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Probation for Academic Staff


All employees in Trinity College Dublin are subject to probation, including staff on Academic grades, and on the 11th September 2019 the Board of the University approved the new Probationary and Review Procedures for Academic Staff.

The Policy

The Probationary and Review Procedures for Academic Staff is the University's procedure for reviewing performance and progress during the probation period. The procedure defines the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved in conducting a probationary review, describes the categories that are under review, outlines the workflow and stages of the review.

Grades and Appointments covered

This policy is applicable to the following grades of academic staff:

  • Professor Of
  • Professor In
  • Associate Professor
  • Assistant Professor

The grade of Professor Of corresponds to the Professor salary scale; Professor In corresponds to the Associate Professor salary scale, Associate Professor corresponds to the Senior Lecturer salary scale and Assistant Professor corresponds to the Lecturer salary scale.

This policy is applicable to all staff members newly appointed to these grades, which includes any staff member successful in a competition within the University where a change in grade is involved.

This policy also applies to all contracts of employment i.e. permanent, contracts of indefinite duration, fixed term and specified purpose.

Please note that this policy does not apply to any staff member that is promoted to a higher grade following a successful application for promotion to a higher grade.

Probation Period Timeline

In line with the new Probationary and Review Procedures for Academic Staff, the standard probation period is 12 months.

Probation Year Structure

See below the following stages in the probation process:

First monthInduction and objective setting

  • Induction at University level, a new staff member meets the key personnel in the University who present them with knowledge on areas and services they might need in the early stages of their work life in Trinity. Please go to our Learning and Development website for further info.
  • Induction at local level, the Head of School provides the newly appointed academic with information to enable them to commence work, and agrees the criteria and objectives for performance reviews.
  • Objectives are performance measures agreed with the Head of School at the start of academic appointment and progress on achieving them should be overseen on regular basis. They will relate to research and scholarship, teaching and contribution to College/Discipline/Society.

End of first Term/Semester and second Term/Semester – Ongoing performance reviews
There will be two formal reviews of progress during the probation period. The first one at the end of the individual’s first term/semester, and the second at the end of the second term/semester. The new staff member will be reviewed against:

  • Specific measurable benchmark criteria established at the commencement of the probation period by agreement with the Head of School.
  • Their competence for the job.
  • Their progress on agreed goals and objectives.

These reviews are meetings between the staff member, their Head of Discipline (if appropriate) and the Head of School, and are organised at the School level.

Month 9 – Probation review
In line with the Policy, a Formal Probation Review for academic staff is due after 9 months from the staff member’s start date. This review involves

  • completion of an application form,
  • self-assessment of the objectives,
  • review meeting with the Head of School, and Head of Discipline, if appropriate,
  • sign off and submission of the paperwork to HR to probations@tcd.ie.

When assessing probationary performance, Assistant Professors will be considered under the following three categories:

  • Research and Scholarship
  • Teaching
  • Contribution to College/Discipline/Society

Please see the Policy for definitions on the above.

Month 12 - End of probation year
The outcome of the probation review is notified to HR and then to the University Council and Board.

If the probation was successful, the individual will continue in employment until the end date on their current contract.

Passing Probation is part of the eligibility criteria for progression and promotion opportunities, such as (but not limited to):

Roles and Responsibilities

The main responsibility on conducting a probation review for an academic staff member lies with the Head of School, who is responsible for:

  • Setting clear goals and objectives for the individual and ensuring they are inducted locally.
  • Ongoing review of progress against goals and objectives.
  • Initiating the formal probation review process and arranging a probation review meeting with the staff member.
  • Decision on whether probation has been successfully passed.

In schools that have Disciplines, the Head of Discipline may be asked to support the Head of School in reviewing the staff member’s progress on ongoing basis, as well as assist the Head of School in conducting the formal Probation Review with the staff member.

Staff member on probation collaborates with the Head of School and the Head of Discipline where appropriate in completing all steps required to conduct and finalise their probation in a timely manner.

