the challenges faced by Universities when recruiting academic staff


Organisations are placing importance on the recruitment and selection of key talents. For Universities, recruiting good academic staff is very important in an increasingly competitive environment. Recruitment of academics in Universities is the main purpose of the Human Resources Department. The recruitment process involves a systematic procedure from sourcing the candidates to arranging and conducting the interviews and the final selection. The purpose of this research is therefore to investigate and examine the recruitment process of academic staffs in the University of Northampton.

University of Northampton became a college in 1999 and gained full university rank as the University of Northampton in 2005. In 2005, the institution of higher education also received the authority to certify its own research degrees, which had previously been confirmed by the University of Leister (The University of Northampton, 2011). The University of Northampton’s HRM department is led by its manager and is accountable for delivering the human resources policy to support the university.

1.1 Importance of the study

The proposed increase in University Tuition Fees in England by the Coalition Government has led to unprecedented student protests across the Country (BBC News, 2010). With the proposed fees, each university in England would be able to charge tuition fees up to £9000 per year starting from 2012. If the proposed fees are finally approved, the focus would shift to how Universities can relate to the increase in tuition fees to improvement in teaching and research quality. The quality of teaching and research obviously depends on how each University can attract high calibre of academic staff. Academic staff is reported to be higher education institution’s most important asset and most costly resources (Enders, 2001). But as Lam, (2009) explains, higher education institutions always compete with organisations outside the education sectors for academic staff recruitments. Attracting high calibre of academic staff would thus depend on the recruitment process used by Universities.

A study carried out by Thewlis in 2003 for the Universities and Colleges Employees Association (UCEA) indicated that a high proportion of Institutions in United Kingdom are experiencing a worsening of recruitment and retention problem across academic staff. A similar study for the National Institute of Economic and Social Research by Metcalf et al (2005) stated that there were greater difficulties when recruiting senior level of staff such as Readership and Chair rather than Junior Staff. The nature of the problem was from the quality of the applicants rather than the numbers. Are these studies applicable to recruitment of academics in the University of Northampton? This dissertation would thus examine the recruitment of academic staff in the University of Northampton.

1.2 Research question and objectives

The primary purpose of this study is to investigate and evaluate the challenges faced by Universities when recruiting academic staff. This is in order to start putting a more robust recruitment process in place to withstand the competition that would start with recruitment of academic staff among the Universities in England when proposed increment in Tuition fees takes effect.

Specifically, this study covers how the Universities’ Human Resources Department receives requisition for recruitment from any of the departments or faculties of the Universities. Further, the study examines the steps used in preparing job description and person specification, advertising, short-listing and indentifying the required number and types of candidates, arranging and conducting the interview for candidates, and the final selection of the successful candidates.

1.3 Research setting

The research setting for this study was the University of Northampton. It was selected by the researcher because it was in closest proximity to him. Also, the researcher had prior understanding of this setting that would make it easier to carry out the research. Hence, staff of the University of Northampton Human Resources Department including academic staff of the University was interviewed for this study.

1.4 Organization of the study

This study is comprised of five chapters. The first chapter frames the area of interest and outlines the problem to be investigated. This section highlights the importance of this study and presents the research question and objectives. Finally, the selected methodology for this study is generally and briefly discussed. The second chapter deals with earlier literature that relates to the topic of this study which will assist in answering the research question. The literature review allows study information to be developed and in addition to significantly go over past literature which add to additional knowledge of the subject. Hence this study is put together from the research summarized in the literature review

The third chapter discuses the methodology employed for this study. In particular, this section involves a case study research, using qualitative data collection method Denzin and Lincoln (2000). According to Yin, (2006) the main methods employed in qualitative research are observation, interviews and documentary analysis. This approach it provides an element to the dependability and strength of the study for the reader’s position. Furthermore, it gives adequate data. The fourth chapter presents the study findings derived from the primary and secondary data and in relation to the research question presented in the first chapter. The fifth chapter tries to find the answer research question in regards to the result derived from the primary and secondary data. This section will also highlight the limitations encountered in this study as well as ideas for the additional study to be accomplished in the future

1.5 Conclusion

As explained in this section, the study shall focus on challenges faced by the University when recruiting academic staff and shall use the University of Northampton of UK as the research site. The next chapter will present literature that has been reviewed for the purpose of this study.



