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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).

Contents 

  1. Introduction
  2. Selection of Postgraduate Teaching Assistants
  3. Pay and Terms of Employment
  4. Facilities and Resources
  5. Support and Professional Development for Teaching
  6. Peer Dialogue Scheme
  7. Faculty and Departmental Support for PGTAs
  8. Teaching Load
  9. Performance and Monitoring
  10. Doctoral Education Strategy
  11. Termination Procedure

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). PGTAs will always be current students at the start of the academic year in which they work. If a department wishes to recruit a permanent teaching assistant outside of this scheme, they should discuss this with their HR Business Partner.

1.3 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. Opportunities should be open to students with the relevant knowledge who may be interested. 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. Posts should normally be advertised as widely as possible within the appropriate department, for example through the UCL PGTA Hub.

2.2 Each advert should include the Job Description and Person Specification. The generic template below can be adapted to meet individual department requirements, however significant changes in responsibilities should be agreed with UCL HR Business Partnering.

File Post Graduate Teaching Assistant (Grade 6) Job Description and Person Specification

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 All PGTAs are paid on Grade 6 of the UCL non-clinical salary scale. Contracts will be issued by HR Services, covering the duration of each assignment including preparation, teaching and marking as applicable. Departments should promptly inform PGTAs the hours they will be required to work.

3.2 Departments should promptly inform PGTAs the hours they will be required to work.  Departments are encouraged to complete and share the PGTA Proforma, which identifies how the hours should be split.  The table may be adapted by departments as required.


Guaranteed minimum hours contract

3.3 The employment contract sets out the Terms and Conditions of employment, which include paid annual leave. If work is irregular, a guaranteed minimum hours contract may be most suitable.  Under this contract, hours are paid using a payment request form submitted by the department.  

3.4 The contracts must guarantee at least 15 hours work per academic year / assignment.

3.5 The process for requesting this contract can be found in the PGTA GMH (Guaranteed Minimum Hours) contract process.  

Averaged hours contract

3.6 Alternatively, departments may offer a contract where the total hours the PGTA will be required to work are averaged over the period of work and paid as a regular monthly payment, if the following conditions are met:

• If a PGTA has a student visa, departments must ensure they keep records of all hours worked, in line with the Employment of Individuals on a Student Visa guidance.  The records should demonstrate that the PGTA does not work more than 20 hours per week with UCL or any other employer.
• Hours should broadly reflect the pattern of work during period of work e.g.:

Person A works 100 hours from 1st September – 15th December and 10 hours in June.

The 100 hours should be averaged over the period of September to December and the 10 hours worked in June may be paid as a one-off payment.  We will not normally average 110 hours from September to June.
 
3.7 Guidance on how to submit a new contract request is available at PGTA Averaged Hours contract process.

Casual work

3.8 If work will be undertaken on a one-off casual/exceptional basis, the department must issue the PGTA with a Principal Statement prior to the work being undertaken.  It will be paid via a Department Transactions Payment Form. This arrangement must not be for more than 14 hours or more than 3 times per annum. 


Additional hours

3.9 Additional hours worked over and above the hours stated in the contract should be paid via a payment request form.

Reduction in Guaranteed Minimum Hours or Averaged hours

3.10 If there is a reduction in guaranteed minimum hours or averaged hours, advice must be sought from the HR Business Partner.

Pay

3.11 New PGTAs are normally appointed at point 21, however the correct spine point should be determined based on any previous relevant PGTA experience the role holder may have at that grade. Incremental progression takes place on the 1st August. PGTAs 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. Contracts will normally be issued for the period of work (up-to one academic year, unless departmental planning allows for work to be confidently allocated for future academic years.

3.12 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 7 Faculty and Departmental Support for PGTAs). Attendance at mandatory meetings, including departmental teaching committee meetings, should also be paid.

Annual leave entitlement

3.13 In a leave year where there are 27 days annual leave, 6 closure days and 8 bank holidays, annual leave will be calculated as 18.72% of hours worked and should be taken outside of working hours.  In 2021/ 2022, it will be calculated as 19.26% due to an additional bank holiday. 

Annual leave pay - Guaranteed Minimum Hours, Averaged Hours and Casual work

3.14 Annual leave will be automatically calculated and paid by MyHR.  Departments must not submit payment requests for annual leave as this will result in an overpayment.

Fair treatment

3.15 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  Prevention of Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct 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.

Right to work – Student visa timesheets

3.16 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. 

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 guidance is available for managers, which lists additional sources of advice.

5. Support and Professional Development for Teaching

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

5.1.1 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, PGTAs 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.

5.1.2 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.

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

6. Peer Dialogue Scheme

6.1 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.­­­­­­­

7. Faculty and Departmental Support for PGTAs

7.1 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.

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

8. Teaching Load

8.1 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.

8.2 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). This is based on 6 hours per week x 30 teaching weeks.

Or

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

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

8.4 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.

8.5 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.

8.6 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). 

9. Performance and Monitoring

9.1 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.

9.2 PGTAs are subject to UCL’s regulations relating to Assistant Internal Examiners

10. Doctoral Education Strategy

10.1 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.   

11 Termination Procedure

11.1 The Termination Procedure should be followed, if the PGTA is not offered a contract extension or a new contract, before their contract ends.

11.2 PGTA contracts will cease at the end of the academic year the student completes their studies.  Contracts will not be renewed or extended beyond this point, to ensure that other students are given opportunities to undertake PGTA work.  In this case, whilst the PGTA would not be eligible for redeployment into another PGTA role, they may access redeployment opportunities for roles at the same or lower grade, up-to 3 months prior to the end of their contract. The termination of their employment at the end of their studies would not attract a redundancy payment as this is not a redundancy situation.

11.3 If a contract is terminated because there is no work for the PGTA to do, the termination will be treated as a redundancy dismissal and, as a current student, they may be redeployed into another PGTA role or other suitable role at the same or lower grade.  Employees who have at least 2 years continuous service when they are made redundant are normally eligible for a redundancy payment when they leave UCL.

11.4 If a contract will cease, without further work being offered, the manager should ensure the Termination Procedure is followed, save for one amendment below:

More than 9 months’ continuous service at the end of their contract:

1) The PGTA should be offered a consultation meeting 3 months prior to the end of the contract using the ‘letter template’. 

2) If they do not respond within 5 working days or do not take up the offer of a meeting, you may issue notice. 
 
11.5 Departments are encouraged to follow the Leavers checklist. It is the responsibility of the leaver and the leaver’s line manager to ensure the removal of any systems access and permissions, the retrieval of equipment or other items, appropriate handover/disposal of data and other materials etc.