Head of Department

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Job Description 

Heads of Department (hereafter referred to as 'HoD') run academic departments at higher education institutions. They are equal in academic stature to the role of professor. HoDs manage the day to day running of the teaching and research aspects of the department and are responsible for hiring new staff members and liaising with senior management. Many HoDs also undertake their own research including presenting research findings at conferences worldwide.

HoDs, like professors, are also required to seek external funding for their research activities to enhance the prestige of their institution and to initiate research projects that involve connections with scholars at other institutions in the UK and overseas. They may also be involved in initiatives with other public sector bodies and the private sector. HoDs are expected to lead the strategic planning and decision making for their department. They focus more on teaching postgraduates than teaching undergraduates.


  • Course design
  • Planning teaching innovations and development for the future
  • Attending planning meetings to ensure cross departmental parity
  • Representing departmental views and needs to faculty level and central university management
  • Leading the department’s research strategy
  • Presenting research at conferences

Salary and Conditions

Starting salary is achieved by negotiation with the employer. It would be at least on a par with a professorial salary (£45,000 plus) and often considerably more.

Some HoDs are permanent positions. Most are full time, although part time posts and job shares are occasionally available. Permanent staff can opt into a final salary pension scheme (Teachers Pension Scheme). Sick pay allowance varies from institution to institution but is often more generous than the private sector. Maternity and paternity leave also vary from institution to institution. Staff can join the University and College Union.

Entry Criteria

Most HoDs will have a PhD. They will have a very good bachelor’s degree: a first or upper second class. Some HoDs have a separate masters degree, especially in the humanities fields. Very rarely a HoD with personal vocational experience will be taken on without a PhD.

Career Path

There are steady annual salary increments in most jobs. Some scholars remain at HoD level for the rest of their career. Others go into senior university management and may take on the role of Dean of School. Others revert back to an academic professorship.

Major employers

HoDs are mostly employed in publicly funded universities or HE colleges. There are many different sorts of these in the UK. Oxford and Cambridge are the most prestigious, followed by research-based institutions such as the Russell Group. The post-1992 group of universities, which used to be Polytechnics, are also large employers of lecturers. There is one private university in the UK, based in Buckingham. Every large town or city in the UK now has its own university.

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