Academic Head Appointment Process Guidelines


Those applying for the role of academic head and staff members who support the selection and appointment process.


These processes are designed to provide context and additional information to support the Academic Head Appointment Policy. This document has been developed to ensure that there is a consistent approach across the University to the appointment process including terms and conditions.

Appointment process


Beginning the process of appointing a new academic head twelve months prior to the commencement of the role:

  • assists the faculty with succession planning and the transition between individuals
  • provides the faculty the time to run a formal appointment process, including the appropriate engagement and approval processes
  • provides the successful appointee (known as the academic head designate) the time to participate in the expected induction and development programmes described in the Personal Development section below

To enable this process HR will inform the dean of the need to appoint an academic head 15 months prior to the end of term of the current head


The appointments policy is based on the expectation that the process to appoint is transparent and applied consistently across the University

At the beginning of the appointment process the dean will form an appointments panel and seek expressions of interest (EOI) from within the unit and the wider faculty if appropriate

Appointments panel

The dean will form an appointments panel with representation from the unit and the faculty leadership team. The dean will chair the panel and other members should include:

  • deputy dean
  • director of faculty operations
  • a minimum of two representatives from the academic unit – the dean will call for nominations from the unit. it is anticipated/desirable/expected that nominees will have some leadership experience
  • at least one academic head from within the faculty
  • HR Manager

Note: Should an external recruitment process be required the panel also needs to reflect the requirements of the Academic Staff Recruitment, Selection and Appointment Procedures

Members of the panel are expected to act as the conduit for confidential feedback from staff within the unit/faculty during the EOI and deliberations processes

Expression of interest

The EOI should be sent to all academic staff in the unit and/or faculty as appropriate. The EOI should be accompanied by:

  • a letter from the dean which provides an overview of the unit, its key challenges/issues and any specific expectations that the dean may have for the unit and role during the tenure
  • an outline of the process and associated timeframes
  • the Academic Head Appointment Policy and associated process
  • the Academic Head Role Description (find in Key Relevant Documents) and the associated Academic Head Role Description Guide

The appointments panel should evaluate each EOI against the dean’s overview letter and the role description and determine which candidates will proceed to interview. Due to the number of EOIs received the panel may elect to undertake a short-listing process, prior to undertaking the more comprehensive EOI evaluation

Staff members within the unit should be given the opportunity to provide their views on the candidates, in writing, via panel members. The panel should determine how it wishes to use staff feedback during the interview and following deliberations

In the case of a single applicant, the panel should evaluate the EOI against the dean’s overview letter and the role description and determine whether the applicant is suitable to proceed to interview

External appointment

In certain circumstances, for example a gap in the readiness of staff in the unit or faculty to meet the requirements of the role, the dean may elect to recruit from outside the faculty/University. This must be done with the Vice-Chancellor’s agreement and approval of the recruitment process.

Panel interviews, deliberations and appointment recommendation

  • The panel should determine the process to use for interviewing candidates and ensure that it is used consistently for each candidate
  • Candidates may be asked to present to the academic unit prior to interview
  • If the successful candidate is external then a referee check is required
  • The dean will make a recommendation on the appointment to the Vice-Chancellor, having taken advice / received recommendations from the panel.
  • The recommendation will include information on the allocation of duties and support package

Upon the Vice-Chancellor’s approval the dean will discuss the offer of appointment and negotiate the details with the appointee. The agreed details should follow the Academic Heads Appointment Policy and also reflect this process and the Academic Support Package Guidelines

In consultation with faculty HR, a letter of appointment will be provided through the dean’s office

Appointment of an interim head

In special circumstances, where there is a gap between the end of the current head’s term and the appointment of a new head, the dean may appoint an acting head for no more than 12 months, with the approval of the VC. In cases where a selection process occurs during the time an acting head is in place, the acting head may put in an expression of interest. Should they do so they will not take part in the appointment process as outlined above

Term of appointment and time allocation


The University sees the role of scholar/leader academic head as pivotal for the University to achieve its strategic objectives. As such the term of appointment has been determined to provide a reasonable period of time to shape the direction of the unit and embed any associated changes. The normal term of appointment is expected to be in the range of four to five years. The term will be determined between the dean and the academic head as part of the appointment process.

