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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. Too much teaching, however, can erode research time and is 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 students, undergraduate as well as postgraduate, and the teaching load on academic staff.
Apart from issues of balance, there are of course, teaching duties which Postgraduate Teaching Assistants (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 so trained]).
a) Selection of PGTAs
It is important that students are carefully selected for their suitability as teachers and demonstrators and that teaching opportunities are open to all students with the relevant knowledge, who may be interested. Each department should have a clear (and known) mechanism of selection. 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.
Training for the PGTA role is essential. This will take different forms, depending on the teaching expected, ranging from working beside an experienced academic or Teaching Fellow in a lab, to participation in a special pre-session training programme. Where PGTAs undertake similar teaching duties as academic staff, they will need a similar type of training. General, as opposed to subject-specific, training will be provided by the Centre for Advancement of Learning and Teaching.
Some mechanism for monitoring the performance of PGTAs is essential and mechanisms will vary with the different duties. 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.
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 Postgraduate Teaching Assistants if they employ them.
e) Over-dependence on Postgraduate Teaching Assistants
Departments should not employ so many postgraduate teachers that undergraduate
students rarely come in touch 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 Postgraduate Teaching Assistants should be a standard
Internal Quality Audit question.
PGTAs will be employed on Grade 5 and will be issued a contract of employment by the HR Division. Guidance on the appropriate use contracts of employment can be found at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/services/oec/guidance_ucl_coe.doc and the standard mechanisms for the appointment of staff will apply.
PGTAs will be appointed at the bottom point of grade 5 - see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/salary_scales/final_grades.php . 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 point 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. It is important that the PGTAs receive appropriate payment for time spent preparing for a class. 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.
Tax and employer/employee National Insurance contributions are payable on earnings above a threshold. If this is to be avoided, students must not earn more than the threshold operative in any one pay period. Further advice on this matter may be obtained from the Human Resources Department.
Revised October 2006.