Human Resources

Frequently asked questions

Further information

Titles and roles

For the purposes of these FAQs

  • Traditional” refers to the original single titles system which was in use before 2009 and aligns with all other Australian universities. .
  • Introduced” titles refers to a new title system introduced in 2009. These titles did not supercede the traditional titles.

FAQs to the Executive.

  1. Why are we changing the current titles system?

    Some staff of this University are ineligible for grants due to confusion surrounding our titles system rather than the merit of their application. The Executive are continuing to liaise with Federal funding bodies (the NHMRC in particular) regarding eligibility of our academics and demonstrate that this University has transparent and consistent titles which align with other Australian universities. It has been determined that anything other than a single titles system would be counterproductive to our case.

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  2. Why was a decision made without consultation or a ballot (as suggested by the NTEU)?

    As neither titles system is compulsory, staff have a period of time before the transition at the end of January (and any time after that) to consider whether they wish to opt in or opt out of the transition to a single titles system. .

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  3. Can the University contest the eligibility criteria set by NHMRC?

    When it became evident that UWA titles were problematic, with a number of applicants being ruled ineligible, the University appealed to the NHMRC, and then to the Commissioner of Complaints during 2013. After these appeals were unsuccessful, academics applying in the last round were advised to adopt the traditional titles before applying. Some of these applicants were subsequently ruled ineligible on the basis they had once held the “higher” title. It has become apparent that individual applicants changing to traditional titles has not resolved the uncertainty for them or future applicants.

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  4. Why has the Executive made a unilateral decision to adopt traditional titles for all academic staff?

    The University has decided to establish a single titles system for the many reasons outlined in these Frequently Asked Questions. Current discussions with the Commonwealth Funding Bodies include demonstration of transparent and consistent titles, requiring a whole of university move to a single titles system which aligns with other Australian universities. Adoption of traditional titles is not compulsory and staff may elect to “opt out”.

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  5. Is there an alternative to the current decision?

    The University could continue with a dual titles system which will require:

    • Appeal of individual cases as they occur and argue the case that eligibility should be based on Level and academic record rather than on the current or previous nomenclature of an individual; and/or ·
    • Pursue a case that the interpretation of eligibility is unfair or unreasonable.

    However, the Executive have decided that none of these alternatives will support individual applicants, the reputation of the University or address the inconsistency of the second titles system which is not widely understood outside of this University.

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  6. Why is funding through Australian Competitive Grants important?

    Any impediment to our ability to attract funding through Australian Competitive Grants will affect our ability to attract and retain the most talented academics, and impact on UWA research income and publications for the HERDC dataset which determines the distribution of Commonwealth block grants to support research and research training – worth $1.72 billion in 2014. These will in turn impact our ability to achieve the University’s mission to support the welfare and prosperity of the University and wider community.

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  7. Why should I adopt the traditional titles?

    While ineligibility when applying for highly competitive Commonwealth grants has an immediate impact on individual academics, this in turn impacts on their discipline and the wider University community. The University’s share of Commonwealth block grants to support research and research training is crucial when we are facing funding uncertainty.  At the same time that the University is trying to reassure funding bodies that our titles are transparent and consistent, our current binary titles system undermines our case.

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  8. Is it appropriate to wait to change to a traditional title when everyone else does?

    The University is hopeful that most academic staff will appreciate the value to individual colleagues endeavouring to apply for grants based on merit, the University’s ability to attract block grants, and a consistent titles system which provides transparency both within and outside of this University. Waiting for others to take the lead will not, in the end, provide a single titles system – whether the traditional or introduced titles.

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  9. Will moving to traditional titles be viewed as a demotion?

    Just as the move to the introduced titles was not a promotion in 2009, the current transition to traditional titles is not a demotion. Conditions of employment remain unchanged. Any perception that an academic who has shifted to traditional titles has been demoted demonstrates the lack of understanding about our introduced titles. This is a primary reason the University is now acting to establish a single titles system that other Australian academics understand. It is also worth recognising that leading academics at this University and at other Australian universities succeed with applications, publishing and collaborations using the traditional titles,

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  10. What was the “considerable deliberation” taken by the Executive before making the current decision?

    The Executive appreciate that many academic staff at UWA adopted and embraced the titles system introduced in 2009, and other staff have been appointed, promoted and renewed with those titles since that time. They also appreciate that some staff will be concerned about how a change in nomenclature will be perceived, particularly in the US.  The Executive have acted on known factors  rather than conjecture or anticipated perception. These factors include:

    • A dual titles system which is not consistent within the University;
    • A lack of consistency and transparency which is now presenting a very real impediment to early career academics’ eligibility for highly competitive grants;
    • A lack of understanding of the introduced titles by external reviewers and assessors; and
    • The success of academics both here and from other Australian universities (with the traditional titles) working with collaborators and publishers in North America.

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  11. How have we ended up with a two titles system?

    Since 2009 we have had two sets of titles operating within the University. In 2009 academic staff could elect to adopt a set of introduced titles and some elected to retain the traditional (pre-2009) titles. Appointments, promotions and renewals since that time have used the introduced titles and some of these staff subsequently elected to adopt the traditional titles. .

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  12. Why did the University adopt a new set of academic titles in 2009?

    In 2009 the Executive took the initiative to introduce a set of academic titles to align with the North American system, primarily to encourage recruitment of academic staff from North America.

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  13. Why didn’t the University anticipate the potential issues of the introduced titles?

    While we now have the benefit of hindsight, the Executive who introduced the initiative in 2009 could not reasonably have anticipated at that time what has become apparent over the last few years – other universities did not pursue adoption of a similar set of titles (which has compounded a lack of understanding of our titles), we now have inconsistency of titles within this University and academic staff face an impediment to eligibility or competiveness for grant applications with national funding bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC).

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  14. Why are UWA’S titles out of line with other Australian universities?

    At the time we adopted the North American styled titles, other leading Australian universities were considering similar changes and it was expected that they would adopt a similar system. This did not eventuate and as a consequence, our introduced titles do not align with other Australian universities.

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  15. Was the introduction of the titles in 2009 linked to enterprise bargaining (EB) and the Academic Staff Agreement?

    Introduction of a new set of titles in the 2009 Agreement included dialogue with the NTEU and there was no premium placed on the titles. , The decision to place the titles in the Agreement was made because the Agreement forms part of the contract of employment..

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