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Policy Human Resources Statement on Staff External Activities - Existing

Statement on Staff External Activities - Existing

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To ensure academic staff’s professional external activities are appropriate to staff roles at the University and as responsible members of the wider community, and do not impinge on the effective discharge of their duties.


Academic staff


External activities: refers to activities of academic staff members that are outside their terms of employment (as stated in their conditions of appointment) and that do not involve their acting as an agent for, or on behalf of, the University.

Statement Provisions

1. General Principles

1.1 The University plays an important role in society, in particular within the northern Queensland region. The staff of the University serve as the interface to the wider community and are fundamental to the fulfilment of the University's wider community obligations. Activities of staff outside the University, for instance through their performance of consultancies, membership of boards and committees, and provision of training through community bodies, are essential components of the University's profile.

The University takes seriously its community responsibilities and believes that academic staff should act as responsible members of the community in the broadest sense, and in the public good. Academic staff are appointed on the basis of their standing in the discipline and on their experience and abilities to fulfil their responsibilities to the University and the community it serves. Against this background, the University expects staff to take full responsibility for their professional activities.

At the same time, the University has a responsibility to ensure that the conduct of its staff, insofar as members act within the scope of their duties, is in accordance with accepted standards and that their external activities do not impinge on the effective discharge of their duties. Academic staff should also seek to make a clear distinction between activities undertaken in a private capacity and those that form part of their academic duties.

1.2 Universities by tradition play a major, often leading, role in public debate. They are communities of free enquiry which must preserve and develop that critical function through exercising ethical and academic rigour in all activities and by the on-going analysis of emergent social, economic, cultural and political trends. Consequently the University reaffirms both the right and responsibility of academic staff to contribute to public debate and to inform public opinion and policy through their expert knowledge.

1.3 Staff acting outside of the scope of their University duties, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity, or as a professional or otherwise, have a responsibility to ensure that those activities do not:

  • interfere with the effective carrying out of their normal University duties;

  • involve staff members in any conflict of interest with their University responsibilities, or in any situation where there is a reasonable basis for the perception of such a conflict.

Staff must also take all reasonable steps to avoid the University incurring any liability as a result of their conduct.

1.4 University duties often necessitate working outside standard working hours. There is no prescription as to the number of hours that a staff member may or may not spend on external activities providing that the staff member fulfils his/her obligations to the University. Those hours must, however, be limited by the effective discharge of academic tasks.

2. External Professional Activities

2.1 By "professional activities" is meant those that fall within the scope of the academic and professional expertise of the staff member. The criteria for identifying that expertise, or standing within a discipline, include:

  • possession of appropriate academic and/or professional qualifications;

  • publications in the relevant area;

  • recognition of teaching expertise in the area;

  • membership of relevant professional bodies;

  • invitations to speak at relevant conferences;

  • distinctive contributions to the formulation of relevant public and social policy.

2.2 The University encourages staff to participate in professional activities outside the scope of their normal duties.

The University recognises that benefits may accrue to both the staff member and to the University from external professional activities. These benefits include:

  • developing, broadening and strengthening the skills and experience of the staff member, and hence enriching the academic and intellectual capital of the University;

  • making the specialised knowledge and talents of the staff member, and hence of the University, available to the community;

  • enhancing the personal satisfaction that staff gain from their professional position;

  • relating the pure and strategic research pursued in the University to the applied research and technology necessary for industry, government and other community sectors;

  • widening the options available to the University for additional sources of funding for research and scholarship.

In recognising those benefits, the University offers to the staff member, in the pursuit of those professional activities:

  • moral encouragement, if necessary in terms of public statements on his or her behalf; and

  • a willingness to consider providing legal assistance to defend his or her rights, if the staff member should seek that assistance.

If staff members wish to have such activities considered as part of their University duties for the purposes of increment review or promotion or conformation of tenure or the like, they should ensure that the activity has the prior approval of their Head of Faculty who will first seek advice in writing from the staff member's Head of School and, if necessary, also the head of the staff member's discipline.

It would be wise for the staff member to obtain the approval of the Head of Faculty in writing. Where approval is not granted by the Head of Faculty an appeal would lie for the staff member as detailed in Clause 6.2.

Staff may cite such approved activities in their applications for promotion, as "service to the relevant profession and/or academic discipline and/or relevant contributions to the wider community".

2.3 Staff members should act in compliance with relevant professional codes of ethics, and in the spirit of a responsible and honest search for knowledge and for its dissemination. The approach should be appropriate to the profession and discipline.

2.4 Staff members should ensure that when acting in the course of professional activities to which this Statement applies, that they do not represent or act in a way which is calculated to convey that they are speaking or acting on behalf of the University as an institution, or conveying the views of or expressing the position of the University as an institution.

3. Paid External Professional Activities

3.1 All research, consultancies and other contract work shall be negotiated through the University unless a formal written exemption is granted by the relevant Head of Faculty. An exemption can be granted for a period of up to twelve months at a time.

It is recognised that negotiating such work through the University involves benefits to both sides (such as that the work directly enhances the University's research capacity, and that the work will be covered by the University's professional liability insurance).

