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Head of Department

Position

The Head of Department reports to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of their Division (or Dean in Division of Health Sciences), provides academic leadership and has primary responsibility for the operational performance of the department.

Academic departments and other units have a central role in sustaining a vital and collegial environment at the University of Otago. Heads of Department are in the heart of the organisation; they have a mandate to advance and promote knowledge, critical thinking and intellectual independence in order to enhance the understanding, development and wellbeing of individuals and society. This is achieved by building on foundations of broad research and teaching capabilities, unique campus learning environments, nationwide presence and mana as well as international links.

Key responsibilities

The Head of Department is responsible for:

  1. Providing effective leadership which inspires others and ensures that the department contributes to the University of Otago's international reputation as a research-led University.
  2. Articulating and implementing a clear strategic vision for the department which aligns with the Division and University, while maintain the departmental culture and values.
  3. Fostering the pre-eminent role of research in the department and enhancing the capacity for outstanding research across all represented disciplines.
  4. Further developing the commitment of the department to excellence in teaching and the provision of an enriching student experience.
  5. Developing the commitment of the Department to knowledge application, exchange, collaboration, and, where appropriate, commercialisation strategies in order to enhance the impact the University of Otago can have on national and international development.
  6. Ensuring effective management of departmental resources.
  7. Building effective relationships, as appropriate, between the Department and Ngai Tahu, the wider Maori community, Government, government agencies, local and regional bodies, professional organisations, and industry.
  8. Ensuring that there is effective clinical/professional leadership in the Department. This responsibility applies to Heads of Department working in clinical/professional disciplines (e.g medicine,law, pharmacy, dentistry, surveying, education, physiotherapy, nursing, radiation therapy, nutrition, accountancy, physical education)

It is expected that the Head of Department will enhance their career during their appointment. This means that some of the above responsibilities and authority will be delegated to colleagues in the Department as part of sharing leadership and development opportunities, fostering inclusive decision-making and addressing successional arrangements.

Person specification

  1. Commitment to excellence in research, education and translation of research to meet community needs.
  2. Proven capability as an academic leader involved in research and teaching programmes.
  3. Effective communication and relationship management skills with the ability to build trust and create a motivating environment for staff and students.
  4. Ability to identify opportunities and risks for the Department and incorporate these into strategic planning.
  5. Ability to make sound decisions about the use of resources in order to achieve departmental goals.
  6. Understanding and commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, particularly in relation to the University environment.
  7. Understanding of the University's Maori Strategic Framework and its relevance across the institution.
  8. A commitment to knowledge application, exchange and, where appropriate, commercialisation strategies to enhance the impact the University of Otago can have on national and international development.

Activities of Academic Heads of Department

The nature and extent of activities undertaken by Heads of Departments vary according to different disciplines and size of Departments. It is anticipated that Heads of Department will be supported in their leadership role by academic and general staff in the Department.

People and resources

  1. Recognise that staff are the most important asset in the University by fostering a vibrant, diverse Department and using a consultative approach to decision-making whenever possible.
  2. Support and provide advice on the career development of both academic and general staff in the Department.
  3. Recruit and retain high-quality staff who contribute to the Department, Division and University.
  4. Promote and foster a positive, inclusive and collegial environment that encourages a high level of performance, communication and teamwork.
  5. Recognise the importance of good communication and transparency in decision-making.
  6. Acknowledge and reward successes achieved by students and staff.
  7. Ensure that an effective operational structure and workload model enable the Department to achieve strategic goals.
  8. Promote practices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and students engaged in research, knowledge application, exchange and commercialisation of research, teaching, and service.
  9. Ensure responsible financial, space and resource management within the Department and actively pursue opportunities to improve financial performance of the Department within the constraints imposed by the School/Division in which it is located. This includes securing an adequate, diversified funding base and minimising bureaucracy where possible.

Research and teaching

  1. Foster the development of academic programmes and research in the Department in order to provide an intellectually stimulating and collegial environment for students and staff which is consistent with the University's culture and values.
  2. Ensure that decisions are made to strengthen departmental research culture and ethos. This includes recruiting high-quality research-active staff, maintaining and developing an optimal research infrastructure, using funds to support increased research performance in strategic areas and, in some instances, withdrawing from areas where research is not strong.
  3. Promote strong research-teaching synergies to enhance the quality of teaching.
  4. Foster innovative approaches to teaching which are supported by high-quality learning facilities.
  5. Create an environment that supports the departmental teaching and learning plan including recruitment of "top calibre" entrants.
  6. Contribute to regional and national good by promoting participation of the Department in national forums and encouraging research and, where appropriate, commercialisation of research which supports development regionally, nationally and internationally. Ensure that staff undertake these activities in an ethical, social and environmentally responsible manner.
  7. Ensure that the Department actively and effectively engages with national bodies, industry, political and community leaders in order to develop research (including the application, translation and, where appropriate, commercialisation of research) and learning opportunities which may lead to collaborative partnerships and entrepreneurial activities.
  8. Encourage a culture of innovation, evaluation and benchmarking against similar Departments in Australasia and elsewhere.
  9. Advocate for, and represent, the interests and needs of the Department within the University and the Division through engagement with staff and committees across the University and within Academic and Service Divisions.

Strategy and planning

  1. Develop and implement a strategic plan for the Department, in consultation with other colleagues, which enhances the national and international standing of the Department and is in accord with Divisional and University strategic imperatives.

