces the former system of competitive research remission with guaranteed time for research for those undertaking primarily teaching and research, and additional protected research time for early-career academics. The framework builds upon the twin pillars of the RCA as the world’s leading university of art and design, in both teaching and research, and the RCA’s success in REF2014 as the most research intensive university of art and design. It provides the structure and support for the RCA’s strategic goals in developing new world-leading programmes, and continuing to lead in research up to, and beyond, the next Research Excellence Framework.

Joe Kerr, Joint Representative for the University and College Union (and Head of Critical & Historical Studies at the RCA), said, 'I am extremely pleased that we have successfully negotiated new contracts for academic staff. From the outset both the College and the Union recognised that this was a positive step, and negotiations were undertaken in that spirit. It was a long process, but I’m convinced it was worth it, and I hope that at a time of great change and uncertainty in our sector, my colleagues will appreciate and value a fair and proper contractual agreement between themselves and the RCA.'