Professional Development Program (PDP) - Guidelines | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Professional Development Program (PDP) - Guidelines

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Responsible Executive member
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Designated officer
Director, Human Resources
Related documents
Related legislation / standards
  • USC Enterprise Agreement

1. Introduction

These guidelines provide information to applicants to optimise their ability to plan for and prepare successful applications for PDP by ensuring they:

  • Fulfil procedural requirements
  • Plan for and prepare timely and accurate applications
  • Seek appropriate advice and mentoring

2. Principles of PDP

PDP provides opportunities for staff to broaden their experience and further develop their scholarship, teaching and research skills and professional knowledge by working collaboratively and in a sustained manner with scholars, teachers, researchers and professionals outside the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). Through PDP, staff are able to undertake a significant project that is not normally available through other means within the University.

From the University’s perspective, PDP is a means by which the performance and achievement of staff can be recognised and rewarded, a significant investment in staff and career development can be made, and strategic and productive partnerships can be developed. Also, the implementation and outcomes of PDP contribute to the achievement of University, School and Cost Centre strategic goals.

PDP is not a means by which staff are released from teaching in order to focus on research (see Clause 5.2.2 Academic Sabbatical from the USC Enterprise Agreement 2019 -2022), study and other activities locally. Such release can be negotiated through Performance Planning and Review (PPR) processes and achieved through annual work allocation and workforce planning processes within the School or work area.

3. Eligibility to apply for PDP

3.1 Full-time and fractional (0.5 fractional appointment and above) staff with a minimum of three years’ continuous service with USC at the closing date for applications, are eligible to apply for PDP. The exceptions are:

  • Executive staff, Heads of Schools and Directors are not eligible to apply for PDP.
  • Fixed-term staff are not eligible to apply for PDP unless there is sufficient time remaining in their current fixed-term appointment to ensure a return to the University from PDP for a period not less than the period of absence. PDP will not extend the term of the fixed-term appointment.

3.2 Staff are eligible to reapply for PDP after three years’ continuous service from the end of the last PDP.

4. Planning to apply for PDP

4.1 Performance Planning and Review (PPR) plays a central and crucial role in planning and preparing to apply for PDP. Prospective applicants are required to discuss the possibility of applying for PDP with their PPR Supervisor during their formal PPR conversations.

4.2 PDP is a means to provide a time to focus and realise significant professional achievements. The project to be undertaken and the expected outcomes need to be relevant to the individual staff member’s level of appointment and stage of career development.

4.3 If, in the view of the PPR Supervisor and/or Cost Centre Manager (CCM), the staff member’s performance does not warrant a significant investment in development at this time, or undertaking PDP is not timely in relation to the staff member’s career development, or the operations of the Cost Centre cannot accommodate the absence of the staff member at the proposed time, the staff member is to be advised that an application will not be endorsed by the Cost Centre before they begin to prepare an application. It can take considerable time to plan for and prepare a cogent application.

4.4 To maintain the integrity and strength of teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and supervision of Honours and Higher Degrees by Research students, a School has a responsibility to prepare and plan for staff participation in PDP in their annual work allocation and workforce planning processes. Cost Centres also need to prepare and plan for staff participation in PDP in order to ensure continuity of services.

5. Call for applications for PDP

5.1 The call for applications is normally announced around the middle of the year specifying the closing date by which applications are to be submitted for that year.

5.2 Late applications cannot be accepted.

6. Conditions of PDP

6.1 Duration

The duration of PDP is normally not more than six (6) months.

6.2 Location of PDP

PDP must be undertaken in an organisation other than USC, for example, in another Australian or overseas university or in industry or in another relevant organisation. Fundamental characteristics of PDP are:

  • working collaboratively and in a sustained manner with scholars, teachers, researchers or professionals outside USC; and
  • broadening participants’ experience by enabling them to immerse themselves in a different environment/s and organisational culture/s.

