Appointment of Department Heads

For members of the QUFA bargaining unit, these procedures are superseded by Article 41 of the Collective Agreement.

For Appointment of Heads of Clinical/Academic Departments please see the Appointment of Heads of Clinical/Academic Departments Policy.

Procedures to be Adopted in Advising the Principal on the Appointment of Heads of Departments, approved by the Senate, March 25, 1971

[Amended re gender neutral language, November 1987]

[Originally printed as A Supplement to QUEEN'S GAZETTE, Volume III, Number 41, December 14, 1971]

Table of Contents

  1. Responsibilities of Department Heads
  2. Term of Office
  3. Appointment of Search Committee
  4. Composition of Search Committee
  5. Procedures
  6. Terms of Appointment

I. Responsibilities of Department Heads

There is little doubt that in most departments the responsibilities of the head are becoming heavier and more exacting. The growth in the size of the University, changes in the structure and complexity of its administration, and the assumption by students and staff of a more active role in consultation and decision-making are among the more obvious causes. Increasing importance must therefore be attached to the care with which heads of departments are selected. At the same time (and for the same reasons) it is often hard to persuade persons of high quality to accept a headship, and the search for a suitable candidate becomes protracted and time-consuming. Our proposals are designed to take account of these facts.

It may be helpful to set out briefly, and in part for the use of future search committees, what we conceive to be the principal functions of a modern department head. These are, not necessarily in order of importance:

  1. Faculty management, including hiring, promotion, tenure, arrangement of sabbatical and other forms of leave, salary increases, assignment and reassignment of academic and administrative duties, leadership in planning the development of the department, encouraging and facilitating research and scholarship by colleagues, curriculum development and innovation in teaching and learning, resolution of grievances and disciplinary problems.

  2. Conduct of relations with students including counselling, refereeing applicants for graduate work, assistance with job placement, reviewing performance, and general oversight of staff-student relations within the department.

  3. Administrative and budgetary duties, including the allocation of physical resources (laboratory and office space, etc.), preparation of the departmental budget, office management (non-academic staff), together with submissions on all of these matters to the dean and other appropriate university officers, and in some departments, the administration of departmental research funds.

  4. Representational functions within the University and its various agencies, e.g. relations with other heads (including service on committees of department heads), with the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, the Faculty Board, and Council and Division of the Graduate School.

  5. Conduct of business with outside agencies, e.g. granting agencies, other university department heads and inter-university committees within the discipline.

  6. (in some departments) the administration of professional services.

Many of these duties may be delegated, in whole or in part, to individuals and committees within the department, but under our present system, final responsibility for their performance rests with the department head, and it is the department head who must provide the necessary leadership, guidance and initiative.

The foregoing responsibilities are directly associated with the job, but it is recognized that there are other qualities that are equally important in the selection of a head, e.g. reputation as a scholar, teacher and/or practitioner within the discipline.

II. Term of Office

At one time, department heads were appointed for indefinite terms, at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees, but modern practice, which is now widely accepted in the University, is to make appointments for a specific period. In the Faculty of Arts and Science the normal practice now is to make appointments for five years, though a number have been for three. In each case it has been made clear at the time of appointment that the post is renewable but that the normal selection procedures, including a review of the incumbent's stewardship, would be invoked at the end of each term. In the Faculty of Medicine, 10 years is now the normal term, with provision for re-appointment for further successive periods of five years. The practice in the Faculty of Applied Science is roughly the same as in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

We recommend:

  1. that all appointments be for a special term;
  2. that this term be five years, except that the search committee may recommend a longer (or shorter) term when a strong case is presented;
  3. that the full selection procedures be applied at the end of each term;
  4. that the incumbent be eligible for reappointment;
  5. that the term of office normally commence on July 1.

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III. Appointment of Search Committee

At least nine months before the end of the incumbent's term of office, a Search Committee shall be appointed by the Principal after consulting with the dean of the Faculty concerned, and the fact of its appointment, and the names of its Chair and members shall be announced in the Queen's Gazette for the information of the University community.