The idea of this literature review is to build up understanding and awareness into earlier research .A review of literature will significantly give the foundation on which research is built (Saunders et al, 2007). It also allows additional improvement of research objectives, emphasize key themes in the selected topic and recognize gaps in the literature where research has not yet been undertaken. This section reviews literature on challenges faced by the University when recruiting academic staff. In particular, the Issues discussed in this section are recruitment concept, qualities of best academics, recruitment policies and procedures, recruitment processes and practises giving consideration to the factors that can hinder hiring of the best academics in universities. Finally, this section pinpoints the best practises that could be employed when hiring best academic.

Recruitment concept

According to Plumbley (1974) “people make companies. So, in a real sense, do those who carry out recruitment”. Employees are literally the most significant of any company’s assets. The success and even the endurance of an activity generally depend upon the standard of its employees. Thus, it is vital for organisations to invest in ways to protect or guard their assets by hiring sincere or truthful employees. In this regard, it is vital for organizations to give much emphasise to the recruitment and selection of new employees.

Recruitment and selection are immediate method and are incomplete without one another. Both are very important functions in personnel organization.

Plumbley, (1974) notes that recruitment process progresses selection and can help in choosing a right individual for any job. Recruitment is a very vital process of human resources management. It is a type of business competition. In every administration it is necessary to have the right job. Recruitment and selection is also a very significant tool that is used by a lot of companies and organisation. This helps or supports the administration in getting faster to accomplish their goal. This is the reason why when recruiting staff, severe attention need to be observed by the manager. Human requirement process is not only worried with appealing the necessary numbers of people it’s also worried with evaluating their value. It does not only have to do with pleasing an organisation current want, it is an action which influences the character of the organisation future (Plumbley, 1974).

Pilbeam and Corbridge (2006) define recruitment “as a process which aspire to draw properly skilled or trained candidates for a certain position or post from which it is likely and useful to choose and employ a component person”, while Selection “is a process which engages the candidate of proper techniques and way with the plan of selecting or appointing and inducting a skilled person”. Recruitment and selection are therefore element of the same method or development and can be measured separately, but they aren’t equally limited functions.

2.2 Qualities of best academics.

Academics are backbone of higher education and research throughout the world. Hence, a university with mediocre academics or scholars could be mediocre or worse whatever structure, budget or the soundness of reform such a university is using (Dilger, 2009). What therefore make best academics? Or how do we define best academics? The definition of best academics depends on the goals and academic standard of the University. The goals for determining the best academics as suggested by Dilger (2009) may be

a Nobel Prize winner or a potential winner or appointment of a former winner.

The number of publications in A-journals may also be used or number and frequency of research publications

Experience of teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level

Evidence of successful external grant applications

Ability to liaise and collaborate with external agencies

2.3 Recruitment policies and procedures

Before several administrations can start recruiting staffs, necessary rules needs to be followed. They need to keep away from quarrel or misinterpretation that might lead to unhappy employees. These are the following policies that need to be agreed on when recruiting staffs.

authorized procedure that will guarantee and make sure all staffs are treated honestly without unfairness

The trade union to which the organisations the staff s belong might include certain law on employment.

Employing individual with inadequate monetary capital- if the organisation has a restricted funds and this might probably have an effect on the employment system and the foundation they select. The cost needs to be considered first and foremost and have the main encouraging result in time of recruited staffs

How fast a job needs to be occupied

The organisation analysis on employees’ development: when there is a job vacancy at the company. Whether the organisation will advertise or promote from within the company. Are family members of staffs allowed to apply for the post or can they work in the organisation? What the perspective or opinion recruiting people with disabilities

Which sector or person is acknowledgeable for carrying out these plan and practice?

Factors influencing recruitment. Recruitment of employees does not happen in a space of its own nevertheless it is influenced by unusual factors in the surroundings

2.4 Recruitment processes

Elearn (2005) argues that recruitment in an organisation attempt or makes an effort to the individuals from whom it will eventually make its selections by choosing the person who is right for the job. Recruitment plan consist of attempts to achieve or accomplish improved pools of applicant and to advertise the business as an employee of choice or selection. Selection on the other hand has to do with choosing between or among job applicants. It is about how to create a fair and true evaluation of the strength or power and weakness or disadvantages of employees and how to recognize the applicant who is generally expected to perform very well in the job. It is very significant to know that external recruitment is simply one selection for working out supply loss in ones business.