6.3 Leave

6.3.1 PDP is deemed to include the pro rata amount of annual leave due and to be inclusive of University holidays occurring during the PDP. Public holidays declared for the location in which PDP is undertaken are deemed to be included in the PDP.

6.3.2 A staff member may take more than the pro rata amount of annual leave with the approval of their supervisor and Head of School/Cost Centre Manager (CCM), on condition that personal travel time does not exceed 50% of the total PDP time and that reporting requirements can be met in a timely manner.

6.4 Approval of PDP

6.4.1 Recommendations to approve PDP are based on:

  • the applicant’s performance and achievements;
  • the quality and potential benefits of the proposed Program;
  • the degree to which the proposed Program furthers the achievement of the strategic goals of the University.

6.4.2 The PDP Committee evaluates applications and the Chair, on behalf of the Committee, makes recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor and President.

6.4.3 The Vice-Chancellor and President can approve or not approve any recommendation made by the PDP Committee.

6.5 Conditions of approval

6.5.1 As a staff member of, and an ambassador for, the University, the staff member is obligated to adhere to all relevant State and Federal legislation, University policies and procedures, and the Staff Code of Conduct, and those of the host institution, while undertaking PDP.

6.5.2 Approval is made on the condition that the staff member resumes full normal duties at the University on completion of the PDP and to continue in those duties for a period not less than the duration of the PDP.

6.5.3 If the staff member does not comply with this requirement, repayment of salary and financial assistance received during the PDP, or a proportion of them, are recouped by the University.

6.5.4 Failure to abide by these conditions can result in cancellation of approval.

6.5.5 Satisfactory reporting is a significant contractual component of PDP. On return from PDP, the staff member is required to provide the Head of School/CCM with a comprehensive report on the implementation and outcomes of the PDP.

6.5.6 The staff member is also required to make a presentation to at least one relevant University community.

7. Preparing an application

7.1 The onus is on the applicant to provide adequate information for the PDP Committee to be able to make a reasonable judgement whether or not the application meets the merit criteria for PDP.

7.2 To be considered, an application must propose a significant project that:

  • broadens the staff member’s experience and exposes them to, and immerses them in, a different organisation – an/other university/universities or in industry or an/other relevant organisation/s;
  • involves working collaboratively with scholars, teachers, researchers or professionals from whom the participant will learn and gain demonstrable benefits, and who are preferably leaders in their discipline/field;
  • further develops the applicant’s scholarship/teaching/research skills and/or professional knowledge and skills;
  • is not normally available through other means within the University;
  • has the potential to yield significant outputs during and beyond the PDP, including publications and grants, innovations in curriculum design and development, the acquisition of cutting edge professional knowledge and sustainable relationships that benefit the staff member and the University.

7.3 PDP is awarded on merit. The criteria defining merit are:

7.3.1 the applicant’s performance and achievements warrant a significant investment in their development. The factors that are taken into account include:

  • the quantity and quality of academic/professional outputs in relation to the applicant’s level of appointment and as demonstrated by their application and a current curriculum vitae;
  • the implementation and outcomes of previous PDPs as demonstrated by PDP reports.

7.3.2 the quality and potential of the proposed Program. The factors that are taken into account include:

  • the relevance of the project to the applicant’s current position, level, discipline/profession, and interests, including location, collaborations, expected outcomes and outputs;
  • the significance and feasibility of the project;
  • the project having specific, measurable and achievable goals that are relevant to the applicant;
  • the potential of the project to further the applicant’s career and benefit the University.

7.3.3 the degree to which the proposed Program furthers the achievement of the strategic goals of the University.

8. Application Form

8.1 An application form is available to assist applicants address the merit criteria and plan for PDP. Detailed information about the activities, itinerary and estimated costs is required.

8.2 The form also provides for comment by the applicant’s PPR Supervisor in relation to:

  • the staff member’s performance and achievements;
  • the relevance and appropriateness of the proposed Program to the staff member’s current position and development; and
  • the management of workloads in order to accommodate the applicant’s absence and maintain the integrity of program delivery and continuity of service, including effective supervision of HDR students.

