In the late autumn of 2013 the University of Agder was awarded the logo HR Excellence in Research by the European Commission. The logo was awarded as a result of a long and demanding process which began with the university signing the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers in 2011.The process involved both conducting a gap analysis, i.e. comparing the policy and practices of the university concerning the situation of the researchers to the principles outlined in charter and code, and developing an action plan to close the ‘gaps’ revealed by the analysis.
The result was an action plan that was approved by the European Commission and the right to use the logo, but the story does not end there. Two years after the institution begins implementing the action plan there is to be a self-evaluation and the results reported to the EU. After another two years, the time has come for a comprehensive external evaluation of the institution’s entire charter and code – process, i.e. not only the action plan and the action steps, but also the comprehensive gap analysis process.
The UiA analysis did not reveal dramatic gaps between the Charter and Code principles as formulated by the EU and the researchers’ situation at UiA, but there is nevertheless room for improvement and quality development also at our university. The action plan includes a number of action steps relating to for instance PhD education and career development for young researchers, recruitment and gender equality. The entire plan is available online at UiA.no.
The Charter and Code process is not a static one and the European Commission has already presented ideas for a permanent quality assessment system related to the charter and code principles where the institutions can, for example, be awarded gold, silver or bronze grades depending on their standard of quality with regard to the researchers’ situation. In all likelihood, then, charter and code have come to stay far beyond the 4-year perspective of the basic process and work is now in progress to incorporate the charter and code principles and our action plan into the university’s ordinary administrative systems and quality assessment procedures.