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Special Studies Program Procedures

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Section 1 - Overview

(1) These procedures are for the guidance of the academic staff of the University of New England in complying with the University's Special Studies Program (SSP) Policy, and must be read in conjunction with that policy.

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Section 2 - Scope

(2) This procedure applies to continuing and fixed-term academic staff with a balanced workload of teaching, research and service and Heads of School (HoS) of the University of New England. This procedure applies to University Representatives.

(3) SSP is intended to provide academic staff with the opportunity to undertake a sustained period free from teaching and administrative duties to allow a focussed period of research and scholarship or engagement with professional programs and development activities, aligned with the strategic directions of their School and the University.

(4) It is expected that SSP will lead to tangible research, scholarship and/or engagement outcomes, as agreed at the time of approval.

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Section 3 - Procedures

Eligibility

(5) Academic staff appointed under any of the following conditions may be eligible to apply for SSP:

  1. those appointed on a continuing basis with three or more years of service;
  2. those appointed to fixed-term positions and who are subsequently appointed without a break in service to a continuing position, may count continuous prior service towards eligibility for SSP;
  3. those appointed to organisational units other than a School;
  4. those appointed in a part-time capacity, where SSP may be granted on a pro-rata basis; and
  5. Heads of School between or at the end of contract period.

(6) Unless excluded by contract, a staff member may also be eligible to apply for SSP where he/she has held a fixed-term contract with a balanced workload of teaching, research and service with the University for a minimum of three years and has been reappointed to a fixed-term contract of sufficient length to enable them to comply with the requirement to return to the service of the University following the completion of SSP (see clause 45).

Qualifying Period of Service

(7) A staff member is not eligible to be considered for SSP until the staff member has completed a qualifying period of three or more years of service at the University. After that time, eligibility for SSP will accrue at the rate of two months for each full year of service, up to a maximum of twelve months.

(8) Periods of long service leave, leave without pay or SSP will not count as service for the purpose of determining SSP eligibility.

Planning for Special Studies Program

(9) The timing must conform to the School's requirements which should be outlined by the HoS prior to the commencement of each round of SSP.

(10) The period of time granted for SSP will be no more than one year.

(11) Applicants should discuss their SSP plans with their HoS and their supervisor (if the HoS is not their supervisor) as part of their ongoing performance and development planning process.

Preparation and Submission of Application

(12) Applications for SSP will normally be called bi-annually, and must be submitted on the SSP Application Form available from the SSP website.

(13) Applicants are encouraged to seek advice from their peers and HoS on the preparation of their application.

(14) Applications agreed upon by the applicant and their supervisor (if the HoS is not their supervisor) will be escalated for endorsement to the HoS and then to the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for approval.

Assessment of Application

(15) Applications will be assessed by the HoS on the basis of a complete and accurate submission, which will include:

  1. the merit and relevance of the proposed program and its capacity to contribute to furthering the University's Strategic Plan by producing pedagogical, research and/or scholarly outcomes that will contribute to the University's profile;
  2. the potential for the proposed program to support staff to concentrate on research, scholarship, creative work, professional experience, gain academic leadership, or to complete a higher degree;
  3. the demonstrated capacity of the applicant to undertake and produce outcomes from the proposed program;
  4. the applicant's record of achievement (including, where applicable, outcomes from previous SSPs);
  5. evidence that all teaching (including supervision), research, service and administration obligations and commitments can be accommodated to the satisfaction of the HoS;
  6. evidence that the proposed activity to be undertaken and experience to be gained cannot be achieved without SSP; and
  7. furnishing reports on previous periods of SSP.

(16) The HoS is required to certify that:

  1. school teaching and administrative commitments will be met without the appointment of additional staff or that there is funding relief available;
  2. all tasks relating to teaching responsibilities (e.g. marking, unit revision and preparation) for the trimesters both before and after the SSP period will be discharged;
  3. adequate provision has been made for the supervision of all postgraduate students for whom the applicant is responsible;
  4. it is in accordance with discussions between the applicant and the HoS during the annual Performance Planning Development and Review (PPDR) process; and
  5. there is sufficient evidence that supports the likelihood of the program of work being achieved.

(17) Where the HoS does not support an application, they must indicate, in writing, the reasons why the SSP is not supported and return the application to the applicant.

(18) If the applicant is a HoS, the relevant section of the application will be completed by Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) or the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Innovation).

(19) The applicant is required to submit the final version of the application with Head of School endorsement to the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for consideration.

Endorsement and Approval

(20) On assessing applications, the HoS will determine and advise the applicants in writing whether the application:

  1. receives unconditional endorsement pending approval by the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor;
  2. is endorsed with specified conditions which must be incorporated prior to approval by the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor and commencement of SSP;
  3. is not endorsed, but the applicant be granted an opportunity to revise and resubmit their application to the HoS for consideration; or
  4. is rejected outright.

