Responsibilities of an Academic Head of Department


The term Head of Department applies to appointed postholders who have responsibility for either an academic department or school. Heads of Department are appointed by and are responsible to the Pro-Vice Chancellor Faculty (PVCF).


The prime role of the Head of an Academic Department is to provide strong academic leadership.

The Head of Department is required to lead, manage and develop the department to ensure it achieves the highest possible standards of excellence in all its activities. They will be supported by the PVC Faculty, and by colleagues from within the department, Faculty, and central services.

All Heads of Department are required to exercise leadership, demonstrate vision, and empower others in order to deliver the agreed departmental strategy within the Faculty. It is recognised that the methods by which Heads of Department carry out their duties and the extent of delegation, will depend on such factors as the size and nature of the Departments and the personal approach of the individual Head of Department.

Specifically, the role will include:

1. Leadership and Management

1.1 be responsible and accountable for setting and advancing the academic strategy of the Department in line with Faculty and University strategic plans and direction

1.2 be an active member of the Faculty Executive Board and contribute to the overall leadership and management of the Faculty: it is expected that Heads of Department will carry functional responsibility for specific agreed cross-cutting Faculty areas

1.3 develop and sustain appropriate structures for management, consultation, decision-making and communication with staff and students

1.4 promote and represent the University both internally and externally

2. Responsibility for Teaching and Students

2.1 ensure the best possible student experience through:

• the fulfilment of the University´s responsibilities concerning students in respect of their admission, instruction, progress and examination;

• the availability of pastoral assistance, and

• adherence to the regulations and procedures of Faculties and of the Senate

2.2 refresh and develop new programmes in order to attract new students and markets

3. Responsibility for Research

3.1 ensure the highest levels of quality, integrity and ethics in all research undertaken

3.2 create a dynamic and forward looking research environment for both staff and students

4. Knowledge Transfer

4.1 create and exploit new opportunities for knowledge transfer activity in order to secure additional income streams and new areas of teaching and/or research

4.2. contribute to University-wide initiatives in order to improve understanding and communication of this area

5. People Management

5.1 ensure that University HR policies and procedures are implemented

5.2 ensure that staff performance is managed appropriately and in a way that is consistent with the expectations of the Sheffield Academic, and that fair workload allocation processes are in place

5.3 ensure all staff have access to the necessary support to enable them to contribute fully and develop their skills and experience

5.4 engender a culture of excellence, co-operation and respect both within and beyond the department

5.5 make effective use of all staffing resources and seek opportunities for collaboration and joint working with others beyond the department and beyond the Faculty

5.6 ensure students are included as appropriate in the various decision making fora within the department

5.7 ensure a safe and healthy environment for both staff and students, and full compliance with health and safety requirements

6. Financial Management

6.1 take responsibility for devolved budgets and comply with University financial regulations

6.2 manage income and expenditure in order to promote financial sustainability

6.3 ensure adherence by all Departmental members, with University Financial Regulations and other financial operating procedures and regulations

6.4 ensure that University equipment/facilities under the department´s control are properly maintained and serviced as required

7. Quality Assurance

7.1 ensure all activities are carried out to the highest possible standards and put in place the necessary evaluation and monitoring procedures to ensure both compliance and improvement: such procedures will include teaching, research and management of all resources

7.2 comply with auditing, quality assurance and risk management procedures both internal and external

8. Development of Academic/Research Standing

8.1 continue to develop one´s position as a leading academic researcher; including publication, securing of external funding and the pursuit of other relevant indicators of standing in the field

8.2 give due consideration to ways of retaining connections with teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels

8.3 give due consideration to the status of Head as a role model for other members of staff in the pursuit of academic excellence

9. Person Specification for Head of Department

Background and Experience

Candidates will:

• have a very strong academic record and standing

• normally be at professorial level - although skills and aptitude will be more important

• have a very good understanding of the academic disciplines within the department


Candidates will:

• have the ability to engage constructively with people

• have excellent communication skills

• have very good ambassadorial and diplomatic skills

• have the ability to manage a number of competing demands

• have excellent delegation skills

• be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances

• be able to develop their skills and seek advice from a variety of sources

• be willing and able to exercise judgement and take risks

10. Terms and Conditions of Office

• Heads of Department will normally hold office for 4 years in the first instance renewable for up to a further 4 years by joint agreement

• Heads of Department will normally be required to undertake a shadowing period prior to taking up office

• Heads of Department will be required to attend the necessary briefings and training as agreed by the UEB and/or PVCF

• At the end of their 4 year period of office, Heads of Departments will be entitled to apply for up to two semesters of study leave, for approval by the PVCF

• Performance and achievements as Head of Department will be rewarded and will be taken into account within the annual salary review for professorial staff

Appendix 1

Appointment process for selection of new Heads of Department

• Heads of Department will be appointed by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Faculty

• Heads of Departments positions will normally be advertised internally and selected following a full selection committee procedure

• PVCFs will ensure appropriate consultation with departmental staff

• It is expected that the Selection Committee, Chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Faculty, will normally include a cognate Head of Department from the Faculty, the Director of Faculty Operations and HR Adviser for the Faculty; a senior Professor from the department and a non-professorial academic member of staff from the department

• Appointments will normally take effect from August each year