Staff Learning Scheme

What is the Staff Learning Scheme?

The Staff Learning Scheme is designed to provide staff with financial support for relevant courses and other learning activities for which they would otherwise have to pay. It came into force at the beginning of Michaelmas Term 2009 and replaces both the former fee remission regulation and the arrangements for funding staff attendance at external course via HR Strategy funds. Guidelines for applying for funding within the Scheme can be found below the policy that follows.

Update: April 2012
As described below, staff wishing to take a course can at present apply either to their own department or to the Staff Learning Panel, which is a central source of funding, or possibly to both. The Staff Learning Panel has not been funded for the year 2012-13, and so the central route for funding will have to be suspended from August 2012. The Panel, however, is continuing to consider applications this year for courses provided that they start before August 2012 and that the fee is due before then. The funds available for this year are almost fully committed, but there may yet be some cancellations that will release money for use before August (the position will be clearer by the end of May).

The policy

This policy was adopted by the University's Personnel Committee in Trinity Term 2009 and duly reported to Council on 13 July 2009. Following abolition of the Examination Regulation for the remission of fees for staff of the University, which was approved by Congregation following a notice in the Gazette of 16 July 2009, the policy took effect from the first day of Michaelmas Term 2009. The policy provides for a new Staff Learning Scheme, which replaces both the former fee remission regulation and the arrangements for funding staff attendance at external courses via HR Strategy funds.

  1. The University believes that learning at work, undertaken voluntarily and properly supported, is likely to benefit both the individual and the organisation. For the purposes of this policy, learning at work is defined as structured learning, undertaken with a purpose related to current or future work roles. It may involve formal courses or a programme of other activity such as work shadowing, mentoring or coaching, planned reading or projects undertaken for learning purposes. Usually the learning will be connected with work, but learning programmes undertaken out of general interest may also benefit the University if the effect is to stimulate an interest in learning for its own sake.

  2. The Staff Learning Scheme is designed to provide staff with financial support for relevant courses and other learning activities for which they would otherwise have to pay. The scheme does not cover internal courses run by the Oxford Learning Institute and other Oxford providers such as Computing Services and the Language Centre, which remain free or carry only a nominal charge to staff. Nor does the scheme cover research except where research forms part of a programme of study.

  3. Employees of the University (academic, academic-related and support staff) who wish to undertake a course or other learning activity may apply to their head of department for a grant towards the fees for the course. The annual grant will normally be for a maximum of 100 per cent of the fee, or £2,000, whichever is the lower. In approved cases (see paragraph 6 below), the grant will be available for:

    1. courses offered by the department in which the member of staff is employed (including DPhils);
    2. courses offered by other academic departments of the University;
    3. courses offered by colleges of the University (e.g. Oxford Bursars Training link in new website);
    4. courses offered by organisations outside the University.
  4. Courses, including postgraduate study, under 3(a) above will be funded, subject to resources, by the employing department; courses under 3(b-d) above will be funded, subject to resources, by the employing department or the Staff Learning Panel or a combination of the two. Please note, however, that the central funding distributed by the Panel will be suspended for 2012-13, and therefore the Panel is now able only to consider applications for those courses that begin, and whose full payment will be due, before August 2012.

  5. The course may be for one person or may involve an external consultant being commissioned to run an event for a group of people in a department. It may be qualification-bearing (e.g. a GCSE, A-level, certificate, Master’s or DPhil) or not.

  6. Employees wishing to be considered under the scheme must be able to show that:

    • their primary role is as a member of staff of the University; and
    • the course will help them to develop within the role and be of broader benefit to the department; or that, alternatively, it will enable them to acquire new skills and deal with changes in responsibilities or a new role.
  7. Individuals should consider the operational impact of their plans and discuss these with their line manager before making a formal request. If requests have to be refused the individual has the right to know why, and clear reasons will be given. Activities with a direct link to the individual’s existing job or to their career intentions will take priority over other activities when there is competition for resources. The grants are not taxable under current tax regulations.

  8. Those in part-time posts are eligible to apply so long as they meet criterion 6(1) above. Payments will not be made pro-rata. Those in fixed-term posts are also eligible to apply. Funding, when approved, will run until the end of the contract or until the end of the course, whichever is the earlier date.

  9. Applications must be made on the relevant application form to the head of department, who will consider first whether the application meets the criteria for approval given in paragraph 6.

  10. Departments should make provision for staff development within their normal budgets to enable them to fund reasonable applications under this scheme. In the case of researchers on externally-funded grants, departments should in the first instance establish whether the grant has provision for the course.

