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Guidance to Heads of Departments on providing Teaching Opportunities for Postgraduate Research Students and Early Career Research Staff

Postgraduate Teaching Assistant Scheme

1.      Background

1.1     For postgraduate research students and early career research staff, teaching opportunities are of value in many cases for their future career, whether in academia, industrial research or management. For postgraduate students, however, the payment can also make the difference between whether or not a student can afford in the first place to undertake a PhD or, in some cases, to continue with the PhD.

2.      Advice

2.1     Departments and Faculties should consider increasing the number of Teaching Assistantships, whose holders will have a responsibility to undertake a limited amount of teaching as well as to undertake research for a PhD. The student would be paid a stipend for the PhD, and Faculties and Departments should consider including this in their budget planning process, for example when considering options for covering teaching. (Faculties get an addition to their RAM for each Home/EU PGR student in years one to three (years one to six for part time students) from HEFCE and are credited with the fees.)

2.2     Departments and Faculties should also consider, as an alternative, the employment of research students as part-time Teaching Assistants on 'as and when' contracts.

2.3     Those undertaking a Teaching Assistant role (whether funded (as per 6.1) or employed (as per 6.2)) must be given adequate time to pursue their research and not be overburdened with teaching responsibilities.

2.4     Teaching Assistants should have a maximum load of 180 hours per year (to include teaching, preparation and training) and should be registered as full time students. Clear guidelines should be developed for workload allocation to ensure that Teaching Assistants are not overloaded.

2.5     The amount paid for a Teaching Assistantship, if fully funded by UCL, should be at the rate of the UCL minimum stipend (i.e. for 2008-09 £ 14,988 plus tuition fees of £ 3,300), which should be sufficient without the need for further employment while giving appropriate time for PhD research. Enhanced stipends above this rate can be paid if justifiable. Alternatively, those employed as Teaching Assistants should be paid, as at present, on Grade 5, starting on the bottom point.

2.6     All Teaching Assistants, both those holding funded Teaching Assistantships and those who are employed as Teaching Assistants, must follow an appropriate training programme- the courses available through the Graduate School programme for postgraduates and the Fundamentals of Learning in HE course offered by CALT for research staff are more appropriate than the Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (which is too comprehensive and resource limited). Training in small group teaching, assessment, giving feedback and where appropriate laboratory supervision is required. For postgraduate students, teaching is already considered as part of the skills audit within the research student log.

2.7     Recruitment of Teaching Assistants must be transparent and open (in line with UCL's Recruitment Policy ) with fair and transparent work allocation.

2.8     As an institution UCL must ensure that the majority of teaching to a particular cohort of students is undertaken by academic staff in order to maintain the quality of the academic experience. Teaching Assistants will also be subject to UCL's current arrangements for peer observation of teaching.

2.9     With effect from 2008-09 the funding for Studentships and Demonstratorships currently funded centrally will be transferred to the relevant Departments and charged in the RAM accordingly. Once existing Demonstratorships have run their course, all future arrangements should be as Teaching Assistantships.

3.      Early Career Research Staff

3.1     The Research Councils allow early career research staff to teach for up to six hours a week as part of their contract. This activity can take the form of lecturing, tutorials, seminars, or laboratory classes, all of which can be valuable experience and would be expected to enhance the career development of junior researchers.

David Bogle
Graduate School
November 2007
(Endorsed by the Provost's SMT on 14.11.07 and the Academic Committee on 18.3.08)