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Postgraduate Teaching Assistant Code of Practice

A guide for all staff involved in the recruitment, employment, management and payment of Postgraduate Teaching Assistants (PGTAs).

 

1. Introduction

1.1 Teaching is 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 personal and professional development towards both academic and non-academic positions. 

1.2 This Code of Practice is a guide for all staff involved in the recruitment, employment, management and payment of Postgraduate Teaching Assistants (PGTAs). To ensure consistency, relevant staff should familiarise themselves with this Code of Practice and comply with it. The Code of Practice does not form part of the terms of any member of staff’s contract with us and it may be amended at any time.Departments will be informed when significant changes to the guide are made.

2. Selection of Postgraduate Teaching Assistants

2.1 Recruitment must be transparent and open in line with UCL's Recruitment and Selection Policy  and work should be allocated fairly and clearly.  It is important that current students are carefully selected for their suitability. A post may be advertised only to UCL students, or students in one department in the first instance, but opportunities should be open to all students with the relevant knowledge who may be interested. Posts should normally be advertised as widely as possible within the appropriate department.

2.2 Each advert should include the Job Description and Person Specification. The generic templates below, which can be referred to when determining the most appropriate grade for a role, can be adapted to meet individual department requirements, however significant changes in responsibilities should be agreed with UCL HR Business Partnering.


2.3 Departments should plan and organise PGTA recruitment in advance, so PGTA’s are given as much notice as possible in respect of their work allocation.
 

3 Pay and Terms of Employment

3.1 PGTAs will be paid on Grade 5 or Grade 6 of the UCL non-clinical salary scale. Contracts will be issued by HR Services, covering the entire duration of each assignment including preparation, teaching and marking as applicable. 

3.2 The employment contracts set out their entitlements, which include paid annual leave.  PGTAs are expected to take their accrued annual leave outside of term-time.  Departments should ensure they pay PGTAs for their pro-rata entitlement to closure days, bank holidays and annual leave.  The correct spine point should be determined based on the grade of the work and, within that grade, any previous relevant experience the role holder may have.  Incremental progression takes place on the 1st August, following the completion of the probationary period. PGTAs with continuous service will automatically progress by one increment, within their current grade, each year until the contribution threshold is reached, unless an increment is withheld as a result of the outcome of the disciplinary or capability procedures.

3.3 Pay should be for contact hours, preparation of teaching material and assessment of work, in accordance with the ratio agreed by the Teaching Committee.  PGTAs will be paid for time spent attending mandatory training, which may include Gateway / Arena One training and departmental PGTA mentoring (see Supporting PGTAs).  Attendance at mandatory meetings, including departmental teaching committee meetings, should also be paid.     

3.4 PGTA’s have as much right to be treated fairly and with respect as all of UCL’s employees and students, and are covered by the Dignity at Work Policy.  Employed PGTA’s have the same parental leave and sickness pay as other employees, are subject to the capability and disciplinary policy and may raise grievances. Where formal meetings are necessary for the purposes of these policies, they will be paid accordingly to attend these.

3.5 Payments should be submitted regularly i.e. monthly and not accumulated.  The timesheets process should be followed for students with a Tier 4 visa, to ensure that they do not work more hours than their visa will permit.  For more information see Tier 4 immigration.

3.6 Departments are encouraged to confirm to PGTA staff the minimum number of hours they will be requested to work.  Where hours are variable, it is important that departments submit payments efficiently for hours worked, via SIP Form 6.  Contracts will normally be issued for up-to one academic year, unless departmental planning allows for work to be confidently allocated for future academic years.

4 Facilities and Resources

4.1 Departments should ensure PGTA staff have access to the necessary facilities and resources required to carry out the role.  This includes printing and photocopying, use of teaching rooms, stationery and equipment, office space (if providing an office hour is a requirement of the role), a storage facility and access to online learning environments.  UCL sees adequate resourcing support as crucial to the successful functioning of the role.

4.2 Disabled PGTAs have the right to request reasonable adjustments to enable them to perform their role.  Requests for reasonable adjustments should go to the PGTA’s line manager, who may be a Departmental Tutor.  Further information is available for managers here, and the guidance lists additional sources of advice.

5 Grading Review

5.1 Where a line manager has identified that a PGTA’s responsibilities have increased and believes they reflect those of a Grade 6, the line manager should seek approval by email from the Faculty Director of Operations / Manager to change the grade.  If agreed, the line manager should send the requisite approval, revised Job Description and financial approval to the UCL HR Business Partner to review for consistency / fairness.  If agreed, the department will submit a SIP form to HR Services team, who will process the change.  The change will be effective from the date that financial approval is given.

