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Postgraduate Teaching Assistant Scheme
Teaching can be a valuable experience for a postgraduate student. It can contribute to intellectual development, to the individual’s grasp of the subject and can also provide an opportunity for career development whether in academic or non-academic positions. For postgraduate students, however, payment can also make a difference between whether or not a student can afford in the first place to undertake a PhD or in some cases, continue with a PhD.
Quality Assurance Procedures
Selection of PGTAs
Recruitment must be transparent and open in line with UCL's Recruitment and Selection Policy with fair and clear work allocation.
It is important that students are carefully selected for their suitability and that opportunities are open to all students with the relevant knowledge, who may be interested. In practice, Departmental Tutors and Departmental Postgraduate Advisors, in association with the Heads of Departments, will usually make the selection and posts should normally be advertised as widely as possible within the appropriate department.
Professional Development in Teaching
All PGTAs (whether funded or employed, see below) must receive appropriate support in developing their teaching practice. UCL’s Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT) offers a scheme for such training and development of PGTAs, called UCL Arena One. Postgraduates with teaching and/or assessment responsibilities will be required to attend an introductory, three-hour UCL Arena One Gateway Workshop or an agreed equivalent induction session provided by their Faculty or Department. This constitutes the minimum required attendance of a professional development activity as required by the QAA. Faculties are asked also to provide additional flexible support for their PGTAs, in the form of mentoring and/or departmental guidance in relation to their teaching role, amounting to at least three hours in total in each PGTA’s first year of teaching and continuing support appropriate to the role in subsequent years. Faculties or departments should provide guidance relating to small group teaching, assessment, giving feedback, and, where appropriate, laboratory supervision. PGTAs will also have the option of attending an extended course, the UCL Arena One Teaching Associate Programme, and then submitting an application for an Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. PGTAs with a substantive teaching role which includes assessment and feedback should be strongly encouraged to attend the Teaching Associate Programme; Faculties or departments may wish to consider making attendance mandatory for certain categories of PGTA. For postgraduate students, teaching is already considered as part of the skills audit within the Research Student Log.
Those undertaking a PGTA role (whether as part of their stipend or employed) must be given adequate time to pursue their research and not be overburdened with teaching responsibilities which would be likely to limit the student’s capacity to complete a thesis in the due time. UCL does not expect students to function as full time teachers and therefore there is a fine balance to be met between the interests of the student and the teaching load on academic staff. Departments should provide guidance on what is involved in the particular teaching duties and clear workload allocation to ensure PGTAs are not overloaded.
Fully funded PGTAs should have a maximum load of 180 hours per year (to include teaching preparation and training) and should be registered as full time students. Departments and Faculties should also consider, as an alternative, the employment of research students as part-time PGTAs on ‘as and when’ contracts.
Departments should not employ so many PGTAs that undergraduate students rarely come into contact with permanent staff. Review of departmental practices in this respect should be organised on a regular basis through Faculty Teaching Committees, with the active involvement of the Faculty Tutor. The use and training of PGTAs should be a standard Internal Quality Review question.
Apart from issues of balance, there are of course, teaching duties which PGTAs should not be required to undertake (e.g. supervising field work alone; or any teaching which involves specialist safety training, unless the PGTA is already in that particular specialism).
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. The Course Tutor will normally be in the best position to monitor performance and should keep a brief record of duties allocated and of satisfactory performance. It is important that PGTAs receive constructive feedback on their performance.
PGTAs will also be subject to UCL’s current arrangements for peer observation of teaching.
If marking is to contribute to the marks on which final classification is based, as is the case in some departments, then thorough and detailed double-marking of work of the PGTAs, by a member of the Sub-Board of Examiners, is essential.
Departments must have reasonable arrangements for teaching space for PGTAs.
Pay and Terms of Employment
Funded PGTAs - The amount paid for a PGTA, if fully funded by UCL, should be at the rate of the UCL minimum stipend, 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.
As the student would be paid a stipend for the PhD, Faculties and Departments should consider including this in their budget planning process e.g. when considering options for covering teaching Faculties get an addition to their RAM for each Home/EU PGR student in Years 1-3 (Years 1-6 for part time students) from HEFCE and are credited with the fees.
Employed PGTAs – PGTAs will be employed on UCL Payscales at the bottom of Grade 5 and will be issued with a contract of employment by the HR Employment Contract Administration team. Guidance on the appropriate use of contracts of employment can be found on the HR website and the standard mechanisms for the appointment of staff will apply. Where the PGTA remains in post for more than one year (s)he will progress incrementally through the grade, year on year, until the top of the grade is reached. Pay should be for contact hours and such time as is necessary for preparation of teaching material and assessment of work. Departmental Teaching Committees should therefore recommend to the Head of Department the appropriate ratio of preparation and marking time to contact hours per course. A record of such decisions should be available for consultation.
Pay will be subject to deduction of Tax and National Insurance (NI) dependent upon the gross amount paid, the individuals tax code and the statutory thresholds (which change each tax year). The rates and thresholds can be viewed here. Gross pay above the monthly Primary NI Threshold will attract an NI deduction. Payments should be submitted regularly i.e. monthly and not accumulated.
Further information can be obtained from UCL HR Payroll Services
UCL Graduate School
Revised June 2014