Human Resources

Role of Professors (Level E)

Further information

HR policies

Professors (Level E) are a critical resource within the University community, possessing a range of skills and knowledge which can contribute significantly to the quality of the institution in a variety of ways.

Over recent years changes in the higher education sector have altered many traditional understandings of the professorial role. Within the University of Western Australia the most significant of these is the ongoing devolution of responsibility and authority to faculties and schools.

'Classification Standards' were introduced in industrial awards in 1988 to clearly document the roles and expectations of all academic staff, including professors. This University has supplemented these 'classification standards' by the development of specific selection criteria for academic appointments.

This statement is intended to provide clarification of the many roles which professors may play within their schools, the institution and the community.

  1. Role statement
  2. Expectations of a Professor (Level E)
  3. Professors and the School Headship
  4. Expectations of a Professor (Level E) - Teaching and Research

Role statement

Professors (Level E) provide academic leadership to the University, primarily through demonstrating and fostering excellence in research, teaching, professional activities and policy development at a variety of levels – within the academic discipline, within the academic unit, within the institution and within the wider community.

Professorial leadership is linked to a record of scholarly and professional achievement in the relevant discipline. Professors are usually recognised at an international level as leading authorities in their field. In most circumstances professorial leadership extends to community affairs, particularly those related to the discipline, and in professional, commercial and industrial sectors where appropriate.

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Expectations of a Professor (Level E)

This role statement leads to the following expectations of a Professor (Level E):


Professors (Level E) are crucial to the research effort of the University. They are expected to provide guidance and assistance to more junior staff in developing their capacity for teaching and research. Many professors will secure substantial grants which cover teams including junior staff while others will carry on research at lower cost and/or at a more individual level. In many disciplines, provision of an environment for honours and post-graduate students is dependent upon the ability of the professor to attract external funds.

Professors are expected to foster the research of other groups and individuals within the School, in the discipline and in related disciplines. They should introduce research students and colleagues to useful networks inside and outside the University.


Teaching is central to the role of all academic staff. It is expected that a professor will seek continuing improvement in academic standards rather than merely maintaining them, and will make a distinguished contribution to teaching in the faculty and University. A professor should be expected to provide leadership in curriculum development, design of courses, and innovations in the delivery of teaching in the discipline.

Professors (Level E) will carry a teaching load which reflects workload equity across all staff and be involved in at least some of the large classes and in teaching of both undergraduate (including first year) and postgraduate students.


Professors (Level E) should be role models in their relationships with students and with general staff at all levels. They should be accessible in the School and should take part in the community life of the University, including ceremonies where degrees are awarded to students of the school and to persons honoured by the University.

Professors (Level E) are expected to participate in the appropriate national and international organisations of their discipline or profession. In most fields, such international involvement and standing should be clearly evident. It is expected that a professor will serve on expert committees, be willing to participate in reviews and to work at a national and international level.

Professors (Level E) have a responsibility to advance the image of the University in the community locally, nationally and internationally. That image will be enhanced by excellent research and good teaching, the receipt of awards and participation in major conferences. Further involvement will include giving talks to community groups, visiting schools and taking a constructive and informed part in debate on matters of concern to the community.

Professors (Level E) should be willing to contribute in policy formation and management of their school, their faculty and the University (through the Academic Board) where they have a contribution to make. They should also play a constructive role in appointment, confirmation and promotion processes for academic and general staff.

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Professors and the School Headship

While it is generally desirable to have professors as Heads of School, there are circumstances in which other arrangements are preferable, for example, in the case of small schools. There are also instances where the talents of senior staff might be better used in ways other than the headship (for example, research leadership). The current predominance of men in the professoriate also suggests the need for flexibility in this area so that more women can access the opportunity of headship.

Where the headship is undertaken by an Associate Professor or a Senior Lecturer, it should in no way affect the effective functioning of the school. Heads of School operate on delegated authority from the Vice-Chancellor and have both the obligation and the authority to allocate to all staff members, including professors, administrative tasks and teaching loads. It is the responsibility of the staff member to carry out these tasks to the best of their ability.

Professors (Level E) who are not Heads can make a particularly significant contribution to the school through their academic leadership. For example, professors can

  • lead discipline groups within a school
  • take on responsibility for the school research program through provision of inspiration, ideas and guidance (including mentoring)
  • coordinate the supervision of post graduate students
  • participate more fully in community affairs on behalf of the school
  • become involved in alterations to curriculum and courses

The balance of research, teaching and administrative activities which takes best advantage of an individual professor's skills can be negotiated with the head of school and is likely to change over time as school needs change.

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Expectations of a Professor (Level E) - Teaching and Research

General standards

A Professor (Level E) is expected to exercise a special responsibility in providing leadership and in fostering excellence in research, teaching, professional activities and policy development in the academic discipline within the school, faculty and University-wide, and within the community, both scholarly and general.

A professor must be willing to work within the legislative requirements of the University, particularly in support of the University's commitment to equity.

Skill base

A professor will normally

  • have a doctoral qualification or equivalent accreditation and standing derived from recognised significant experience in the relevant discipline area
  • have a record of demonstrable scholarly and professional achievement in the relevant discipline
  • demonstrate academic excellence through an outstanding contribution to teaching, research and the discipline
  • be recognised as a leading authority in the relevant discipline area


A professor will normally provide academic leadership through

  • the conduct of research including, where appropriate, leadership of a large research team
  • fostering the research of other groups and individuals both within the the discipline and related disciplines
  • supervision of the program of study of honours and/or of postgraduate students engaged in course work and major research projects
  • development of research policy
  • an ability to attract research resources
  • continuing personal commitment to, and achievement in, a particular scholarly area evidenced by publication in refereed journals, books, performances and other scholarly works, invitations to present keynote addresses at international meetings and to write chapters in international books, election to learned academies and other recognition such as awards, prizes and honorary degree.

Teaching and learning

A professor normally demonstrates an outstanding personal contribution and commitment to high quality teaching and learning through:

  • the conduct of tutorials, practical classes, demonstrations, workshops, student field excursions, clinical sessions and/or studio sessions and the preparation and delivery of lectures and seminars at all levels
  • consultation with students
  • marking and assessment
  • playing an active role in the maintenance of academic standards and in the development of educational policy and of curriculum areas within the discipline including the initiation and development of subject material

Community affairs

A professor is expected contribute to a broad range of community affairs through participating in and providing leadership, particularly in areas related to the discipline, and in liaison with professional, commercial and industrial bodies where appropriate.


A professor is expected to contribute to the management and leadership of the University through:

  • attendance at school and/or faculty meetings and/or membership of committees
  • developing policy and being involved in administrative matters in the school and at faculty and institutional level
  • representing the discipline at school, faculty and University level

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