Human Resources

Heads of School

Further information

  • HR policies
  • Titles and roles

Heads of School play a critical role in achieving the mission and objectives of the University and form part of the University’s senior leadership group.

  1. Role of the Head of School
  2. Terms of employment
  3. Selection and appointment of Heads of School

Role of the Head of School

Position summary

The Head of School is responsible to the Dean for the academic leadership and management of the School. The Head works in partnership with a School Manager, and together they are responsible for the efficient and effective functioning of the School.

Dimensions of leadership

There are three key dimensions and sets of responsibilities for the Head of School position. The detail will be negotiated at the faculty level with the Dean, in the context of the specific needs of the School. The general responsibilities of the Head of School are:

Strategic Planning and Coordination
  • Provide academic leadership in the development and ongoing review of the School’s strategic plan and operational priorities
  • Ensure achievement of School objectives
  • Contribute to the University’s mission and goals as a member of the University leadership team
  • Represent the School in the broader University environment
  • Collaborate with other Schools in the planning of teaching and research, and in the use of staff and physical resources
  • Consult, liaise and negotiate with external parties in order to develop effective partnerships

In collaboration with relevant School staff,

  • Promote high standards of academic excellence in teaching and learning, research and research training
  • Ensure appropriate course offerings, taking into account student needs and relevant employer groups and professional associations
Human Resource Management/People Management
  • Take responsibility for the recruitment of the best possible staff, and support their development, including through the University’s performance management framework, and workload policy
  • Lead by example in developing positive interpersonal relationships within the School
  • Support equal opportunities for all staff, and encourage diversity
  • With the School Manager, ensure compliance with the University’s statutory obligations and policies to maintain a positive and safe workplace for both staff and students
Financial and Resource Management
  • Work with the School Manager in overseeing the responsible financial management of the School, including preparation of transparent budgets, allocation of resources and development of marketing plans where appropriate
  • Encourage staff to identify and develop new externally funded opportunities for teaching, research and consultancy
  • Work with the School Manager in overseeing the management of the physical assets of the School, including office and teaching spaces, and equipment
  • In consultation with the School Manager and the Chairs of Discipline groups, ensure that teaching, administrative and other duties are allocated in a fair and transparent manner.

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Terms of employment

Term of appointment

To encourage a longer-term strategic planning approach to the activities of the School, Heads will normally be appointed for five years. The appointment may be renewed for up to a further three years subject to satisfactory performance (including consultation with the School staff).

Heads and Deans will negotiate an annual set of agreed goals and outcomes that reflect the objectives of the University, Faculty and School. These will form part of the annual performance review of the Head.

Remuneration and rewards for Heads of School

Each Head of School will negotiate with the Dean of their Faculty a total remuneration package (to be approved by the SDVC/VC) consisting of:

Base Salary

The minimum rate to be paid to a Head of School will be a Professor (Level D) salary. Any Head with a substantive position below Level D will be paid an allowance equal to the difference between their substantive rate and Professor for the duration of the Headship.

Head of School Allowance

This allowance may, subject to negotiation, include a mix of any or all of three elements

  1. An allowance identified as appropriate for that particular School which recognises the size and complexity of the School, paid as salary;
  2. A grant to support the Head’s ongoing research or teaching role, to be taken in the form of research or teaching assistance. The grant will be paid into a research account as a general rule and not be paid in cash. The amount of the grant is equivalent to 40% of a Level 6;
  3. Other forms of professional development.

Renegotiation of the ‘mix’ can take place on an annual basis.

It is recognised that in some instances this allowance will require a reassessment of other allowances paid, and at times the Head may already exceed the allowances proposed.


Academics who have moved into a fixed term contract for a Head of School role cannot take sabbatical during the term of the contract unless specifically approved by the SDVC. An agreed period of sabbatical, based on accumulated entitlements, may be taken at the completion of the appointment, refer to UWA's Sabbatical policy.

Successful service as Head of School is an important component of service to the University in applying for academic promotion.

Annual review

The Head is responsible to the Dean of the Faculty. The performance of the Head will be reviewed annually through the University’s performance management process.