(21) The HoS will provide to the applicant, in writing, the reasons for rejection or the matters requiring amendment prior to resubmission of an application.

(22) The Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor will assess applications that have been endorsed by each HoS, with reference to the academic merit of the application and its alignment with the University's strategic priorities.

(23) The Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor will consider rebuttals against a decision of a HoS concerning the academic merit of an application and will determine whether the application should be reconsidered for approval.

(24) An application is only considered approved once authorised by the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Financial Assistance

(25) Staff on SSP will be entitled to financial assistance as determined by the University on an annual basis.

(26) The funds available for SSP will be determined in advance as part of the annual operating budget of the University, and will be administered by the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

(27) The number of applications approved in a calendar year may be limited by the funds available in the University annual operating budget and determined by the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor taking into account the nature of the applications received and the capacity of the School to maintain normal teaching/administration operations.

(28) Schools may choose to allocate funds in their annual operating budget to supplement SSP beyond that provided for centrally, with the HoS having responsibility and discretion in the allocation of these funds.

(29) If a staff member and partner are both employed at the University and both apply to undertake a SSP, they shall be treated as separate applicants for financial assistance.

(30) If a staff member will be travelling on SSP with one or more dependents they will have access to additional funding.

(31) Approved funding for SSP will be transferred to the staff member's academic pursuit fund (APF) account.

(32) Staff members must book their travel and accommodation through the SmartBook booking tool in line with University travel procedures. The cost code in this booking will be the APF account.

(33) Where the staff member does not return to normal duties as required under clauses 46 & 47 of these procedures, the staff member may be required to repay to UNE any SSP financial assistance (or appropriate proportion thereof, as determined by the HoS and Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor).

Additional Financial Support

(34) Staff may utilise other University funds to which they have access, such as research grants, in order to contribute towards travel and accommodation expenses not covered by the travel grant or accommodation allowance, provided they comply with University policy and the conditions of expenditure of such funds.

Taxation

(35) All applicants are referred to Australian Taxation Office (ATO) rulings or their tax advisor regarding matters including: claiming appropriate expenses, compliance with any substantiation provisions for travel or other work-related expenses, maintenance of a travel diary.

Prior to Commencement

(36) At least four weeks prior to commencement of SSP, staff members who supervise postgraduate research students must submit the required form, advising of the arrangements that have been made for the supervision of their postgraduate students, through the HoS, to Research Services.

(37) Applicants should note the FBT requirements with respect to personal leave days, which are days on which staff members do not undertake Official University Business.

Variations to Approved SSP

(38) A variation requiring substantial change to the focus of the SSP must be submitted to the HoS for endorsement and theProvost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for approval.

(39) A variation that is made before SSP commences that does not involve substantial change and does not impact on the approved financial assistance does not require approval, but the HoS must be notified of the final arrangement prior to the commencement of SSP.

(40) Variations required following commencement of SSP and/or variations that result in a change to financial assistance, must be approved by the HoS and submitted to the office of the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

(41) It is the responsibility of the staff member to ensure that their travel insurance remains valid after the variation.

Unforeseen Interruptions in the SSP Period

(42) The University may direct a staff member to postpone or interrupt a period of SSP. Before doing so, the relevant University officer/s will consult staff in the affected area and explain the reason. If such a direction is issued, the staff member will usually be permitted to undertake SSP in the next available period and will continue to accrue SSP up to a maximum of twelve months.

(43) While on SSP, and only in cases of extreme urgency, a staff member may be asked by the University to assist in a specific situation. In these circumstances appropriate expenses will be paid.

(44) Where more than five consecutive working days are lost to the SSP for unforeseen interruptions, the staff member may apply to extend the SSP period or to have the days re-credited (although no additional financial assistance will be provided for re-accredited days).

Return to Service

(45) Academic staff undertaking SSP are required to return to normal duties for a period of time equal to the period of time spent on SSP.

(46) Where a staff member resigns from UNE while on SSP, he/she will be expected to return to UNE within one week to resume normal duties for the duration of the term of notice.

Reporting

SSP Report

(47) the staff member must complete and submit an SSP report within two months to the HoS. At template is available on the SSP website. The report will include:

  1. a short summary of achievements (200 words) for inclusion in the Summary SSP Report presented annually to Academic Board;
  2. a summary of activities undertaken and contacts established or developed;
  3. a summary of progress towards original outcomes and goals;
  4. any additional outcomes or goals;
  5. plans for publicising outcomes through peer-reviewed outlets; and
  6. a financial report providing details of any outside earnings and other assistance, including research grants, travel grants and/or scholarships, which relate to the value of travel and accommodation, received by the staff member during SSP.