6 Support and Professional Development for Teaching

6.1 All PGTAs should receive appropriate support in developing their teaching practice, as below:

6.1.1 UCL Arena One

UCL’s Arena Centre for Research-based Education offers a scheme for training and development of PGTAs, called UCL Arena One. Staff with teaching and/or assessment responsibilities are required to attend an introductory UCL Arena One Gateway Workshop (the Arena team may approve an exemption, where a PGTA can document that they have attended a similar workshop). Similarly, TAs are not required to attend this course if they are reappointed and attended in their first appointment at UCL. The Gateway Workshop constitutes the minimum required attendance of a professional development activity as required by the Quality Assurance Agency.  Departments should inform their PGTAs of this requirement and monitor their attendance.  

6.1.2 PGTAs should 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 teaching role that 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 research students, teaching is considered as part of the skills audit within the Research Student Log.

6.2 UCL will monitor the number of PGTAs that participate in training provided by UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education. 

7 Peer Dialogue Scheme

7.1 PGTAs are expected to participate in the Peer Dialogue Scheme to discuss their performance and identify areas for improvement, either with peers or senior colleagues.  Departments must keep a brief record of engagement with the scheme.  Departmental records should be forwarded to Faculty Teaching Committees.­­­­­­­

8 Faculty and Departmental Support for PGTAs

8.1 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.  Continuing support appropriate to the role will be provided in subsequent years. Faculties or departments should provide guidance relating to small group teaching, assessment, giving feedback, and, where appropriate, laboratory supervision.  This support will normally be provided by an academic or more senior teaching member of staff. 

8.2 Departments should appoint appropriately experienced staff, other than the immediate supervisor (e.g. Senior Teaching Fellows) who can act as a point of contact for PGTA queries and for provision of advice and guidance. 

9 Teaching Load

9.1 Postgraduates undertaking a PGTA role 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.  For every hour of teaching, PGTAs should normally be paid between 1.5 hours work (inclusive of the hour teaching) to 3 hours (inclusive), as appropriate. This is to reflect the required preparation and follow-up. The Departmental Teaching Committee should keep a record of the agreed ratios for each course, which should be available for consultation where requested, and reviewed by Faculty Teaching Committees.

9.2 Maximum teaching load (one option to apply to each PGTA in an academic year)

  • Full time students undertaking a PGTA role should normally have a maximum load of 180 hours per year (to include teaching preparation and training)

Or

  • No more than an average of 6 hours per week over the year

9.3 Students may in addition undertake a small amount of paid work provided that it does not interfere with their research or wellbeing.

9.4 Departments should keep records of hours worked to ensure that this requirement is met.  There are also limits to the number of hours that students with a Tier 4 visa can work each week. 

Degree Level

Term-time and university holidays

After finishing studies*

Postgraduate (Taught)

20 hours/week

Full-time

Postgraduate (Research)

20 hours/week

Full-time

Doctorate

20 hours/week

Full-time

*For more information, including when they can work full-time, visit Right-to-work guidance. Departments will ensure that Tier 4 students complete the Student Worker Timesheet

9.5 Departments should ensure they do not employ so many PGTAs that undergraduate students rarely come into contact with senior teaching 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. 

9.6 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). 

10 Performance and Monitoring

10.1 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 performance (whether satisfactory or otherwise).  It is important that PGTAs receive constructive feedback on their performance. 

10.2 PGTAs will also be subject to UCL’s current arrangements for Assistant Internal Examiners.  If marks awarded by a PGTA are to contribute to the marks on which a student’s final classification is based, as is the case in some departments, then thorough and detailed double-marking by a member of the Sub-Board of Examiners, is essential.  Compliance with this Code of Practice should be a standard Internal Quality Review question’. 

11 Doctoral Education Strategy

11.1 In support of the Doctoral Education Strategy, it is recommended that a PGTA sits on each Departmental Teaching Committee, to represent the interests of PGTA staff.   

12 The End of the Assignment

12.1 The Termination Procedure applies when a PGTA has continuous service of more than 9 months.  PGTAs may also have accrued annual leave that they have not taken by the end of their appointment. In that case, their department should ensure that a payment is made to them in lieu of the outstanding leave. 

Last updated: 25 September 2019