Over and Sherwood (1994) in a study of the recruitment of men and women as academics in Australian Universities explained that a formal administrative process is used for recruitment of academic staff. A Selection Committee determined the applicant for each academic job. The committee scrutinised the applicants’ qualifications, work history, publications and confidential reports from referees. Over and Sherwood added that the Selection Committee “are subject to limited accountability” as some of the member can even act as referee to some of the applicants, hence there is bias in the recruitment process. Sometimes, the job description may be tailored towards the person for whom the position is intended for or information about the job is given to some candidates. Additionally, the unsuccessful applicant may not be given opportunity to appeal when the final decision is made.

A research by Exum et al(1984) and Long et al(1979) stated that the recruitment of academics in American Universities is sometimes governed by affiliation and sponsorship and there is networking, restricted dissemination of information and informal decision making thereby creating bias and hence a patronage system(Caplow and McGee, 1965).

Recruitment process are steps the organisation needs to consider to make sure that the right people end up at the right organisation so that the total aim will be achieved. Recruitment must at all times engage evaluating the position or placed to be filled or occupied, the individual who’s, writing a job description and individual requirement and also studying or examining the organisation short, average and lasting aim or purpose. There are five basic steps in the recruitment process which are:

Preparation or training(this also contains looking at recruitment options)

Making a decision on an individual for the specific job

sourcing the worker (this can be done by meetings, internet , advertising)

covering parliamentary features

Making a decision on the method of application. (Alan, Robert and Bill,2005)

McGee (1958) says a university is an institution which uses efficient research to nearly everything under the sun. Fields (1997) outlined some recruitment processes which are advertising, short listing, references, presentations and interviews.

2.4.1 Advertising

Making use of organization for handling advertisements is now common. In a study of personnel officers 22 out of 23 who took part said they used an external agency. The smallest and least visible advertisements are normally those for oxford and Cambridge where the name itself deemed adequate to make awareness: the most affected and eye catching. Each institution must study how successful its presentation looks like to be, always having it in mind that the advertisement is part of the complete process in which the institution itself is usually less significant than the discipline for the reader. This is why logos are very helpful reason being that they offer an almost subconscious understanding of the place and agree typographical stress on the area in question. With worry about increasing costs, a lot of universities must be thinking through on reducing cost of advertising. On the other hand it is worth remembering the opinion made by Ray (1980:104) “that the most expensive is that which falls”. De Witte (1989) has pointed out in whole terms that more advertisement is likely to be somewhat superior better or advanced intone, stressing what is required necessary of the applicant rather than giving some important information concerning the employer. He found out that a lot of applicant complained about the lack of objective and that they particularly wanted facts of functional conditions.

2.4.2 Short listing

Evans (1994) argues that in his survey he had come by just one example of a appropriate job and person requirement and this had been in a new university. Actually, such structures happened at Aberdeen then and one wonders if other have them as well but he(Evans) also believed were unwilling to reveal information’s. Whatsoever the real condition was, there is a need to think through more efficient and consistence procedure of the paperwork in question, and so as to stay away from the idea that is just a usual part of official procedure.

Evans (1994) research emphasizes the advantage of using a person requirement time after time, recording result as each applicant is discussed rather than after the occasion. This not just makes the final choice easier but then again saves a suitable deal of time, determination and cost at interview point. Providing the practise of asking shortlisted applicant to present their work to their potential co-worker took so long to come into view in this country, it is outstanding how fast the presentation has developed. One of 23 replies from the personnel offices, 18 said presentations were used regularly two also said progressively and the remaining occasionally and it varies. There are still a few motivating concerning the method in which opinions of the applicant’s presentation comes to be part of the selection procedure.

2.4.3 Interview

Five higher educations’ noted that the ‘outcome’ or ‘reports’ are fed in after the interview and a few really indicate later the conclusion has been taken. It is uncertain what the aim or intention may be. It appears more reasonable to let this data to come around in the discussion in the next interview but as part of the policy-making. In Aberdeen test instance, it was conspicuous with the aim of one applicant who was nearly cut off in the course of the last interview discussion (dull, irritating and emotionless) was said to have created an outstanding presentation. From the moment the two external applicants who gave the most excellent interview had not given good quality presentation with neither suggested by representatives of the department. Possibly the greatest significant opinion to come out in this part on the other hand was the absence of understanding that selection is a collaborative process. At the same time as it is understandable that the department will be forcefully concerned in this specific or actual method, the decentralization of organizational issue is not required an excellent thing

