Achievement relative to opportunity

An outline of changes to the 'achievement relative to opportunity' policy, plus frequently asked questions

Achievement Relative to Opportunity is an evaluative concept enabling fair and equitable assessment of a staff member’s achievements given the opportunities available to them. It is particularly pertinent to staff whose personal circumstances, such as carer responsibilities, health and disability, cultural or community obligations and unforeseen personal events have a significant impact on their workplace participation.

Read the University’s:

Recent updates and Covid-19

A 2020 review of the Merit relative to opportunity policy resulted in the title being changed to Achievement relative to opportunity. Other changes included:

  • Emphasising taking personal circumstances into account
  • More case studies provided in the guidelines to assist correct interpretation
  • Stronger encouragement to disclose circumstances and to indicate their impact
  • Confidentiality requirements are strengthened.

An additional benefit of the Achievement relative to opportunity policy and procedures, and ARO guidelines, has been their use in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on assessment. This may influence future Continuation, Promotion and Performance-Based Research Funding assessments, Tupu, recruitment and other assessment procedures. Noting some staff without Carer responsibilities may have increased opportunities for productivity under these circumstances.

It is recommended that academic heads and managers are proactive in asking staff to keep a record of barriers and successes during this period for reference in future assessment processes, and have regular conversations with staff. Staff should be aware of how to raise these issues. The disruptions may have on-going impact in 2021, and possibly 2022.

See case studies and Achievement relative to opportunity policy and guidelines:

Achievement relative to opportunity policy, procedures and guidelines: FAQs

Q. Who is the best person to discuss an achievement relative to opportunity (ARO) issue with?

A. Your manager or academic head will be able to provide guidance. Alternatively, you could speak to your HR manager or the Equity Office Te Ara Tautika.

Q. What if the issue the relates to a very sensitive matter that I don't want disclosed to a selection committee?

A. You can disclose the issue to your manager, HR or academic head and they can convey the significance of the event to the chair of the selection committee. You are not required to disclose details.

Q. What sort of issues are covered by the ARO policy?

A. Personal circumstances that have significantly affected your work for example, this may be absence due to illness, disability, parental leave, carer responsibilities.

Q. If I’m a member of the Faculty staffing committee and know about an issue (such as an illness) that has affected an applicant's work but they haven't included it on their promotions/continuation application, can I tell the other committee members?

A. No, the applicant's privacy must be respected. Applicants themselves are encouraged to request consideration of ARO.

Q. I’m an academic head and, when reviewing applications, notice that an applicant, whom I know has had significant personal issues that have affected their work, hasn't included this information on their application - can I note it in my report?

A. Not without the applicant's permission. You should discuss this with the applicant and encourage them to request ARO in their application and to describe the impact it has had on their work. They don't have to include personal details. You can then attest to the impact that significant personal circumstances have had.

Q. I’ve had nine months' parental leave. Does that mean I can request consideration of ARO?

A. Yes. When you request consideration of ARO you can state the circumstances (nine months' parental leave) then describe the impact this has had on your work.

Q. Is ARO relevant to both professional and academic staff?

A. Yes consideration of ARO can be requested by anyone whose performance is being assessed  and where they have had significant personal circumstances affecting their work.

Q. How is the impact of personal circumstances assessed?

A. This is always on a case-by-case basis. Some examples will be clearly defined by the periods of  time  out of work. However, the reason for being away can have impact after a persons returns to work. For example if a person has had six months' parental leave, they are still likely to be closely involved with caring for their baby for some time after their return to work.