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University staff applicants not informed of hiring freeze before applying

In wake of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the University has put into effect a 12-month recruitment freeze and redeployment protocol for all internally funded posts. However, applications for many positions are still being advertised, meaning candidates may only be informed of the hiring freeze after they have applied.

The University’s jobs website states: “In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) challenges, the University is re-assessing its resource requirements. As a result, we are pausing some existing recruitment until further notice.”

The HR recruitment protocol clarified that “all recruitment exercises that are currently underway must be paused immediately (if an offer has not already been made) and the posts assessed against the new criteria for approval.”

Cherwell understands that some applicants have only been informed of the recruitment freeze after applying for jobs.

Aris Katzourakis, Oxford University and College Union Co-President, stated: “All jobs currently advertised may go through the anticipated processes for approval put in place in the current circumstances and therefore applicants could be contacted to be told the job has been withdrawn at any stage.”

An Oxford DPhil alumni criticised Oxford for failing to inform candidates in advance that recruitment procedures had been halted.

Wishing to remain anonymous, they told Cherwell: “Academia is already incredibly precarious for early career researchers, and academic job applications take days, if not weeks to complete well – indeed, many postdocs spend more time on job applications for their next position than on the research that they need to publish to help progress through the academic system.”

The University reportedly hopes to continue the recruitment process as soon as possible and will be in contact with candidates in the future to provide further updates.

According to the protocol, new research posts may only be created or fixed-term contracts extended if “there are overwhelming operational imperatives to fill the post.” Some other conditions such as posts that must be filled for legal requirements or safety reasons may also lead to approval of new contracts.

The protocol applies to recruitment across the University, including all departments and subsidiary companies. It does not apply to colleges or Permanent Private Halls. The University of Oxford is the largest employer in Oxfordshire and currently employs more than 1800 academic staff, more than 5,500 research and research support staff, and more than 6,100 graduate research students.

In response to hiring freezes and having to move teaching online, the board of Universities UK (UUK) has released a proposal to the UK government about a possible industry bailout plan, reportedly worth £2bn. According to the proposal, public funding could mitigate the impact of the ongoing crisis, as well as providing stability for students and researchers across the UK.

The University has been contacted for comment.

Image Credit to Theonlysilentbob/ Wikimedia Commons

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