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These probationary arrangements expired on 30 September 2021.  For the University’s revised probationary arrangements which apply from 1 October 2021, please follow this link.


COVID-19 Voluntary Impact Assessment Form (Probation)

Please refer to details available here.

The probationary scheme set out in this guidance applies with immediate effect to all non-clinical academic offices and analogous unestablished posts below the level of Reader. The guidance is adapted from the Report of the General Board on the probationary arrangements for academic officers and comparable unestablished posts (Reporter, 19 November 2003), where additional background information may be found.

Probationary documentation for academic staff

1. To whom does this scheme apply?

1.1 This scheme applies to all non-clinical academic appointments and comparable unestablished posts on permanent or fixed-term contracts below Readership level. The probationary scheme is not applicable to Professorships and Readerships as appointment to these offices should only be made in cases where candidates have already achieved international recognition in respect of their academic achievement and contribution. It does not apply to contract research staff for whom there is a separate scheme.

1.2 For the purpose of the scheme an academic post is one that is listed in Special Ordinances under Statute C, Schedule C (i) 1. An unestablished post is defined as academic by analogy with a comparable University office.

1.3 In relation to existing staff, depending on individual circumstances, it may be possible to offer the possibility of opting in to the scheme. Where members of staff are not willing to opt in to the probationary scheme, the arrangement obtaining prior to its introduction will continue to apply.

1.4 Where doubt arises as to whether the scheme applies in a particular case and cannot be resolved by the Director or Assistant Director of Human Resources, the matter will be decided by the Chairman of the Personnel Committee on behalf of the General Board or, if circumstances require it, by the General Board on the advice of the Personnel Committee.

2. What is probation?

2.1 Probation is the period of the appointment of a new member of staff during which the probationer will demonstrate that s/he has the capability to undertake the duties of the role to which s/he has been appointed, and in which the Head of Institution will provide guidance and support to enable the individual to become an effective member of the University.

2.2 The duties of an academic officer involve teaching and research or, in the case of some officers, just research. It is also expected that all academic officers will make a general contribution to the activities of their institution. There must be clear evidence of consistent, satisfactory performance of duties during the probationary period if an appointment is to be confirmed upon completion (see 4.6.1–4.7.2 below).

2.3 The probationer has the right to be given induction and guidance into the objectives of her/his institution and its academic activities. This will involve enabling the probationer to develop skills in teaching, examining, and research, and wherever practicable to contribute to the general work of the institution.

2.4 Instances of misconduct, rather than lack of capability, will be dealt with separately in accordance with the relevant disciplinary procedures and not under the probationary scheme.

2.5 It is essential that the requirements of the probationary scheme be observed throughout the process. The Head of Institution should be aware that the termination of an appointment at the end of probation is a dismissal in law and that in all cases the University must be able to demonstrate that the probationary procedure has been conducted properly and fairly.

3. How long is the probationary period?

3.1 The probationary period for the holder of a University academic office or post will be five years unless the Head of Institution makes a case to the Appointments Committee for the requirement to be reduced (to a period of not less than three years) or to be waived where the officer has held a senior academic position at another university and has already acquired relevant skills and experience. For extensions of the probationary period beyond five years in exceptional circumstances, see below.

3.2 Confirmation (or non-confirmation) of tenure by the Appointments Committee must occur, if possible, not less than nine months before the end of the five-year period. In cases where the Head of Institution is clear that there is sufficient evidence, s/he may recommend to the relevant Appointments Committee confirmation of an appointment before the end of the five-year period but not less than three years into the probationary period.

3.3 Exceptionally, the probationary period may be extended where a new officer has not had sufficient time to demonstrate her/his suitability due to factors beyond her/his control, for example because of long leave of absence taken on account of illness or family commitments (see below). Normally such extension will be for no longer than one year. With regard to extension (and also dismissal), Heads of Institutions must consult their HR Consultant/Officer at an early stage (see below).