  11. If the head of department decides that the course meets the criteria, if the individual is successful in obtaining a place on the course (where relevant) and if funding is available within the department, the grant is made and the administrative arrangements handled within the department:

    • if the course is run by the department in which the member of staff is employed, the department will inform the central student records team of the level of the grant and the course fee will be adjusted accordingly;
    • if the course in question is provided by another department, the providing department will inform the central student records team of the level of the grant and the grant will be transferred direct to the providing department;
    • the department will issue a letter for the member of staff to give to external providers confirming the amount of the grant, and will pay this amount direct on receipt of an invoice.
  12.  If funding for courses run by other departments or by external bodies is not available within the employing department or is insufficient, the head will seek a contribution via the Learning Institute, which will draw on its custodian funds of £100k a year to top up departmental contributions. Applications should be made on the online application form. Decisions are made by a small panel (the Staff Learning Panel) convened by the Head of Professional Development at the Learning Institute and consisting of representatives from each division. The panel has been set up in order to promote transparency, clarify procedures, ensure alternative sources of funding have been fully considered and ensure a consistent approach and moderation as between departments with different levels of resource for staff development. It considers grants towards:

    • course fees (or consultants’ fees, for events run by external consultants for groups of staff);
    • travel, accommodation and daily expenses for events required by the course or agreed as an integral part of less formal programmes (but not for optional events);
    • purchase costs of study materials required by the course or agreed as an integral part of less formal programmes (but not of optional materials)

      As a general rule the panel will grant 50% of the total costs involved, or £2,000, whichever is the lower (this funding being additional to any support that a department might be able to provide under the provisions of paragraph 3)

  13. The provision in the Examination Regulations for remission of the fees of matriculated courses for university staff has been abolished and replaced with this policy. Research assistants previously eligible for remission of fees for postgraduate study under the Examination Regulations provision will have their fees remitted for the period approved under the old scheme. Research assistants may now apply for grants from their departments towards their postgraduate study under this policy. The Staff Learning Panel will not fund postgraduate study to be undertaken within the member of staff's own department.
  14. When funding is granted, whether by the department or by the Staff Learning Panel, it will be for the department to make appropriate arrangements for time off to study and other support, if required; for communicating the employee’s progress with the course; and for sharing the benefits of the course among colleagues. Such arrangements may include:

    • mentoring or other support from colleagues – especially where the course involves a work-based project or assignment or requires the employee to apply what they have learned to the workplace;
    • keeping the line manager up to date about the employee’s progress on the course;
    • an agreed balance between the employee’s own time and working hours to be used for the course;
    • use of consumables and equipment (within relevant university rules such as those on the use of IT);
    • workshops or presentations to colleagues about key learning from the course.
  15. In some circumstances, financial support may be withdrawn or repayment of financial assistance will be required:

    • where an employee fails to sit for an examination within a reasonable period, or fails to demonstrate satisfactory progress in her/his studies or discontinues her/his course of study, the University may withdraw the facilities previously granted. Repayment of a proportion of the financial assistance may also be required. The University will determine what is appropriate depending upon individual circumstances;
    • an employee who voluntarily leaves the University before completing the whole or a defined part of a recognised qualification, or before completing a non-qualification-bearing course, may be required to repay in full the financial assistance that has been given;
    • an employee who voluntarily leaves the University within two years after completion of a course may be required to repay the financial assistance in accordance with the proportion of two years’ service that has been completed;
    • no repayment will be required where an employee leaves to take up full time education;
    • where repayment of financial assistance is required this shall not include salary paid in respect of time spent at approved courses of study.

Guidelines for applying for funding

The following guidelines need to be read in conjunction with the above policy.

  1. If you are an individual member of staff who intends to begin, or continue, a DPhil or other course within your own department, please complete 'Staff scheme - own department' form and send it to your head of department, not to the Staff Learning Panel.
  2. If you are an individual member of staff who wishes to begin, or continue, a DPhil or other course in a department other than your employing department, or a course run by a body outside the University, please complete the 'Staff scheme - external' form and send it to your head of department, not to the Staff Learning Panel.
  3. If you are a head of department or departmental administrator seeking a contribution towards a) the costs of a member of your staff undertaking a course in a different University department or external to Oxford, or b) the costs of a learning and development event run by external consultants for a group of staff members within your department, please complete and return 'Staff scheme - application to panel' to the Professional Development Administrator for consideration by the Staff Learning Panel. The Panel meets quarterly and considers applications for funding in a gathered field. The deadlines for applications in 2011-2012 are 26 September, 3 January, 10 April and 18 June.

For further information on the staff learning scheme, contact the Professional Development Administrator, Liisa Worrall (the scheme in general, and external courses).

Please contact the Fees Clerk for information on tuition fees issues for University of Oxford courses funded under the scheme.