8.3 A formal written statement of support, which confirms the content and outcomes of the collaborative project to be undertaken, from an appropriate authority at the location/s of the PDP must be submitted with the application.

8.4 An applicant should ensure that all projected expenses and additional income, including grants or project allowances from sources within or outside of the University, are identified and declared.

8.5 All applications are forwarded to the CCM who prepares a summary assessment and advice, including whether or not an application is endorsed by the Cost Centre.

8.6 Complete applications are forwarded to by a date specified in the call for applications. An incomplete application will not be considered by the PDP Committee.

9. PDP Committee

9.1 The PDP Committee comprises:

  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) (as Chair)
  • Chair of the University’s Learning and Teaching Committee
  • Chair of the University’s Research Committee
  • Director, Human Resources (or nominee)

9.2 To evaluate applications, the PDP Committee applies the criteria defining merit and ensures the requirements as outlined above are met.

10. Notification

10.1 Each applicant is advised in writing by the Chair whether or not their application has been successful. A copy of the advice is also sent to the applicant’s CCM and Head of School/Supervisor.

10.2 For successful applicants, a letter of offer, which outlines the details, terms and conditions, and financial assistance of the approved PDP, is provided. A response to accept the terms and conditions is required.

10.3 As one of the purposes of PDP is to broaden experience and immerse participants in a different organisation, full-time attendance (or pro rata for fractional staff) at the location where the PDP is to be undertaken is expected.

10.4 If a successful applicant is a member of a University Standing Committee, for example, University Council or Academic Board, they are required to apply for leave of absence from the Committee for the duration of their PDP.

11. Funding

11.1 PDP participants continue to be paid their current salary throughout the PDP, except where substantial outside remuneration is received.

11.2 The salary costs are met by the Cost Centre. The Cost Centre also meets the costs of replacement staff and any other associated staff replacement costs that arise during the absence of the participant. Other costs not associated with travel or living expenses, for example consumables required to undertake research activities as part of the approved PDP, are also met by the Cost Centre, the host organisation or the staff member via their university professional account.

11.3 Attendance at conferences during PDP is paid for by the Cost Centre. Cost Centre processes for financial support and leave for conference attendance continue to apply.

12. Financial Assistance

12.1 Financial Assistance is paid from a central PDP fund, which is allocated as part of the University’s annual budget process.

12.2 Financial Assistance comprises two components – Cost of Living Supplement and Travel Expenses. The maximum amount of PDP funding that an individual can apply for is $10,000.

12.3 A Cost of Living Supplement is paid through USC payroll prior to commencement of the PDP to cover significant differences between the participant’s personal costs while on PDP compared with those incurred when not on PDP.

12.4 The Travel Expenses component of funding is paid through USC travel at the time travel bookings are made.

  • Economy class air travel is provided to PDP participants, as required.
  • Travel arrangements must be made through the University’s corporate travel service provider in accordance with the University’s Financial Management Practice Manual and arranged via the usual channels within the Cost Centre.
  • Where surface travel is used instead of air travel to reach a destination, for example, an interstate university, a travel supplement equivalent to the lowest cost of an economy class fare for the staff member, may be paid.
  • If the participant is undertaking PDP at an organisation that is located within 125 kilometres of the USC campus at which the participant is based and chooses to commute rather than relocate, mileage claims up to 5000 km may be claimed (pro rata for PDP of less than six months duration or for a fractional staff member).

