Excellent HR policy for researchers

The European Commission acknowledged the University of Antwerp in 2013 as an organisation with an excellent HR policy and rewarded us with the ‘HR Excellence in Research Award’. The University of Antwerp is highly motivated to shape the future. That includes defining the future of our researchers. Our quality culture encourages us to constantly challenge the status quo and to break boundaries in order to guarantee high-performance HR processes. We welcome talented researchers from all over the world, offer them a stimulating, attractive work environment and actively support them in developing their talents and careers. That is why our ambitious human resources strategy comprises a broad array of initiatives regarding ethical and professional aspects of research, recruitment and selection, working conditions and social security and training and development. All actions and projects are built around four key areas in which our researchers take centre stage:

HR Strategy for Researchers project

In 2005, the European Commission published the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (hereinafter: the Charter). The Charter contains a number of recommendations relating to the rights and responsibilities of researchers, as well as to those of their employers and/or funders.

The European Commission offers support to research institutions in the development and application of the Charter and the Code through a project entitled HR Strategy for Researchers. Institutes that are able to demonstrate that they follow HR policies that seek to conform to the Charter receive the ‘HR Excellence in Research Award’. The University of Antwerp started the project in 2011.

Based on the input of researchers, academic leaders and other stakeholders, a gap analysis was made: how is the University of Antwerp doing it now? Not bad, it turned out. Through the expanded competency-based human resources policies – which include a revised procedure for recruitment and selection, a new statute for senior academic personnel, an adapted training and education policy and initiatives in the field of internationalization and guidance of junior researchers – we had already proved our correspondence to many of the principles from the Charter.

A portion of the work had thus already been completed. The remaining tasks involved supporting the rest of the principles with planned actions. Therefore an action plan has been developed, framing and categorizing existing initiatives properly, supplementing them with new emphases where necessary and integrating them into a global plan that was consulted by the involved target groups and corresponds to existing policies within the university’s core businesses of education, research and services to society.

These efforts of the University of Antwerp were rewarded in 2013 by the European Commission with the ‘HR Excellence in Research Award’. In her evaluation the Commission praised the impressive set of measures in the action plan and called the case of the University of Antwerp very good example of an excellent process to lead to the continuous improvement of the HR policy for researchers.

In 2015, two years after receiving the award, the action plan was formally evaluated by means of a self-assessment procedure, resulting in an updated action plan. A tremendous improvement on a great number of actions and numerous new initiatives led to a positive evaluation by the European Commission.

The University of Antwerp is determined to continue along the path it has undertaken. In close collaboration with our researchers and project leaders from various domains within the university, we are working hard to implement the updated action plan and to put the ‘HR Excellence in Research Award’ into practice. We fully care for qualitative researchers’ careers and we devote ourselves to selecting the best person for every job by incorporating the Open, Transparent and Merit-based recruitment practices into our institutional policy processes. With a view to the periodic award renewal, we are establishing three-yearly evaluation cycles during which we will report with transparency on the advances that have been made. A guidebook with clear targets and deliverables will be a lever for steady progress on each of the actions points.

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.