Skip to main content

Code of practice on academic staff engaged in private-led consultancy work

INTRODUCTION

This code of practice sets out the College’s people management approach to academic staff engaged in or seeking to engage in private-led consultancy work and is intended to support Birkbeck’s Financial regulations (PDF) (Section 13).

The Code recognises and values academic staff engagement in external consultancy where it has the potential to enhance the reputation of the College, develop and broaden links with external organisations and provide staff with the opportunity to advance their professional development. Whilst the College recognises and supports private-led consultancy work, it is also necessary to establish clear protocols and guidance to formally manage the process to ensure conflicts of interest which may arise either as a result of relationships with: individuals, external organisations or in the course of managing a variety of responsibilities or interests, are addressed.

SCOPE

The Code applies to all academic staff governed by Charter and Statute including those who work on a part-time or fractional basis. It is recognised that academics working on a part-time basis may work outside their substantive role at Birkbeck and in such cases the parameters of the code do not apply. However, any outside work must not adversely affect the academic member of staff’s ability to perform their normal duties.

DEFINITIONS

Birkbeck acknowledges that there is a distinction between consultancy work initiated on behalf of the College and consultancy work carried out in a private capacity. For the avoidance of doubt the following definitions apply to the application of this code:

  • 'College-led consultancy': Defined as professional work carried out by an academic member of staff on behalf of the College, utilising the College name and resources for the provision of products and/or services to external clients in exchange for a fee or some other form of remuneration.
  • 'Private-led consultancy': Defined as professional work or other business activity conducted by an academic member of staff that does not conflict with their substantive role and which does not involve the use of the College name or resources for the provision of products and/or services to an external client in exchange for a fee or some other form of remuneration by an external client. 

The Code and Financial regulations deal with consultancy work carried out on a private basis and do not include all paid work or extra-curricular work such as external examining, reviewing books or editorial work (see Section 13.3 of the Financial regulations (PDF) for further details).

1.0 CORE PRINCIPLES

The following set of core principles provide a framework within which the College expects all academic staff to operate; it has been developed in line with the revised financial regulations and new College guidelines for consultancy work.

1.1 ACADEMIC INTEGRITY

Birkbeck seeks to maintain its reputation as a leading research and evening teaching institution and academic staff are expected to uphold its standards of integrity in their academic and professional work. In this regard we expect all academic staff to uphold our belief in the importance of honesty, respect, transparency and academic rigour.

1.2 PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

Academic staff proposing or engaged in, consultancy work must adhere to the College’s Financial regulations on consultancy (PDF) and must obtain approval from the relevant Executive Dean (or their nominee) prior to agreeing to undertake such work. The College expects the highest professional standards to be maintained at all times.

1.3 CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Birkbeck also expects the highest standards of behaviour, particularly where academic staff have responsibilities that significantly impact on others. In such circumstances the Executive Dean should be notified if an academic registers or currently runs a private business consultancy. The academic is expected to make decisions in relation to consultancy work, in a fair and balanced way that can withstand external scrutiny and does not conflict with work or services provided by the College. Conflicts of interest should be declared at the earliest opportunity to ensure fair and transparent decisions are taken. See the Conflict of interest code of conduct for further information.

Academic staff must notify their Executive Dean (or nominee) of any changes/issues which emerge during the completion of the project which may give rise to a conflict of interest. Examples may include but are not limited to the offer of private courses or workshops which are currently available through the College, offers of financial incentives or gifts by a client or potential client in exchange for unsubstantiated research outcomes.

1.4 CONFIDENTIALITY

Academic staff are required to exercise due care in regard to disclosures when interacting with potential, current and past clients, both in terms of commercial confidentiality, and the protection of all personal information generated during the completion of the work.

1.5 ETHICS

Birkbeck expects all academic staff to apply appropriate ethical, legal and professional standards in the course of carrying out their assignment(s). Advice should be sought from their Executive Dean (or nominee) in the first instance and the school’s Ethics Committee to ensure ethical standards are maintained for the protection of staff, clients and the College. Where broader issues arise the College Ethics Committee should be consulted.

2.0 IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS

2.1 MANAGEMENT ARRANGEMENTS

The College Financial regulations (PDF) distinguish between two types of consultancy (college-led and private-led) (see section 13 paragraph 13.4 and 13.5 of the financial regulations and sections 2.1.1 and 2.1.2 of this Code for additional information) which may be undertaken up to a maximum of 30 days in total per academic year (pro-rated for part-time staff). In both cases a process of logging and approving requests must take place for each work assignment.