(48) A staff member who accepts a position with an external body must comply with the UNE's Remuneration and Working Arrangements Policy and its associated Private Paid Outside Work Procedures.

(49) The University reserves the right to seek clarification of grants and earnings received while on SSP.

(50) The University may seek repayment of the travel grant if, in its view, the financial assistance received is not consistent with University policy or with the goals of the SSP as set out by the staff member.

(51) The HoS will provide an evaluative comment on the report within four weeks of submission. The staff member will sign that they have seen the evaluative comment and submit it to HRS.

(52) A copy of the report, together with the HoS's comments, will be forwarded to the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for information.

(53) A supplementary report may be submitted to the HoS, at any time.

(54) If the report is not submitted within two months of returning to normal duties, further SSP accrual will not commence until the date on which the report is submitted to the HoS.

(55) Where there is an outstanding report, no further application for SSP will be considered.

(56) A staff member may apply to the HoS for an extension to the date for the submission of the report. An extension will not normally be given retrospectively.

(57) Applicants must acknowledge their affiliation with UNE in all publications resulting from SSP.

Records

(58) A copy of the report, together with the HoS comments, will be recorded on the staff member's personal file, together with all other documentation relating to a staff member's SSP.

Roles and Responsibilities

(59) The Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor is responsible for:

  1. overseeing the development, review and implementation of the policy, procedure, guidelines and forms for SSP;
  2. approving the SSP procedures, guidelines and forms;
  3. convening and chairing an SSP Advisory Group if required;
  4. the final approval of all SSP applications;
  5. receiving and assessing rebuttals to unfavourable determinations on an SSP application by a Head of School; and
  6. providing unsuccessful applicants with feedback when requested.

(60) An SSP Advisory Group, membership constituted on a needs basis, is responsible for providing advice and support to the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor on a determination of an SSP application when deemed necessary. This may be at the request of an unsuccessful applicant or a HoS.

(61) The HoS is responsible for:

  1. including in the annual School operational budget an allocation to support SSP where appropriate;
  2. working with their staff in the development of applications;
  3. receiving and considering SSP applications;
  4. providing feedback to applicants whose applications are not endorsed; and
  5. approving variations to approved programs and actioning subsequent variation to financial support as appropriate, and reporting all approved variations

(62) Staff members approved for SSP are responsible for:

  1. abiding by the conditions of SSP;
  2. abiding by all UNE rules, policies and procedures;
  3. submitting a SSP report and a financial report within 2 months of returning to normal duties; and
  4. e. maintaining contact and engagement with the university while on SSP and responding to any matters that require attention.

Appeals

(63) If the HoS does not endorse the application on the basis of resources or strategic alignment, there is no right of appeal on that ground.

(64) If the HoS does not endorse the application on the grounds of academic merit and relevance of the proposal, the applicant has a right to submit a rebuttal with their application to the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, providing a copy to the HoS.

(65) The final decision on the academic merit and relevance of the proposal is a matter for the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Authority and Compliance

(66) The Procedure Administrator, pursuant to the University's Special Studies Program Policy, makes these procedures.

(67) University Representatives must observe these Procedures in relation to University matters.

(68) These Procedures operate as and from the Effective Date.

(69) Previous Procedures relating to the Special Studies Program Policy are replaced and have no further operation from the Effective Date of this new Procedure.

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Section 4 - Definitions

(70) Accrual of Service - the length of time identified as being available for future SSP should the applicant meet the criteria for approval.

(71) Collective Agreement - The University of New England Academic and ELC Staff Collective Agreement 2014 - 2017 or replacement Collective Agreement, as applicable.

(72) Dependent means - accompanying dependent spouse/partner and/or children.

(73) Effective Date means - takes effect on the day on which it is published or on such later day as may be specified in the procedure.

(74) Head of School (HoS) includes Director of Centre, Head of Cost Centre or equivalent.

(75) Normally means - that it is the default position that must be followed unless exceptional circumstances exist that require a departure from the default position, as determined by the procedure administrator acting reasonably.

(76) Procedure Administrator is the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

(77) School means - School and other organisational units such as Oorala and Teaching and Learning Support.

(78) Staff means - a staff member, who is not a casual employee, and is covered by The University of New England Academic and ELC Staff Collective Agreement 2014 - 2017, or the replacement Enterprise Agreement.

(79) Supervisor means - the role to whom a position reports

(80) University Representative means a University employee (casual, fixed term and permanent) contractor, agent, appointee, UNE Council member, adjunct, visiting academic and any other person engaged by the University to undertake some activity for or on behalf of the University. It includes corporations and other bodies falling into one or more of these categories.