Macquarie University has implemented and evaluated an innovative new academic promotions scheme that works in parallel with our Gender Equity Strategy, broadening the scope of recognised achievement and improving the representation of women at higher academic levels. 

Most academic promotion systems worldwide have remained essentially unchanged for decades, often failing to capture the complexity of modern academic lives. 

Our new approach, with a focus of streamlining both the application and assessment process, uses criteria for promotion based on Ernest Boyer’s four areas of academic scholarship: Discovery, Integration, Teaching and Application, with an additional criterion of Leadership and Citizenship. 

Our overarching aim was to design a strengths-based assessment, recognising the diversity of career pathways and academic work. The scheme also aims to provide greater transparency of decision-making, increased involvement from faculties and an alignment of recruitment and promotion standards. 

Applicants self-assess on a points basis (assigning 0–3 points to each of the five categories), guided by an extensive list of evidence indicators, with successively more rigorous thresholds of achievement required for promotion to higher levels. 

The deliberately flexible scoring system allows applicants to spread points across the four Boyer categories (with mandatory elements in Leadership and Citizenship). Minimum points are required for promotion as well as outstanding achievements in at least one category. Faculty-level promotions committees then assess an applicant’s case, ensuring justification based on evidence provided, and external validation (where possible). 

Since the new model was implemented four years ago, applications have increased by nearly 70% compared to the average for the previous five years, with the proportion of women applicants increasing proportionately more (87%) than men (49%).

A comparison of self-assessment and committee scores showed self-assessment scores were higher for both women and men before interview. After interviews, these differences were reduced slightly for women, indicating women were somewhat more advantaged by having the opportunity to make their case for promotion orally and to respond to questions. 

An evaluation found 93% of promotion committee members agreed or strongly agreed that the new scheme was strength-based and acknowledged the diversity of academic work. Qualitative comments were also positive: 

“I loved the flexibility to argue your case for promotion – gone are the days of research output being the sole indicator of achievement! In the current tertiary climate, it is imperative to acknowledge the diverse array of skills and contributions required of academics, and that each of us will have unique profiles that are difficult to compare 1:1 with our peers.” 

The new scheme has had broad support across the university community, is seen as fairer and more inclusive, and is contributing to greater gender balance across academic levels. It is our hope that this promotions model will continue to be a core enabler for improving morale, job satisfaction, performance excellence, and institutional growth. 


  • Lesley Hughes, Macquarie University