International recognition for Ghent University’s HR policy for researchers

(21-01-2021) An international panel of experts has renewed Ghent University’s “HR Excellence in Research” quality label. Read more about their assessment and the policy of the coming years here.

The European Commission has renewed Ghent University’s “HR Excellence in Research” quality label, extending it up to and including 2023. Ghent University thereby gains international recognition for its leadership role in quality facilitation, through its HR and research policy, of researchers and their job in the sciences. In its assessment, the Commission lauds the ambitious and innovative character of the HR actions and the broad range of initiatives taken in that respect.

Panel of experts

The assessment is the result of a (virtual) visit in November 2020 by an international panel of experts made up of HR managers and research policy experts from other European universities. Ghent University has been awarded this label since 2014 and has, since then, been reviewed every 3 years.

This label is awarded by European experts following a thorough review of HR action plans for researchers (in the ‘HR Strategy for Researchers’) and a series of interviews with researchers from all faculties and sections of staff (Belgian and foreign doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers, professors, other scientific staff, deans and representatives of the faculty office) and experts from a diverse set of policy fields (personnel, research, education and wellbeing policy).

Trendsetting

The initiatives that were taken in the framework of the HR actions are built up around 4 over-arching themes:

  • ethical and professional aspects of research
  • recruitment and selection
  • working conditions and social security
  • training and development
The initiatives also always pay special attention to temporarily appointed researchers. For professors, the focus lays, among other things, on leadership development and other forms of HR support. Ghent University was deemed “trendsetting” for its new career development policy for professors (and the shift from a quantitative to a qualitative evaluation system) and its psycho-social wellbeing policy.

Special mention was also made of, among other things:

  • the initiatives focusing on scientific integrity and the support for observance of integrity principles in research among researchers (for which data stewards and ethics officers, who were specifically hired for the purpose, provided practical support)
  • the broad range of training possibilities and career development support for young researchers
  • the efforts made by the university to bolster hospitality for and integration of international researchers.

Ghent University is also recognized as an institution that pays special attention to the needs of its researchers through its participatory approach to development and monitoring of new initiatives.

The importance of this recognition cannot be stressed enough. Ghent University is committed to playing a prominent role in both research and education on an international level. Offering all our researchers an attractive and challenging working environment is of crucial importance. We can really be proud of the course we have taken in this area in recent years. This label is an incentive to take further steps in this direction. I would like to express my thanks to project leaders Jasmien Van Daele (DPO) and Nele Bracke (DOZA) and all other stakeholders for their efforts to gain this recognition. (Rik Van de Walle, Rector Ghent University)

Recommendations

Ghent University’s label’s renewal also brought with it a number recommendations which will guide policy during the coming years. One of the recommendations made by the European Commission (which will be part of the next assessment in 2023) is the creation of a framework for an open, transparent and merit-based recruitment system for researchers. Its purpose would be to attract and recruit “the best possible scientist in the right place” from an international perspective. Since 21st-century academic research and education takes place in an international – European and global – context, the academic job market is, per definition, international.

Next steps

What does this label mean for researcher in the short term? 2021 will, among other things, see the launch of the PhD Career Hub, an online portal providing access to the entire range of career development support possibilities for doctoral and post-doctoral students. New efforts will also be made to boost leadership development initiatives.

In this way, Ghent University plans to further shape an HR policy focused on talent and people. It is Ghent University’s ambition to continue to offer the best opportunities to all researchers to build an exciting and challenging career in a work environment that offers maximum support.

More info is available on the Ghent University job site.