3.4 Note that the Appointments Committee is the body specified in Statutes and Ordinances as having authority for making an appointment or reappointment to an office of University Lecturer or University Senior Lecturer and to other academic offices such as ADRships. Special Ordinance C (x) 1-14 under Statute C, I sets out the general provisions on appointments. Specific appointing arrangements for particular offices are set out under separate chapters of Statute C. Please see in particular the provisions for appointment of University Lecturers set out in Special Ordinance C(x) 1-14 and University Senior Lecturers in Special Ordinance C (ix) 1-4 and in Special Regulations for University Officers, Ordinances Chapter XI. The Appointments Committee has the power to confirm tenure, extend it in exceptional circumstances, or dismiss, without having to seek a direction from the General Board.

Academic staff on fixed term contracts

3.5.1 The probationary scheme also applies to holders of University offices which have been established for a fixed term e.g. some Assistant Directors of Research. The General Board's policy dictates that such offices may be established for periods of not less than five years. If an office is established for five years or longer and there is a prospect of the office being established for a further period, the confirmation, or non-confirmation of appointment, will be in relation to the period for which the office is re-established. A decision on the outcome of probation may be made, if appropriate, after a period of not less than three years.

3.5.2 If there is no prospect of further funding to establish the office for a further period, advice in relation to the termination of the appointment at the end of the period of establishment is available in the management guidance Procedure for the Ending of Fixed Term Contracts.

3.5.3 Please note that the overall period for which a fixed term contract may be justifiably held in law is as yet unclear — please see section 2.9 of the guidance on the EU Directive on Fixed Term Working.

4. How will the Probationary Scheme work in practice?

4.1 It is important that the duties of the officer are made clear and are understood by the new officer at the outset; that the work of staff undergoing probation is monitored to ensure that any problems that occur are discussed directly with the probationer as and when they arise; and that an overall view of the individual's progress, commitment and general contribution to the work of the institution is formed.

Advice and Assistance

4.2.1 Probationary staff will each be assigned a mentor. A mentor will be an experienced senior colleague nominated by the Head of Institution who is able to give advice and provide valuable links to the officer under probation and support over the whole range of duties the probationer is expected to undertake, and with whom s/he can share problems and concerns in confidence. If requested by the probationer, an alternative mentor may be agreed in discussion with the Head of Institution.

Academic Staff Development

4.3.1 The University places great emphasis on the development of its staff, wishes to encourage participation in appropriate training and development activities, and offers a range of opportunities as part of the Development Programme, including an Introductory Seminar.

Meetings and Preliminary Assessment

4.4.1 Before the beginning of the probationer's first teaching term the Head of Institution or person nominated by her/him will hold a preliminary one-to-one meeting with the probationer to discuss the duties of the office, mutual expectations, and the individual's development needs. In addition to those core activities in which the University believes it is essential that all new members of staff should participate, the Head of Institution will identify in consultation with the probationer any further essential requirements and note these on the record of progress form.

4.4.2 In the course of the probationary period, information as to progress will be gathered at appropriate intervals and will normally include the views of senior colleagues on both teaching, research, and general contribution. Student feedback and peer observation may also be taken into account.

4.4.3 The Head of Institution, or the person delegated to oversee the probationer, will meet with the probationer at least once a year. A written record of progress will be completed and kept by both parties. Where concern arises about aspects of an officer's performance, more regular meetings (e.g. twice a year) should be held and a record kept (see also 4.6.6). The purpose of each meeting is to review the probationer's progress under the general headings of teaching, research, and, where appropriate, general contribution to the work of the institution and to provide an opportunity for the individual to comment on the assessment. Form PD/PROB/R1 will be required for each year of probation and form PD/PROB/A1 for the final assessment.

Performance Criteria

4.5.1 Performance will be assessed against the criteria appropriate for the office or post held; it will therefore be concerned with ‘outputs’. There must be no doubt that the probationer has been performing according to all the relevant criteria and at a level appropriate in the Cambridge context. The main focus of assessment will be on some or all of the following: teaching, examining, and research. A positive general contribution to the work of the institution may also be taken into account in the overall assessment of performance. College teaching may also be taken into account as part of the assessment of overall performance provided there is no adverse effect on the contribution to the Faculty.