24.4 References

References unavoidably have to do with a big part of clarification. In what Eustace (1988:78) describes the dual envelope solitude to the development, the referee’s terms are not seen by the applicant and the handling of the reference is moreover completely confident. The one question in the survey of 24 heads of department created 100% arrangement bothered the matter of whether references ought to be taken up previously or afterwards the interview. The irresistible favourite for the last lies in which the discovery of previous research appropriately to which previous universities take up references after selecting their applicant while the recent universities usually request for references after appointment by this mean using them as a confirming method rather than trying to see them as a forecaster or judge. One good idea to point out from the references considered as section of this review has to do with the level to which referees state themselves incapable to give an outlook about on the order of all part of activity. More than a few reefers worried that as the applicant’s doctoral manager, they possibly will not really mention on education or organizational skills. There was no assurance or promise so as to still by using three referees all characteristics would then be enclosed.

Selection interviewing is an extremely advanced ability which has not been treated well and has also been taken for granted. The selection method begins not at the short listing point but the framing of the personal ad and from that stage on selection ought to be seen as a shared process.

After all the police and procedures have been lay down, the organisation can whichever use an internal resources and means to fill positions by drawing individuals from within the organisation or they can also use external sources to also draw individuals from outside the organisation to occupy the job. It is very significant to be able to distinguish between recruitment method and source. The recruitment source is the area where the administration will pay attention in finding an employee whereas the recruitment method is how the administration will attract the staffs (kleynhans 2007).

2.5 Recruitment practises

Recruitment and selection judgments greatly have an effect on the university capability to meet its business development needs and policy aim. It is essential to put in time and power into recruiting high standard employees. There are two processes that are performed. Not only are appointment group member measuring the most excellent person for the position but candidates are also deciding either the university is an organisation they desire to work in. The prices of a bad selection choice are considerable and frequently enlarge over many years (The University of Waikato HRM Division, 2000)

Edwards (2006) states that individual universities have become more aware of defining their niches and contributions to the outside world and (particularly to management) and that they understand that they are competing alongside other universities both nationally and globally. He also mentioned that when a university does this, it acknowledges that it is more than just a group of individual academic employees, each of whom follows each of their own academic leaning. He concluded that University independence now means not just that it’s a solution to guard academic freedom from outside demands, but rather than the performance of individuals academic is expected to add to the accomplishments of the purpose which the university as institution has decided on.

Gilliot, Overlaet and Verdin (2010) stated that Universities are societies of people who research and also teach. They also indicated that Universities endurance, achievement or accomplishment varies on the ability to draw, increase, expand and keep very skilled staffs. They added that until 10 years ago an academic job would automatically offer employee with reputation and would also give them the chance to work in an extremely motivating or interesting environment. 

As an example of professional system of government, Mintzberg (1983) suggest that the selection process would engage several tests over at comprehensive period of time. However, times are changing, a failing demography joint with an explosive growth in the study and data or understanding business has ended the land of plenty. Attracting and keeping extremely qualified or skilled academic staffs has become an essential issue in human resources management. Universities now experience a lot of problems in filling vacancies for PHD place as well as university staffs (Machin and Oswald, 2000, Verhoeven, 2000). These days,   universities are far from the only employers challenging for extremely qualified employees.

Universities frequently depend on traditional means such as self initiated job-applications and word of mouth employment (e.g. from its own student). E-recruitment can help to decrease the price of recruitment, offer an advantageous chance to better communicate unique establishment capabilities and simplify the selection process through modified online application. Potential candidates must be able to quickly access the website of the universities and the present jobs thus allowing them to answer instantly by applying for the academic positions online. Next to publishing the present vacancies on the website of the university, universities can also consider building a common career site like academic transfer (Cober, 2000).

Some old Universities already made their name, greatness and fame due to the present of top scholars or old Nobel laureates. Some of these universities would continue to attract best academics. This is why higher ranked universities keep their high rank academics while lower ranked ones find it so difficult to attract the best academics and brilliants students prefer to go to universities with the highest reputation (Korobkin, 1998, Dilger, 2009)

The two key concerns in recruitment and selection in the universities or other organisation are the description of staff’s performance and the selection methods. How these problems are determined on mostly resolve the characteristics of the inputs (attracted applicant and outputs (certain applicant).  Having the knowledge of nature of performance necessary for the post to be filled is essential to designing a recruitment and selection way which accomplishes   best result for the organisation. Performance needs to be clear to take into explanation the characteristics of the work circumstances and not just the job Guion (1976).  Such situational point organisational consists of organisational objectives, objective approval with others and organisational nationality (Smith et al, 1998, Schneider and Schmitt, 1999,). Not only do selection methods vary in how they observe performance they vary also in what view point of performance the determine e.g. the one on one interview meeting that is representative in generally recruitment procedures in the tertiary area provides slight information about interpersonal variables. Nevertheless, the evaluation centre procedure which assess peoples group, more efficiently taps into the social skills job candidate (Guion 1991).