12.5 Travel insurance

  • The University provides travel insurance that covers staff undertaking PDP. A participant’s dependent spouse and dependent children are covered by USC’s staff travel insurance when they travel and reside with the participant for the duration of the PDP. As the University Insurance is renewed on an annual basis, the details of travel insurance may change from year to year. Details of coverage are available on MyUSC.
  • Extra cover may be required where a participant takes annual leave combined with PDP. If a period of recreation leave exceeds 60% of the total travel, the University travel insurance does not cover the participant for the annual leave component.
  • Personal property which is stolen/lost but which was being used for business purposes (e.g. personal laptop, camera) may be covered by University insurance, but prior approval to take the laptop on PDP must be obtained from the CCM. Laptops and other valuable portable items should be carried onboard aircraft to ensure insurance cover is provided in the event of theft or loss. An excess, which applies in such circumstances, can be paid for by relevant Cost Centre.
  • University staff are covered for Worker’s Compensation and compensation is payable as if the injury were sustained in Queensland, if:
    • an injury is sustained by a staff member in another State or country in circumstances that, had the injury been sustained in Queensland, compensation would have been payable; and
    • at the time of the injury, the staff member’s principal place of employment was in Queensland.

12.6 Participants are encouraged to seek financial and other support, e.g. accommodation, travel, stipend, grant or fellowship, from the organisation/s at which the PDP is to be undertaken, when they are preparing to apply for PDP.

12.7 Participants can use funds from their university professional accounts, with the approval of the Cost Centre Manager, to augment the Cost of Living Supplement.

12.8 Full disclosure of any income or financial support from sources other than the University must be provided, except for personal earnings (e.g. rental income) unconnected with the staff member’s employment with the University.

13. Variations

13.1 A participant must advise their CCM of any changes to an approved application as soon as possible. Approval of changes which affect the objectives, purpose, budget and/or outcomes must be sought, in writing, from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), via the CCM. Failure to submit this advice can result in cancellation of approval.

13.2 A participant who becomes sick or injured during PDP must notify their CCM as soon as possible and provide a medical certificate for any periods of absence for three days or longer.

13.3 In exceptional circumstances, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) can cancel or withdraw approval for PDP and require that a participant return to their duties at the University.

13.4 If a participant fails to fulfil the approved PDP and does not advise their CCM and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) until after their return from PDP, disciplinary action can be taken.

14. Resignation

In the event of the staff member resigning during PDP, the University can require the staff member’s immediate return to normal duties for the full period of notice and the reimbursement of salary and financial assistance paid during PDP, in whole or in part. Termination notice periods apply.

15. Reporting

15.1 Within two months of return from PDP, the staff member submits a written report on the implementation and outcomes of their PDP to their work area. The purposes of this report are to ensure that the approved project and activities have been undertaken satisfactorily and to evaluate the achievement of the outcomes of the PDP. The report includes:

  • A brief abstract providing an overview of the program and its outcomes;
  • A statement of the major objectives as set out in the original application (or in any subsequently approved variations);
  • A program description which evaluates the extent to which the objectives of the program were achieved;
  • A statement of actual or expected publications, collaborative projects, grant applications and other professional outcomes;
  • An assessment of the benefits gained by the staff member and a statement of how the PDP contributed to the staff member’s professional and career development;
  • A statement of important contacts developed with other institutions and/or individuals and how these contacts assisted with the overall success of the program and will be maintained beyond the PDP; and
  • A statement of benefits to accrue to the University, the Cost Centre and the staff member.

15.2 The Supervisor/CCM comments on the report and forwards a copy of the report and their comments to

15.3 To optimise and encourage the sharing of learning, PDP participants are required to make a presentation about the implementation and outcomes of their PDP to at least one relevant University community within three months of their return from PDP.

15.4 A report may be deemed to be unsatisfactory by the Cost Centre Manager or the PDP Committee if the report is deemed to be of poor quality and/or lacks sufficient detail and/or the approved Program was not implemented and/or outcomes of the PDP were not achieved.

15.5 Where a report is deemed to be of poor quality, the staff member will be advised in writing and can be asked to re-write the report within ten working days. An unsatisfactory report can result in the staff member being precluded from applying for PDP at USC in the future.

16. Further Development through PPR

Within one month of submission of the PDP report, the staff member and their PPR Supervisor meet to plan for the staff member’s performance and development in order to optimise the benefits of the PDP, including strategies for maintaining productive links with their PDP collaborator/s.