Academic staff are advised to consult their Executive Dean (or nominee) to discuss the feasibility of managing existing work commitments alongside external consultancy work. Where agreed, Academic staff will complete an Academic consultancy authorisation form (Word) (Birkbeck staff only) outlining the details of their consultancy work.

2.1.1 College-led consultancy and related services

The College actively supports consultancy work that is College led and fulfils the following criteria:

  • Discussions have taken place between the academic staff member and their Executive Dean (or nominee) to align the consultancy work with existing work plans.
  • The time commitment falls within the College approved work allocation (30 days per academic year and pro-rated for part-time staff) for consultancy work.
  • The work supports the professional development of the member of staff and does not conflict with the interests of the College.
  • All conflicts of interest and potential risks have been identified and managed.
  • The contractual arrangements of the external consultancy work do not place any restrictions on the member of staff carrying out their substantive activities on behalf of the College.
  • Ethical considerations have been made and approvals have been obtained, where appropriate.

2.1.2 Private-led consultancy and related services

The College will not oppose academic staff engaging in private-led consultancy work provided the following criteria have been met:

  • The consultancy has been discussed and approved by their Executive Dean (or nominee).
  • The academic member of staff has completed an Academic consultancy authorisation form (Word) (Birkbeck staff only) prior to undertaking any private-led consultancy work.
  • Discussions have taken place between the academic staff member, line manager and Executive Dean to align the consultancy work with existing College work plans.
  • The time commitment falls within the College approved work allocation (30 days per academic year and pro-rated for part-time staff) for consultancy work.
  • The academic member of staff has notified the client(s) in writing that they are acting in a private capacity wholly independent of Birkbeck.
  • All conflicts of interest and potential risks have been identified and managed.
  • The academic confirms that they have read the financial regulations section (Section 13 Birkbeck Financial regulations) and understand their personal responsibilities in respect of facilities, insurance, tax, VAT etc.
  • The external consultancy work is not in conflict with services provided by the College.

2.2 MONITORING AND REVIEW

The Research Office in conjunction with Human Resources will oversee the monitoring and records management process. As part of its role in the administration of consultancy assignments, the Research Office will record the number of College-led consultancy days logged by academic staff and notify the schools where the number of days worked on College-led consultancy work exceed the authorised limit of 30 days per academic year (pro-rata for part-time staff).

2.3 BREACHES OF THE CODE

All staff must comply with both the provisions of this Code and the College's associated policies (Financial regulations (PDF)Conflicts of interest code of conduct and Whistleblowing policy) and procedures, breaches of which will be taken seriously and may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Academic staff have a right and a duty to raise concerns which they may have about breaches of the Code. This should normally be through the appropriate Executive Dean but in circumstances where this is not appropriate they may approach the Director of Human Resources in confidence in the first instance. No member of staff who raises concerns in good faith and in line with this guidance will be penalised for doing so (see Whistleblowing policy).

Birkbeck reserves the right to review, revise, amend or replace the content of this Code from time to time, subject to good practice principles of consultation where applicable, with staff, representative trade unions and appropriate Committees to reflect the changing needs of the College and to take account of changes in legislation.

3.0 RESPONSIBILITIES

The following have responsibilities under this Code:

ACADEMIC STAFF

  • Uphold the principles and process outlined in the Code.
  • Notify Executive Dean if intending to set up/currently operating a private business consultancy.
  • Consult Executive Dean or nominee to obtain permission to conduct private-led consultancy.
  • Complete the College Academic consultancy authorisation form (Word) (Birkbeck staff only) to register private-led consultancy work.

EXECUTIVE DEAN OR NOMINEE

  • Hold discussions with academic staff seeking to engage in private-led consultancy work.
  • Consider any conflicts of interest, risks or mitigating circumstances.
  • Review, approve or reject requests for private led consultancy work from academic in relation to delivery of existing Birkbeck contractual obligations.
  • Identify and manage conflicts of interest and breaches of the Code with academic staff.
  • Flag issues that breach parameters of the Code with HR.

RESEARCH OFFICE

  • Log consultancy requests and approvals via the consultancy request form.
  • Record time commitments of academic staff engaged in College-led consultancy work.

HUMAN RESOURCES

  • Monitor requests from academic staff seeking to engage in private-led consultancy work where appropriate.
  • Provide advice and guidance to academic staff where appropriate.
  • Determine appropriate course of action for academic staff in breach of Code.