Exemptions may be sought where, for example, the paid work is required to maintain expertise in professional practice. Where the paid work involves the use of University resources or facilities, exemptions will only be granted in rare and exceptional cases. Where a staff member seeks to undertake significant amounts of paid external work, he or she may be required to move to a fractional appointment.

Exempted work may not count in the calculation of a teaching or administrative load.

3.2 Exemptions need not be sought for:

  • the refereeing or editing of articles for academic journals, or other such texts;

  • the refereeing of research grant proposals or reports;

  • external examining;

  • a place on a professional board in return solely for a sitting fee; or

  • the writing of books, or the creation of other artistic works.

Paid private tuition of University students in a subject in which the staff member is formally involved, other than in official halls of residence, is not permitted.

3.3 Work for which an exemption is granted must not involve any use of the University arms (emblem, logo, letterhead, etc), or make any explicit association with the University.

If a full-time staff member wishes to seek paid professional work by any form of public announcement or advertisement, written approval must be obtained in advance from the Head of Faculty. There must be no explicit association with the University in any such announcement or advertisement.

3.4 Written notification to the Provost must be provided prior to a staff member accepting:

  • a place on the board or governing body of an entity, except where the entity is non-profit and charitable, or where it exists exclusively for the arrangement of private affairs; or

  • a position as a partner or principal in, or regular consultant to, a commercial entity;

  • and the notification must be provided annually to the Provost thereafter.

A brief description of the areas in which the entity operates or plans to operate must also be supplied.

4. Private Activities

4.1 Where staff members involve themselves in activities that fall outside of the scope of professional activities (as defined in this Statement), they have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other citizen. The University accepts no responsibility, nor any legal or financial liability, for the conduct of private activities.

Staff members must ensure that:

  • the General Principles (refer section 1.1) apply to those activities; and

  • at all times it is made clear that they are acting neither on behalf of the University nor in their capacity as a member of staff, that is, that they are in no sense representing the University.

4.2 Private activities shall not:

  • involve the use of University resources;

  • count in the calculation of a teaching or administrative load.

5. Use of University Resources

5.1 The resources required for the provision of teaching, research and community service by the University are significant. It is the responsibility of members of staff to ensure that they are managed efficiently and effectively, and that they are used for the legitimate University purposes for which they are provided.

5.2 Staff members should seek advice from the Head of School, or the Head of Faculty where appropriate, regarding the use of resources.

Staff should particularly note that:

  • where an exemption has been granted under clause 3.1 to a staff member to conduct paid professional work which involves the use of University resources, the staff member must fully reimburse the University for the costs of such use, at a rate previously agreed in writing with the Head of School responsible for the resource;

  • paid non-professional private work must not involve the use of University resources;

  • (see 4.2) private activities in general must not involve the use of University resources.

6. Provision of advice and the resolution of dispute.

6.1 The University recognises that the distinction between professional and private activities may, in some rare instances, be blurred. In instances where there is doubt about whether an activity is professional or private, the staff member concerned should seek advice in the first instance of their Head of School or, where appropriate, Head of Faculty.

6.2 A second avenue for advice shall be Provost. Should the Provost require further advice a committee may be established by, and reporting to, the Provost.  The Committee shall comprise one person appointed by the Provost, and one representative of the Academic Board and, where the staff member so requests, a representative, who may be an employee of the University or union representative or delegate, other than a practicing solicitor or barrister.

The role of the Committee shall be:

  • to advise staff and the Provost on what in general constitutes professional as opposed to private activities;

  • to advise the Provost on a case by case basis of instances where there is dispute as to whether an activity is professional or private, or where a member of staff's activities have become the subject of public criticism or discussion to the extent that an issue arises as to whether the member's activities fall within the provisions of this Statement on Staff External Activities, and to advise the Provost as to the matters to which such dispute or issue gives rise and the appropriate course of action in such circumstances.

The Committee will report to the Provost, who will in turn advise both the Committee and the staff member concerned of any consequent action.

6.3 In cases where the University as a corporate entity is subjected to, or threatened with, legal action arising from the activities of an academic staff member, the University will where appropriate advise the Committee, and inform and consult with the staff member concerned.

7. Income, Indemnity and Reporting

7.1 External activities, whether private or professional, are not covered by the University's professional indemnity insurance, nor any other related cover such as workers' compensation; nor will the University provide accounting or related services. Earnings received for private work must not be paid through the University (other than as unconditional donations).

7.2 It is the responsibility of staff members to inform their clients of any relevant conditions which this policy imposes on their relationship with the clients, particularly with respect to:

their operating totally independently of the University, and

the University not accepting any liability whatsoever, for any losses, expenses, claims or damages that may be incurred by the member or staff as a result of their external work.

7.3 A report of earnings received from external work must be submitted by full-time staff members at the end of each financial year to their Head of School, and thence to their Head of Faculty. A report of all exemptions granted, and of the earnings received, must be provided at the end of each financial year by the Head of Faculty to the Provost.

Approval Details

Policy sponsor:

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Services and Resources

Approval authority:

Human Resources Committee

Version no:


Date for next review:


Modification History

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date


18-1 30/04/2018Changes made to reflect headline restructure 30/04/2018




Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect Council approved Policy and Delegations Framework

Author:  Quality, Standards and Policy Unit