Ghent University approves new career policy for research staff

On 1 February 2019, the Board of Governors of Ghent University approved the new regulations for research staff (WP), that improve the contract regulations, and offer a supplementary pension to all WP in line with market practice.

With these new regulations, that take effect on 1 April 2019, Ghent University is once again setting new standards for one of its staff categories, after the recent launch of a new evaluation and promotion model for professorial staff.

"I am convinced that this new HR policy will empower our research staff as well as Ghent University itself. Together with the vice-rector, I am committed to continuing to build a university that appreciates and empowers motivated staff members, allows their talent to develop and stimulates excellence." (Rector Rik Van de Walle)

The key points of the new policy were approved on 6 July 2018. Over the past few months, the staff of the Department of Personnel and Organization (DPO) has been working hard on new regulations to make this policy concrete and workable for both the research staff member and the supervisor.

"On behalf of the vice-rector and myself, I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to the many colleagues who have contributed to this." (Rector Rik Van de Walle)

Starting from a global HR vision which goes beyond the staff categories, the new policy for WP has been aligned as much as possible with the principles of the renewed career model for professorial staff, which is based on trust in and the personal and professional strengths of our academic staff and has been received very well at both national and international forums.

The new policy concerns all research staff members who are contractually employed at Ghent University with either a fixed-term contract or a contract of indefinite duration as a scientific contributor (WM) or postdoctoral researcher (PD). This comes down to about 900 employees, who are divided in tree groups, depending on the finality of their assignment:

  • predoctoral research staff:  conducting academic research with a view to obtaining a doctoral degree)
  • postdoctoral research staff:  with a doctoral degree conducting in-depth academic research with a view to developing an academic or non-academic career in Belgium or abroad)
  • research staff with a different assignment which has no preor postdoctoral finality (e.g., a researcher on a short-term project, a project manager, a research coordinator or the head / a staff member of a clinic)

  • The employment terms and the career prospects are specifically tailored to the finality of each group. For preen postdoctoral research staff this is a finite prospect.

    • Recruitment starts with the advertisement of an open vacancy . Only for predoctoral research staff this is not obliged. This guarantees the best possible match in terms of the competency profile for a specific vacancy ("the best researcher in the right place") as well as equal opportunities for all researchers.
    • The salary and the implementation of the functional career are laid down per group for the entire university.
    • All WP employed by Ghent University on 1 January 2019 receive a supplementary pension plan . This plan guarantees a decent supplementary pension on top of the government pension. The supplementary pension plan starts to accrue retroactively from 1 January 2016 and fully corresponds to the supplementary pension plan for administrative and technical staff (ATP), which came into force at that time.
    • All research staff members have access to Ghent University-specificHR support and career guidance , similar to what is available for other staff categories.
    • The evaluation proces s is simplified , and embraces a culture of open feedback between the supervisors and their staff in a positive, stimulating work environment. In accordance with the objectives of the project ’UGent Verlicht: administrative simplification’ , the procedures are kept straightforward. The philosophy of the new career model for professorial staff, based on trust, dialogue and personal and professional development, is thus extended to the research staff.
    • The circumstances that can lead to the termination of an employment are clearly defined. In addition to reaching the end of the maximum term of the academic assignment, an employment can be terminated due to, for example, unfavourable evaluations or demonstrable financial reasons or as a result of structural changes in the research line / academic assignment.
    • Transitional measures are in place for the current WP. Staff members who have 4 years of contractual seniority or more on 1 April 2019 are offered a contract of indefinite duration. For staff members with less seniority, the budget holder decides whether or not the contract is converted into a contract of indefinite duration.