Foster ongoing discussions with staff to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in decisions about where the Department is heading and how excellence can be achieved.

Head of Department Support Fund

Purpose

The 2008 Working Party on the Role of Heads of Departments emphasised the importance of Heads of Department (HoD) continuing to be research active. This was both a key element of the HoD role and critical to their ongoing academic career.

The Working Party recognised that the HoD role is a vital and strategic role if the University is to continue to flourish in its three major dimensions of teaching, research and community service. The HoD position is a role of significant responsibility, which provides value to the Department and achievement for the individual.

By recognising that HoDs are both leaders as well as administrators who are active scholars and researchers, the University accepts its responsibility to provide high quality training and support to enable them to realise these outcomes and enable them to be successful across a range of academic endeavours.

Support Fund

In order to provide support for administration and research a support fund of up to $25,000 per annum is provided. A Department may supplement the fund to an appropriate level. The fund is available to Heads of Department for Departments that are also Cost Centres, and Deans of Faculty or School. Note that this is additional and separate to the Head of Department Allowance.

The HOD may use this fund within the criteria outlined below and in such a way that there is a demonstrable link between use of the fund and support for research. Use of the funds will be signed off annually by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or Dean in Health Sciences). Any reporting and administration requirements will be defined and managed by each Divisional office.

Criteria for use of the Support Fund

The primary objective of the Support Fund is that it should be used to directly support the HOD’s research. Therefore it is expected that expenditure would show a direct link to this objective. It is not intended that the Fund is used to supplement the existing Departmental budgets for general purposes or is used as a source of discretionary funds with no, or a weak link to the objective of the Fund. It is acknowledged that use of the Fund will vary across Departments and Divisions depending on circumstances and requirements of each individual HOD. Examples of how the Fund may be used include:

  • For the provision of research assistance or for teaching relief
  • For further or improved administrative support by the addition of more staffing resource or development of existing staff. This may include providing support staff with opportunities to obtain further knowledge or experience. The intent would be for the administrative staff member to complete administrative tasks that would otherwise need to be undertaken by a HoD. This may include the HoD delegating the authority to act in certain circumstances
  • The short-term employment of a research/teaching assistant or fellow
  • In smaller Departments, HoDs may fund a shared administrative or research position in conjunction with the Divisional Office or other Departments
  • Reducing the HoD’s teaching load by employing additional teaching staff
  • Purchase or rental of administrative or technical equipment that would not normally be available to the HoD that would provide time release
  • Attendance at conferences and courses both within New Zealand and internationally
  • The employment of casual administrative/personal assistants for high workload periods or specific one-off tasks/projects
  • Visits to overseas universities and institutions to keep up to date with trends in the academic area and/or university administration generally

Process

To access the Fund the HoD will submit a plan to their Pro-Vice-Chancellor or Dean (in Health Sciences) at the beginning of their term as HoD or prior to each year, outlining how they intend to allocate their funding. The plan would explain how the expenditure is intended to assist the HoD in supporting their research or teaching.

Once the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or Dean in Health Sciences) has signed off how the funds will be used, the HoD has the discretion to use this fund within the agreed plan. Any reporting and administration requirements will be defined and managed by each Divisional office.

The plan and expenditure can be altered at any time during the year after discussion between the HoD and the PVC during the year. Unspent funds do not carry forward ie they will not accrue from year to year.

It is important that Pro-Vice-Chancellors ensure equity in the ways in which these rewards are managed.

Context of academic leadership positions

The organisational structure within which Academic Heads of Department provide leadership is outlined using the following definitions.

Definition of an Academic Division

An Academic Division is a large organisational grouping of Schools and Departments covering a group of related academic discipline which have primary responsibility for a cluster of related research, teaching and learning, programme development and community service activities.

Definition of a School or Department

A School or Department is a core academic unit comprising a number of academic and general staff focusing on research, teaching and learning, programme development and community service activities located around a discipline or group of related disciplines and/or professional functions. The function, size and structure of a School varies between the different Divisions.

Definition of Commercialisation of Research

Commercialisation of research may involve the following activities:

  • For the provision of research assistance or for teaching relief.
  • For further or improved administrative support by the addition of more staffing resource or development of existing staff. This may include providing support staff with opportunities to obtain further knowledge or experience. The intent would be for the administrative staff member to complete administrative tasks that would otherwise need to be undertaken by a HoD. This may include the HoD delegating the authority to act in certain circumstances.
  • The short-term employment of a research/teaching assistant or fellow.
  • In smaller Departments, HoDs may fund a shared administrative or research position in conjunction with the Divisional Office or other Departments.
  • Reducing the HoD’s teaching load by employing additional teaching staff.
  • Purchase or rental of administrative or technical equipment that would not normally be available to the HoD that would provide time release.
  • Attendance at conferences and courses both within New Zealand and internationally.
  • The employment of casual administrative/personal assistants for high workload periods or specific one-off tasks/projects.
  • Visits to overseas universities and institutions to keep up to date with trends in the academic area and/or university administration generally.
  1. Translation of intellectual property arising through the research efforts of staff into products and services which will benefit society and have economic benefits for New Zealand and internationally. Intellectual property is interpreted widely covering: patents, copyright, designs, know-how. Translation may occur though creation of spin-out companies, licencing agreements, sale of the intellectual property, co-development with existing companies.
  2. Commercial research contracts through which companies fund research at Otago where that research may have its genesis at Otago or alternatively be initiated by the company.
  3. Knowledge-transfer by provision of research-based expert advice.