The Head of School may consult with the Faculty Dean on a probation review.

Probation review in month 9 – Steps

There are a number of steps that need to be followed in order to complete a probation review for an academic staff member:

  1. HR notifies the Head of School of the review due date a month in advance.
  2. The Head of School initiates the review by contacting the staff member and scheduling a probation review meeting into their diaries.
  3. In advance of the meeting, the academic staff member on probation:
    1. Completes their online probation review form (see Academic Probation Review Form section below),
    2. Fills in a self-assessment of the objectives agreed with the Head of School at the start of their appointment,
  1. The Head of School comments on the self-assessment of the objectives.
  2. At the meeting with the staff member the Head of School discusses their work to date, their objectives and addresses any performance issues, if they arise.
  3. The Head of School will make the decision whether the staff member was successful or not in their probation review.
  4. Following the review meeting
    1. the form may be updated if required,
    2. the Head of School signs off on their recommendation, and
    3. sends to HR Probations at probations@tcd.ie
  1. HR notes the decision of the Head of School, records the application on the staff members HR record, and notifies the outcome to Council and Board.

In preparation for the performance review the Head of School should consult all relevant parties up to and including the Faculty Dean. It is also recommended that any paperwork and initial comments on objectives are shared between the staff member and their Head of School in advance of the review meeting.

Academic Probation Review Form

The new Academic Probation Review form was developed based on the Research Support System (RSS). This new Review Form consists of two elements:

  1. RSS MyApplication – the online RSS form generated with use of the MyRSS Wizard that sources majority of the required information from already populated RSS Profile.
  2. Objectives form – an updated version of objectives set at the start of year 1 of Assistant Professor’s Appointment, but now with the staff member’s self-reflection and room for comments from the Head of School.

At the probation review, the objectives form should include self-reflection on achieving of the agreed objectives, and feedback on the objectives should constitute a significant part of the review meeting. It also links with the Assistant Professor Development Program that continues after completion of probation.

The review form will only be considered completed if it includes both the RSS My Application document and the Objectives Form, either combined into one document, or as two separate documents submitted together to probations@tcd.ie.

Steps to complete the Academic Probation Review form

Completion of the Academic Probation Form may be a lengthy process, so we advise that any academic staff member on probation starts working on their application as soon as possible. They should be able to access the RSS from early days of their appointment, and their work on keeping their RSS profile up to date will reduce the amount of time spent on converting their already populated details into their probation application form. The steps to complete the academic probation application form are as follows:

  • Fill in RSS Profile and keep it up-to-date
  • Generate an academic probation review form with MyRSS MyApplication Wizard
    • Link to the MyRSS CV Wizard
    • Link to the MyRSS User Guide:
      • Go through all the sections of the Wizard to make sure that all information populates correctly from your RSS Profile
      • Some sections need to be completed manually, so make sure that you filled in all fields that are required.
      • After updating the form in MyRSS Wizard, generate the word document and check if all information populated correctly. You can edit the word document, so if you need to add or amend anything you can do it in Word rather than go back to the RSS
  • Update your Objectives Form for year 1
    • Your objectives should have been agreed in the initial months of the staff member's appointment. At the probation review stage, they should be assessed by both the staff member and the Head of School

Outcomes and Extension

As per the policy, following the probation review meeting, the Head of School will decide if:

  • The staff member has met the performance standard, and probation is successful
  • The staff member has not met performance standard, therefore probation was not successful.

If the probation was successful, the individual will continue in employment until the end date of their current contract.

If the probation was not successful, the Head of School will decide in agreement with the Faculty Dean on the following two options:

  • the individual will be given notice and will exit the organisation, or
  • the probation period will be extended.

The decision will be communicated to the academic staff member by the Head of School in writing and feedback will be provided.

As per the Policy, in exceptional circumstances, the University reserves the right to extend the probation period, where it has not been possible to adequately assess the new staff member in the period, due to:

  • Illness
  • Family/protective leave e.g. maternity leave/carer's leave.

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