Agreement on fixed term contracts

This agreement came into effect upon the approval by Council of the new Ordinances under Statute 29 on 17 July 2009.



The University of Exeter and recognised trade unions* have reached the following agreement regarding the application of fixed term contracts.

(* The University of Exeter recognises the following trade unions: University and College Union, Unison, Unite.)

This agreement applies to all individuals employed by the University on a fixed-term basis other than those engaged on a casual/claims basis and Graduate Teaching Assistants.

This agreement is based on the following understandings:

  • the University aims to achieve a significant reduction in its reliance on fixed term contracts;
  • open-ended contracts should be the normal employment arrangement at the University;
  • fixed term contracts will only be used in specifically defined circumstances (see paragraph 4 below);
  • as a consequence of converting a significant number of fixed term contracts to open-ended contracts, the reduced use of fixed-term contracts may result in an increased number of redundancy situations affecting members of staff on open-ended contracts, although every effort will be made to avoid redundancy situations arising and to avoid making individuals redundant.

Back to top


In this agreement, “fixed-term contract” is defined in accordance with the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.

An “open-ended contract” is a contract which is open-ended and is not for a fixed term, but any such contract may be lawfully terminated in various circumstances, including resignation, retirement, ill-health, gross misconduct and redundancy.

This agreement does not form part of the contract of employment.

Back to top

Reasons for use of fixed term contracts

Fixed term contracts will only be used in the University for transparent, necessary and objective reasons. It is jointly recognised that some use of fixed term contracts will remain appropriate in specifically defined circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • cover for a member of staff who is absent for a limited period (for example on maternity leave, sickness absence, study leave, secondment etc);
  • where the appointment requires specialist skills for a limited period or is to accomplish a particular task or project for a limited period;
  • externally-funded, time-limited research projects where the prospect of continued funding is unlikely;
  • appointment to a clearly defined training or career development position (eg graduate trainees, apprentices, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships);
  • secondment;
  • temporary re-engagement following early retirement;
  • appointments to cope with unexpected or unpredictable period of demand over a time-limited period.

With regard to “externally-funded, time-limited research projects where the prospect of continued funding is unlikely”: a fixed term appointment will usually only apply to the employee’s first appointment with the University, where there is no evidence of continued funding. In such circumstances, the University's commitments under the research concordat will apply.

In circumstances where funding bodies do not permit the holders of research fellowships to have an open-ended position or where the funding cannot be used for open-ended appointments, individuals may need to be offered a fixed term contract to fulfil the conditions of the funding body.

Fixed term contracts will not be used in lieu of probation or to monitor performance where the appointment would otherwise be open-ended (except for graduate internships).

In cases where a fixed term appointment is appropriate, to provide security to staff for as long as possible, fixed term contracts should be for the maximum length of time possible based on the funding available and the duties required.

Back to top

Employment Arrangements

The University will ensure that employment arrangements applied to employees engaged by the University on a fixed-term basis comply with the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 and the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff Guidance for Higher Education Institutions on Fixed-Term and Casual Employment (2002).

Employees engaged on fixed-term contracts will not be treated less favourably than comparable employees on open-ended contracts with regard to employment terms and benefits and access to development, unless there are objectively justifiable reasons for doing so.

Letters of appointment (and letters confirming the extension of employment) will:

  • confirm that the employment is fixed-term;
  • state the end date of the appointment.

The reasons for the fixed term nature of the employment should be explained to the employee.

Back to top

Notification of Vacancies

The Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 give fixed-term employees the right to be informed by their employer of available vacancies in the establishment. The University meets this obligation by advertising all current vacancies on its website. 

Back to top

Procedure for termination/non-renewal of fixed term contracts

The University reserves the right to terminate fixed-term contracts early – ie prior to their notified expiry date – in appropriate circumstances, by following the appropriate procedure in its Ordinances or, if the University is considering terminating the employment prior to the notified end date but within the probationary period, the appropriate probationary procedure.

Otherwise, the University will apply the appropriate procedure detailed in its Ordinances, namely:

  • the procedure for the termination on expiry/non-renewal of a fixed term contract; or
  • the procedure for dismissal on other grounds.

In many cases, the employee will be aware of the fact that the employment will not be renewed and may choose to waive their right to a formal meeting under the procedure. If the employee indicates that they do not wish to proceed with a meeting under the appropriate procedure, or if they do not attend the meeting, the procedure ends at this point and the University will be under no further obligations under the procedure.

Back to top


Members of staff employed on fixed term contracts will be eligible for consideration for redeployment under the University’s Redeployment Procedure when the University has confirmed that the appointment will not be renewed provided they have been continuously employed by the University for at least 24 months as at the expiry date of the current fixed-term appointment.

Back to top