When staff take periods of leave for maternity, extended paternity, long term parental leave, they find it challenging to focus on their research when they return to work. Since research is valued in terms of promotion and academic career progression, sometimes taking time off can delay individuals in their career development.
Providing institutional funding to support re-establishing research programs after parental leave (e.g. providing teaching relief support for new parents): Establishing a Warwick Academic Returner’s Fellowship Scheme
To support academic staff to focus on their research activities returning from extended periods of child care leave.
Resources/budget to be allocated towards this scheme so that it runs effectively.
Clear guidelines for applicants and HoDs and departmental administrators for what is entailed.
Someone to oversee logistics/applications of this scheme (workload).
Greater support for academics coming back from parental leave.
Change of university culture to reflect better the needs of academics who return from parental leave and allow them to develop their research portfolio.
Work and personal life integration
Type of action
Availability of supports/resources
University of Warwick
Higher education institution
Action level of implementation
Researchers/professors and technical and administrative staff
The Fellowship essentially ‘buys out’ teaching and administration duties for those on full academic contracts, to allow the returners to fully concentrate on their research work for a period of time that matches the amount of maternity/adoption leave taken.
Academic staff (permanent members of staff with teaching responsibilities) apply for this scheme after discussing it with their Head of Department. The application requires a clear explanation of how the funding will be used to accelerate their research work. The scheme was evaluated and explicit guidelines have been provided to inform applicants and Heads of Departments how to use these fellowships
A small committee at university level (senior level staff) decides on who is successful.
Successful candidates have to provide a brief report after the end of their fellowship and report what they gained from being awarded the fellowship.
At the beginning, the use to which the funding could be put was not specified in detail to allow flexibility for the fellows. However, this led to some departmental practices that did not benefit the fellows. It was therefore changed to be only for teaching buy-outs.
A substantial amount of budget needs to be committed from the organisation to allow departments to hire an individual to undertake teaching and administrative duties for the fellow. In this specific context (UK university) the fellowship costed on average about 10,000.
The scheme was evaluated and explicit guidelines have been provided to inform applicants and Heads of Departments how to use these fellowships
Tips/strategies – Lessons learnt
- Ensure senior leadership commitment to provide resources/budget to be allocated towards this scheme so that it runs effectively.
- Communicate clearly to HoDs and administrators about how this scheme should operate in practical terms and everyday business. While flexibility is good, clear guidelines should developed for applicants, HoDs and departmental administrators for what is entailed so that the schemes operates consistently across departments
- Someone to oversee logistics/applications of this scheme (workload).
- Evaluate yearly the scheme to ensure that it is applied consistently and there are no unintended consequences (quantitative and qualitative feedback)
More detailed Outcomes/Impact
Feedback from both participants and Heads of Departments has been excellent, with all commenting how the fellowships have been very beneficial to the applicants’ research work, allowing them valuable time to set up projects and write publications/grant applications.
One Head of Department commented that the scheme was very valuable to staff and made them feel supported by the University in returning to their research after their maternity or other parental leave.