A second term of between three and five years can be considered. If this is the case the dean needs to seek feedback from staff members within the unit prior to making a recommendation to reappoint to the Vice-Chancellor

In exceptional circumstances, where a second term is not under consideration, there may be an extension to the original term, of one year, with approval from the Vice-Chancellor. These circumstances could include:

  • the need to extend the tenure to allow for a potential candidate to be considered in the next appointment process. This could include the fact that a potential candidate is on research and study leave, or has other commitments that could exclude them from applying
  • allowing the existing head time to implement planned initiatives
  • faculty/University commitments that require the role to be extended

Time allocation

The time allocated to the role will be negotiated with the dean and will include an assessment of the:

  • expectations of the dean
  • complexity and scope of the unit and the work planned and to be done
  • circumstances of the individual head

The usual allocation would be between 0.4 and 0.6 FTE and this would be set at the beginning of the term with the remainder of time spent on academic duties. The allocation should be reviewed on an annual basis during the Academic Development and Performance Review (ADPR) process and may exceed 0.6 for a limited period should circumstances warrant it


The academic head role description and associated guidelines outline the key duties and responsibilities for the role

Unit leadership/management

The academic head is both a scholar and a leader and part of the leadership component includes operational management. The dean will outline the faculty approach to operational management that is consistent with University policies, including processes of decision making and reporting, and University and faculty policy

The academic head is responsible for reviewing the development and performance of academic staff members, and the dean is responsible for reviewing the development and performance of the academic head, through the ADPR process

At least annually, the dean and academic head should review the performance and achievements of the unit

Research and teaching

An academic head is expected to maintain a reasonable level of research and teaching during their tenure. Discussion on research and teaching workload allocations and the associated support should form part of the negotiation with the dean during the offer of appointment discussions

Annual review

An annual review of the expectations and weightings assigned to unit leadership/management, research and teaching should be undertaken as part of the annual review of the FTE allocated to the academic head role as part of the ADPR process

Support package

Professional development

The University wishes to ensure that an academic head is provided appropriate development opportunities and support to be effective in the role

An academic head designate is required to participate in the generic University academic head induction programme which will begin prior to the commencement of the role and continue in the early stages of the role. This programme will cover key University expectations and introduce the relevant service division requirements / support as well as faculty specific expectations and support. This development will usually be undertaken with a cohort of new academic heads

More detailed skills development will be provided to familiarise an academic head with the systems and processes they will use in the role

New heads will be able to attend workshops and forums provided by the University HeadsUp programme. A personal leadership development programme may also be developed in consultation with the dean and Human Resources through the ADPR process

Research time and headship leave

Research time during headship

As stated previously, an academic head is expected to remain research active during their tenure. To facilitate this, the academic head should allocate at least four weeks per annum for research activities, in one or more blocks of time. Given that there may be times when this is not possible, this time can be accumulated and used flexibly over the term of appointment, although no more than eight weeks should be taken at one time. Use of this time needs to be arranged in consultation with the dean

Headship leave

As per the Academic Head Appointments Policy, an academic head who has completed their tenure is entitled to apply for headship leave which will accrue at the rate of 6 weeks per annum. This leave can be taken in one block and can be added to a period of Short Research and Study Leave (RSL). Alternatively it can be taken in two blocks of 3 months, to reduce disruption to the unit and to assist with the transition of the new head. The second three month period can also be added to an application for Short Leave

The total leave taken at the end of the term, including any period of research and study leave should normally not exceed one year. Refer to the Research and Study Leave (RSL) policy for details including Grant in Aid entitlement.

Where an academic head is appointed to a second term, the following applies:

  • headship leave of up to 30 weeks dependent on the length of term is taken at the end of the first term. This is not normally taken in conjunction with RSL unless the dean believes suitable arrangements for an acting head can be made
  • the head may decide not to take headship leave between the end of the first term and the beginning of the second due to the need for consistency over this period. In this case they must take their headship leave at some other stage during the first two years of the second term in one block of time (research time and or additional headship leave time may be added to this but must not exceed one year)
  • During the second term headship leave will accumulate at the rate of 4 weeks per annum. Headship leave taken in this way is in addition to the existing provision for research time during headship and can be taken in conjunction with it
  • At the end of the second term the outgoing head will be eligible to apply for RSL as per the RSL policy

The timing and amounts of leave will be subject to negotiation with the dean, recognising the desirability of leave not exceeding one year at any one time. Larger blocks of leave that result from taking a combination of headship leave and research time can be seen as development opportunities for deputy heads or other staff members who have been identified as future leaders


Support terms and conditions will be confirmed by the dean in consultation with the academic head designate and will balance the circumstances of the individual with the needs of the unit. This includes the headship VSP component and research and/or teaching support. While there is flexibility, the overall administration support package should not exceed the parameters set in the Academic Support Package Guidelines. Details of the support terms and conditions must be outlined in the recommendation to appoint memo to the Vice-Chancellor


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic head refers to the role that leads an academic unit within a faculty and reports directly to the dean of the faculty. The role is a level 3 position. Level 4 academic heads in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences are covered by faculty specific procedures within the parameters of this policy

Academic head designate refers to the successful applicant after the appointment has been made, and prior to beginning in the role

Headship variable supplementary payment (VSP) refers to a payment made in recognition of the increased responsibilities of the academic head role

Grant in Aid is a payment made to a staff member who has been approved research and study leave in order to assist with covering actual incurred costs during the period of leave

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owner: Director of Human Resources
Content manager: Associate Director: HR Advisory
Approved by: The Vice-Chancellor
Date approved: 14 September 2017
Review date: September 2020