IV. Composition of the Search Committee

The Composition of the Search Committee is critical in determining the best advice to be given to the Principal. It is likely, from present practice in the University, that the requirements of membership of such committees will vary between Faculties and even between departments in the same Faculty. Therefore, in order that the Principal receive advice in the most effective manner and as quickly as possible, it is necessary to provide for maximum flexibility in arriving at the membership of the Committee.

Our recommendations in the next section (under Procedures) attempt to ensure that all information from members of the University community that is pertinent to the search and selection process will be placed before the Committee. It is clear that the Committee must possess expertise to assess and use this information properly. It is also a concern that the Committee be able to arrive at advice to the Principal which balances University, Faculty, and departmental interests and concerns. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the selection of a given head of department, it may require judgement of a high order to provide that all of these interests are served in an optimal fashion.

With these considerations in mind, we recommend that the Chair of the Committee normally be the dean of the Faculty, and that the membership be as follows:

  1. At least three faculty members from departments other than the department concerned, but including closely related departments. In Faculties with associate deans, one of these members might be an associate dean;
  2. Where appropriate, the Dean or Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research;
  3. At the discretion of the Principal, two faculty members of the department concerned, chosen as described below;
  4. At the discretion of the Principal, two students of the department concerned, chosen as described below.

The Principal may appoint one or more outside consultants to advise the Committee concerning the state and direction of the department and to suggest the kind of person required as head.

Where faculty members of the department are to be appointed to the Committee, the dean shall write to each member of the academic staff of the department asking for the submission of names and the appointments shall be made after a review of these lists.

Where students are to be appointed, they shall be chosen from lists submitted by the Departmental Student Council and/or other appropriate representative groups of students of the department.

In cases where the Principal considers it inappropriate to appoint departmental staff to the Committee, the number of members from other departments shall be increased accordingly.

V. Procedures

We envisage the search and selection process as having two main components.

First, the Committee shall invite the views of faculty and students of the department on the present state and future prospects of the department and the type of person they would like to see as head. To this end the Chair of the Committee shall write to all members of the academic staff of the department inviting them to submit their views and the names of possible candidates for the post. Students of the department shall also be invited, by notice posted in the department and published in the Queen's Gazette, to submit their views to the Chair. Where these views are expressed in writing, the Chair shall ask respondents to state whether they wish to have their letters shown, in confidence, to the members of the Search Committee. The Chair shall also, at the request of the Search Committee, arrange one or more meetings with the whole academic staff of the department and separately with the Departmental Student Council and/or other appropriate representative student bodies.

The Search Committee shall then arrive at its own conclusions concerning the present state and future prospects of the department, taking account of the representations made to it and the advice it has received, review the field of possible candidates, meet the candidates as required, and, finally, make recommendations to the Principal.

VI. Terms of Appointment

The precise terms of appointment of the head of a department are likely to be an important factor in the selection process. These are a matter for the Principal to determine. There is, however, one issue on which we should like to offer a general comment.

It is very important that persons who undertake the headships of departments should have an opportunity for academic refreshment and "re-tooling" after a substantial period in office, or even during their term when they have gone for a long while previously without sabbatical leave. At the same time we recognize the undesirability, in principle, of heads taking prolonged leaves of any kind during their terms unless there exists a suitable deputy.

In these circumstances it is impossible, we believe, to lay down precise rules to meet every case; but we hope that consideration will be given to this issue in making future appointments. In general, persons taking on headships should not be required to forego indefinitely sabbatical leaves to which they would have been entitled as normal members of the academic staff, and they should be entitled to some special consideration on the conclusion of a normal period of appointment because duties as head will in most cases have prevented them from pursuing scholarly and professional activities to the same degree as their colleagues.

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Please note that the processes described above take into account the university’s Senior Search Strategy developed by Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office.