Staff contracts in the University Rovira i Virgili

The University Rovira i Virgili (URV) in Tarragona, in Southern Catalonia (Spain) has an active third mission agenda, including entry points for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to the university knowledge base, social and cultural programming in 22 cities in Southern Catalonia and active participation in fostering the key regional industry clusters such as knowledge-based petrochemical industry, energy, oenology and tourism. The URV education and research are fully aligned with the regional needs and opportunities.

In order to reward and incentivise staff members the University has created specific contracts for the university research staff to recognise the importance of and give value to excellence in all faculty activities: whether research, teaching, management, or regional outreach efforts. The university research staff contract has been re-organised around a system with a ten-point base. All faculty are expected to undertake research and to teach, with the minimum contractual obligations constituting six of the expected ten points. To reach the expected ten points, the university staff can contribute in a variety of ways, according to their interests and expertise. For some staff members, this may mean giving presentations in programmes in which the university is developing a presence. For others, it may mean working with a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) to implement a technology transfer or technology commercialisation project. For others, reaching the ten points may mean additional research and publication or management related activities.

The goal of this human resources management tool is to set a base expectation for the staff university performance in core activities. This evaluation method also creates the flexibility to allow staff members to contribute in arenas related to the university’s goals to expand its research and third mission activities in regional development. All of the criteria for performance constitutes a unit contributing to the ten-point base. The results and the activities of each faculty member toward achieving the base standard are available to all members of the department. The goal of the university in developing this evaluation programme is to create a more transparent and accountable university.

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What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

The challenge was initially to create incentives for university staff for research activities, but at early stages a decision was made to reward and incentivise all relevant activities of staff members, including knowledge transfer and regional development. The outcomes of the staff contract system have been very good. It has helped improve the university staff participation and performance in research activities and given value to excellence in all relevant activities whether management, teaching, research and development or regional development. It has also made visible the staff activities and fostered cross-fertilisation among the university staff.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

Success factors include the establishment of a structured contract with staff which acknowledges the performance and excellence in all aspects of staff activity.
Another success factor is the long term commitment to the incremental development of the system as well as gaining the ownership of the university council and staff. The implementation of this human resource tool requires institutional autonomy over human resources. A key success factor is also the transparency of the tool which has improved the overall accountability within the university constituencies


What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

The challenges of this tool include the potential difficulties of gaining ownership of the university decision making bodies and the staff representatives. In the URV this was achieved by the leadership of the university in close collaboration with the staff members. Potential constraints include lack of funding to financially reward high achieving staff members.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

The elements that need to be put in place to be sustainable include the development and maintenance of an ICT-based tool which is linked to the system of human resource management. Social costs include the convincing of the university decision making bodies of the importance for greater transparency and accountability in staff management. The system is fully embedded in the URV management system.

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

This good practice can be replicated and adapted to new contexts. The required steps include: developing the online/ICT-based tool which is linked to the institutional human resources management system, piloting the system in a faculty/department, achieving a 'political consensus within the university of the benefits of the implementation of the system and full rollout, making the results open for the university community.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

The key issue in mobilising higher education staff for the development of the institution is to acknowledge the diversity of personal drivers and motivators and create a system that can reward and incentivise all relevant activities of staff members, including knowledge transfer and regional development.


Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

The University of Rovira i Virgili (URV) is a public university in Southern Catalonia (Spain). For the third year running, the URV is among the world's top 500 universities according to Times Higher Education (THE). URV is renowned for industry collaboration, research excellence in selected fields and for its active role in regional development. It consists of 12 faculties and schools in which 1500 lecturers and researchers provide degrees to over 11 000 undergraduates and 1500 master’s-degree and doctoral students, who attend courses in the sciences, health sciences, social and legal sciences, engineering and architecture, arts and humanities