Evidence of Formal/Final Assessments

4.6.1 The responsibility for making the final overall assessment of the performance of the individual probationer and the recommendation to the Appointments Committee (see above) rests with the Head of Institution.

4.6.2 Consideration should be given to any special circumstances that may have resulted in a lack of opportunity for a new officer to perform to her/his full potential on account of disability.

4.6.3 The Human Resources Division will remind Faculties, Departments, and other institutions each year of the current position with regard to academic staff on probation and of the need to complete formal and final assessments.

4.6.4 The evidence on which formal and final assessments should be based is the record of assessment on the probationary form PD/PROB/R1 and both internal and external references.

4.6.5 In the course of the third year of probation, there should be a formal assessment. An overall minimum of three references should be sought of which at least one should be external, unless there is no duty to undertake research. The probationer will nominate two referees. The Head of Institution may seek additional references if these are required. Names of referees are not disclosable to the probationer for the purposes of this procedure. The Head of Institution may decide at this stage, on the basis of the referees' reports and the record of probation, to recommend to the Appointments Committee that the appointment be confirmed (see 4.7.1).

4.6.6 If a concern arises about the probationer's research performance, the Head of Institution may wish to seek an external reference sooner rather than later in order to be able to assess progress during the period leading up to the third year formal assessment (see 4.4.3).

4.6.7 The final assessment may take place in the course of the third, fourth, or fifth year depending on the probationer's progress. The evidence should be the record of probation (PD/PROB/R1) and references. If it is decided that confirmation of tenure in the third year of probation is premature, references should be updated and/or additional references sought for the final assessment. The requirements set out in 4.6.5 relating to number of references will apply for the final assessment.

Decision and Subsequent Action

4.7.1 Where performance during probation has been satisfactory, the Head of Institution will make a positive recommendation for the confirmation of appointment to the Appointments Committee. Performance records and references should be made available to the Appointments Committee.

4.7.2 On confirmation of appointment by the Appointments Committee, a University Officer shall hold office, subject to the provisions of Statute C, Schedule, until the retiring age or until the end of her/his tenure in the case of officers on fixed-term appointments, so long as s/he satisfactorily performs the duties of the office. It will be for the Head of Institution to inform the member of staff concerned that probation has been satisfactorily completed although written confirmation will be issued by the Human Resources Division.

4.7.3 Where there have been concerns about the performance of the probationer, the Head of Institution should detail these concerns on the form and ensure that the individual receives a copy.

4.7.4 In the event that performance is judged not to be satisfactory, the Head of Institution will inform the probationer that the recommendation to the Appointments Committee will be the termination of appointment. The probationer must be given an opportunity to make written representations to the Appointments Committee and may attend the meeting of the Appointments Committee if s/he wishes to do so in order to present her/his case. If a decision to dismiss is made by the Appointments Committee, the probationer will be given written reasons for non-confirmation and will be given notice (see 4.8.1 below).

4.7.5 If the appointment is terminated, the officer will have the right to appeal under the provisions of Ordinance C (xiii) (Appeals), which can be found at, and Ordinances, Chapter II, section 23 - Septemviri, which can be found at

4.7.6 In cases where there has been an extension (see 3.3), at the end of that period, subject to satisfactory progress being made, the action will be as in 4.7.1, 4.7.3 or 4.7.4 as appropriate.

Period of notice required during the probationary period

4.8.1 The period of notice to be given by the member of staff, or by the Head of Institution following a decision to terminate the appointment during the probationary period, will normally be three months on either side (one month's notice for a period of less than one year). The Head of Institution will convey the decision of the Appointments Committee to the probationer after consulting the Human Resources Division.

5. What happens after the probationary period?

5.1 The Staff Review and Development process (Appraisal) provides a formal means of carrying out a continuing review.