Revised Administrative Procedures for the Engagement of Postdoctoral Fellows (PDAD&C #27)

PDAD&C #27 (2007-08)


From: Edith Hillan, Vice-Provost Academic
Susan Pfeiffer, Vice-Provost Graduate Education
Date: November 8, 2007

Re: Revised Administrative Procedures for the Engagement of Postdoctoral Fellows

During 2006, a Working Group was convened to review the status of postdoctoral fellows at the University of Toronto. The current Policy and Administrative Procedures for Engagement of Post-Doctoral Fellows date from 2002. The purpose of the policy was to clearly define the role of postdoctoral fellows and to ensure that they were treated in a fair and consistent manner across the institution. At the time the policies were approved, the University elected not to implement mandatory registration. Our experience to date with the policy and administrative procedures suggests that we are not achieving its full objectives.

The Working Group recommended that there was no need to change the current policy; however, some changes to the current administrative procedures are required.

1. Maximum Term of Engagement

Trainee positions should be time-limited; therefore, it is proposed that the maximum initial term of engagement should continue to be three years. In special circumstances, a further extension, normally of up to two years and no more than three, is permitted with the approval of the Dean in multi-department Faculties and the Provost in single-department divisions. After any extension, if these individuals continue with the University they must be reclassified in the appropriate appointment category such as Research Assistant or Research Associate. The proposed time frame is in line with the Policy requirement that normally postdoctoral fellows are within five years from the award of a PhD or equivalent degree.

2. Mandatory Registration

The University has a responsibility to be able to demonstrate that it monitors the length of engagement of postdoctoral fellows in keeping with the principle that trainee positions should be time-limited. Therefore, the Working Group recommends that there should be mandatory registration of postdoctoral fellows through the SGS Postdoctoral Office. The SGS Postdoctoral Office has developed a web-based application to facilitate the registration of postdoctoral fellows. The unit administrator with responsibility for postdoctoral fellows will enter information directly into the system and this will generate a letter of engagement. Upon confirmation of engagement, the web-based application will generate a unique identifier — UTID — and a template letter to be given to the postdoctoral fellow to secure access to University services, including the library and utoronto email. Mandatory registration will ensure that information on, and access to, services such as Hart House, the Athletic Centre, etc., is provided to postdoctoral fellows in a consistent manner.

3. Training Requirements

The University has a responsibility to ensure that postdoctoral fellows receive appropriate professional development during the period of engagement. Therefore, the current administrative procedures for postdoctoral fellows are revised to ensure that a training plan is developed to advance each postdoctoral fellow’s career. Details of the training plan should be included in the letter of engagement. Professional development opportunities should be available through the training site and the SGS Postdoctoral Office to prepare the postdoctoral fellow for their future career.

4. Postdoctoral Health/Dental Benefits

A major concern of postdoctoral fellows is access to health-care benefits during the postdoctoral fellowship. The Working Group recognized that there are difficulties in providing health benefits to non-employees; however, it recommended that Human Resources develop a basic health/dental benefit plan for postdoctoral fellows.

5. Minimum Trainee Stipend Rate

The current minimum trainee stipend of $25,000 for postdoctoral fellows was established in 2002. The Working Group recommended that this should be reviewed. It is proposed that the minimum trainee stipend be increased to $27,500, plus the cost of a basic health/dental benefit plan.

Next Steps

The Revised Administrative Procedures for the Engagement of Postdoctoral Fellows will take effect in January 2008. The revised procedures should be used for all postdoctoral fellows starting after January 1, 2008. All current postdoctoral fellows should be issued with revised engagement letters which meet these terms no later than June 30, 2008. We therefore ask you to ensure that all faculty who engage postdoctoral fellows are aware of the new procedures.

Copies of this memorandum, the Policies for Postdoctoral Fellows, and the Revised Administrative Procedures for Engagement of Postdoctoral Fellows will be available on the Vice-President & Provost’s website.