Most selection choice engages some amount of judgement. Judgement is prone to relating thought errors and unfairness. Improving judgement in recruiting and selection involves adjustment of both decision makers and the system (Hartel and Hartel,1997). There are obvious instructions for creating best practise in the selection and recruitment of staffs. The question that should be developed should yield knowledge about performance design useful in verifying or disproving theses theory. Another system is to rate on critical measurement the information acquired about previous work history. Management on the appropriate criteria for any judgement can be provided to evaluators during the use of greatly controlled bad rating scales (Hartel 2003). In meeting, perceptual and judgement mistakes can be controlled by using a situational interviewing request which engages a thorough occupation study the development of standard behaviours , the use of situational subjects, behavioural rating scales with scoring keys and training the interviewer (Arnold et al 1995).

To draw and keep hold of skilled, trained and motivated staffs, it is important to provide a work atmosphere that supports and stimulates communication between administrators and employees (Kirkland, 2000). A review undertaken by Coakes and Sugden, (1999) about information management within British universities found that universities do not have the essential culture of teamwork and hope which needed for sharing of knowledge. The university staffs needs to be motivated to share information and discover from each other (Coakes and Sugden, 2000).

2.6 Best Practice when hiring best academics

The following are best practice for hiring best academics as highlighted by American Physical Society (2011) and University of Lethbridge’s Human Resources Department, 2007)

Transparency may be achieved during the hiring process if the Selection Committee Members or the members of interview panels are outsiders such as professionals, managers, politicians or academics from other institutions or academics from universities who have higher academic standings that the candidates. These set of people are better placed to make impartial decisions. It is however important that those chosen do not have their own hiding agenda

It is important to widen the search strategies to really get all the available scholars or academics. This should be done by asking all the prospective candidate to apply instead considering applications from those that applied

Requiring the candidates to submit a package of pertinent information at the time of the application can be helpful to the Selection Committee during short listing. It is important to decide the information that the applicant should provide as part of the package or in their cover letter.

The advertisement to invite applicants must describe the position as well as the application process with clarity. A good advert will use inclusive and unbiased language; offer a clear description of responsibilities and expectations; state all the essential qualifications sought together with other key evaluation criteria; offer information on the organization or assets that would serve a diverse group of applicants and attract them; and contain information for applicants.

Due to the differences in communication and presentation style, utilizing a variety of evaluation formats may facilitate a more detailed and accurate appraisal of an individual’s qualifications. Each of the methods employed should offer information and evidence on how well the applicants meet the position criteria. It is important to have a checklist for all methods so that each candidate’s qualifications can be compared and the assessment remains focused on the criteria being tested.

During application review it is important to recognize where barriers occur and avoid being judgmental, looking for like-minded or like-appearing candidates, thinking too narrowly, making assumptions about possible behaviour of the candidates without evidence, and resorting to initial impressions, whether negative or positive. It is also important to be cognisant of issues related to cross-cultural communication, such as differences in speech and accent patterns that may lead to direct or indirect discrimination. When assessing letters of references, it is worthwhile to beware of stereotypical thinking and how men and women may use words/phrases differently, or how the words may be applied to them.

Interview questions should be structured in such a way to provide the same kind of information on all the candidates. They should also be less susceptible to the personal biases of the interviewer(s). The aim of the questions should be to understand the degree to which the candidates meet the criteria that are required for successful performance in the position applied for.

2.7 Factors that can hinder hiring of best academics in universities

Dilger (2009) indicated that it is sometimes impossible for every University to hire the best available academics because of some factors but it is important for Universities to strive to hire the best. Such factors are

The number of academics available is limited

The salary, working conditions and demand for academics is sometimes too high because competition

The total budget for University is fixed.

Some of the established academics the University are already the best in their field and in the University. Such academics may want to continue to be the best in the University and can thus block the re

Needs help with similar assignment?

We are available 24x7 to deliver the best services and assignment ready within 6-8 hours? Order a custom-written, plagiarism-free paper

Get Answer Over WhatsApp Order Paper Now