Leadership and skill development

Newly appointed Heads (whether appointed for the first time, or whether re-appointed after a period away from the position) are required to complete the University’s Heads Up program at the start of their term. In addition to clarifying the dimensions of leadership identified under 1.2 above, the program encourages strong collegial learning among Heads of School.

Deputy Heads

Heads of Schools are required to appoint a Deputy Head. It is recommended that staff be appointed to this position on a one- to two-year basis to give a wider range of senior staff the opportunity to develop leadership skills. Wherever feasible, the Deputy should be of the opposite sex. Their normal workload should be adjusted to acknowledge their work as Deputy.

In accordance with University leave policies, Heads of School must seek approval from the Dean when intending to take leave of any description. At the same time, Deans should be advised of proposed acting arrangements.

Administrative allowances are payable to Acting Heads of School when the period of acting is for two weeks or more.

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Selection and appointment of Heads of School


Appointment and re-appointment as Head of School is made by letter of appointment from the Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor, on the recommendation of the Dean, for a nominal specified period (up to five years). The Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor has the discretion to shorten or end the period of appointment of any Head of School and to appoint an alternate Head of School or to make no appointment, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Appointments of Deputy Heads or Acting Heads are made by the Dean

Deans are responsible for the selection process. Deans are required to identify, on the basis of selection criteria (see 3.2), and through a consultative process, appropriate individuals for the position.

It is preferable that a Head be identified at least six months prior to commencing their duties in order that they can participate in forward planning, and appropriate staff development

Selection criteria

The dimensions of leadership provide an overview of the requirements of the role. The standard selection criteria will include evidence of:

  • High academic standing in an academic discipline relevant to the School (normally a Professor or Associate Professor)
  • High level academic and strategic leadership skills
  • Excellent people management skills, and an ability to implement the University’s equity and diversity policies
  • Organizational and resource management skills, including understanding of budget and financial management principles
  • High level interpersonal and communication skills
  • Knowledge of the University’s legislative, budgetary, policy and administrative frameworks

After negotiation between the Dean and members of the School, these selection criteria may be amended or supplemented to reflect the particular needs of individual schools at particular times. Additional criteria are particularly advisable where it is likely that the School will be going through a period of significant change that will require particular leadership skills.

Discussion about the selection criteria is part of the consultative process between the Dean and the staff, and has two particular benefits. It will assist

  • Individual staff to think about whether they may be appropriate candidates for the Headship
  • All staff to consider who best meets the needs of the School.

The selection process


Deans will normally look first to professorial level staff as potential candidates for the position of Head.

Where a potential Head is not a professor, she/he should be a person of high academic standing, with relevant leadership experience. Such a person will be appointed as Head of School at Level D. Such a Head, should they not have been successful in applying for promotion, will revert to their substantive Level at the end of their Headship.

External advertising will be considered where all internal options have been exhausted, and must be approved by the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Timing of the selection process

It is suggested that approximately twelve months prior to the commencement date for a new Head, the Dean visit the School and outline the process of selection. It is recommended that the new Head be identified six months before taking on the position. This will allow for a six month period during which the appointee can deputise for the current Head, if required, and attend relevant professional development.

Broad consultation and expressions of interest

It is essential that the selected Head has the confidence of both the University and their colleagues. A selection process that involves broad consultation with all academic and general staff is a means by which confidence can be tested. Deans should seek advice across the School and approach individual staff they identify as suitable. They should seek feedback from all staff (academic and general) on potential Heads.

Consultation with cognate schools is also encouraged. Even where there is only one suitable candidate for the Headship, it is appropriate that the consultation process with staff be undertaken. Any staff who express interest in the position but who are not appointed should be given feedback by the Dean.

Resolving differences of opinion and conflicts of interest

There may be circumstances in which there is a difference of opinion between the Dean and the majority of the School over the merits of different individuals. In such cases, the Dean, as the accountable officer for the School, makes the final decision.

Occasionally there may be a perceived conflict of interest for the Dean. In these circumstances Deans are advised to delegate responsibility for the final decision to the Deputy Dean or another senior member of the University’s leadership team. Consulting the University’s policy on Close Personal Relationships may be helpful.

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