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Higher Education Lecturer

Higher education (HE) lecturers teach courses leading to Higher National Awards, degrees, and postgraduate and professional qualifications. They may teach academic or vocational subjects. Teaching may be in the form of lectures, seminars and tutorials, practical laboratory demonstrations and fieldwork.

The work may also involve:

  • preparing teaching materials
  • marking exams
  • publishing their own research in books and journals
  • helping individual students with their problems
  • managing and supervising staff.

Working hours can be around 37 hours a week, but longer hours are common and some lectures and seminars take place at evenings and weekends. They may work in lecture theatres, classrooms, studios or laboratories.

Salaries may range from around £26,000 to £55,250 or more a year.

A higher education lecturer should:

  • be capable of original thought
  • have excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • be able to carry out thorough research
  • be able to explain things clearly to people
  • be interested in teaching people of all ages.

Higher education lecturers work mainly for universities and colleges of further and higher education. Some work in other institutions such as law and business schools. Entry to the more popular arts subjects may be highly competitive, but there are shortages in subjects such as engineering, construction and IT.

Lecturers usually need a good first degree and a Masters degree and to have or be working towards a PhD. They may also be expected to have teaching experience and evidence of original research.

Most universities offer in-house training for their staff. This could cover research techniques, administration, management skills, personal development or IT. A formal postgraduate teaching qualification has been introduced for HE lecturers. This is now compulsory in many universities and is completed alongside the lecturer's normal working duties.

During their first years, new lecturers normally concentrate on building up their teaching skills and experience. Progression to senior levels is to posts such as senior lecturer, reader, chair, dean, head of department and professor. There may also be opportunities to work outside the university in areas such as consultancy, the media, publishing and public speaking.

What is the work like?

Higher education (HE) lecturers teach courses leading to Higher National Awards, degrees, and postgraduate and professional qualifications. They may teach academic or vocational subjects.

Teaching may be in the form of:

  • lectures, with large groups of people
  • seminars and tutorials, with smaller groups of people
  • practical laboratory demonstrations and fieldwork.

The work varies according to individual areas of responsibility and research, and may involve:

  • designing, developing and preparing teaching materials
  • assessing students' coursework
  • marking exams
  • publishing their own research in books and journals
  • helping students with their academic and personal problems (known as pastoral work)
  • administrative tasks, such as student admissions and organising induction programmes
  • managing and supervising staff
  • working with other universities, industry, and other organisations.

Other duties can include:

  • interviewing prospective students
  • checking the marking done by other lecturers (called moderating)
  • managing work placements for students
  • attending meetings
  • helping new lecturers to settle in
  • working in consultancy
  • helping to get more people in the community involved in education.

Hours and environment

Working hours can be around 37 hours a week, but lecturers are expected to work the hours necessary to get through their work. Long hours are common but these can also be flexible. Some lectures and seminars take place in the evening. Employment may be fixed term or permanent and may be hourly paid, part time or full time.

Depending on the subject they are teaching, they may work in lecture theatres, classrooms, studios or laboratories. They usually spend some time in an office away from the teaching areas.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • A full-time lecturer may expect a starting salary of around £26,000 to £29,700.
  • With experience, this may rise to between £33,000 and £43,600.
  • Senior lecturers may earn about £55,250 and heads of department much more.

Skills and personal qualities

An HE lecturer should:

  • be capable of original thought
  • have thorough knowledge of their own subject area
  • be able to carry out thorough research
  • be able to explain things clearly to people
  • have analytical skills
  • have excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • be able to inspire and motivate students
  • be able to work both alone and as part of a team
  • have a flexible approach to work
  • have good computer skills.

Interests

It is important to have an interest in:

  • the subject being taught and studied
  • teaching people of all ages
  • their own continuing professional development (CPD).

Getting in

HE lecturers work mainly for universities and colleges of further and higher education. Some work in other institutions such as law and business schools.

There are 190 HE institutions in the UK and around 130,000 lecturers. Jobs can be found all over the UK, but competition can be high, particularly in popular arts subjects. There are shortages in subjects such as engineering, construction and IT.

The number of permanent posts in universities is limited. About 60 per cent of lecturers are on permanent full- or part-time contracts, with the remaining 40 per cent on short, fixed-term contracts.

Jobs are advertised in The Times Higher Education Supplement, in The Guardian (Tuesday and Friday), in The Independent (Thursday) and in specialist journals, as well as on specialist recruitment websites such as www.jobs.ac.uk and www.PhDjobs.com Most universities and colleges advertise vacancies on their websites.

Higher education is also delivered through further education institutions. This could provide useful teaching experience and contacts, but it is important to keep up with academic developments and to continue with research and studies.

Entry routes

Higher education lecturers usually need a good first degree (first class honours or 2:1) and a Masters and to have or be working towards a PhD. They may also be expected to have teaching experience and the ability to carry out original research and have work published. Lecturers teaching vocational courses such as accountancy or hotel and catering management often have professional rather than academic qualifications.

Entry qualifications for a degree are usually at least two A levels and five GCSEs grades (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications. Entry to postgraduate courses is normally with a first class honours or a 2:1 in a first degree.

Some university students doing research following their first degree teach part time while doing their PhD. They may be paid an hourly rate or receive a grant, known as a bursary.

Training

Most universities offer in-house training for their staff. This could cover research techniques, administration, management skills, personal development or IT. There may also be the chance to take relevant courses outside the university.

A formal postgraduate teaching qualification has been introduced for HE lecturers. This is now compulsory in many universities and is completed alongside the lecturer's normal working duties. The course can be taken as modules covering practical skills and theories of learning, usually accredited by the Higher Education Academy.

Getting on

New lecturers normally concentrate on building up their teaching skills and experience. They may also be expected to contribute to the research profile of the department by having work published.

With experience in both lecturing and individual research, lecturers take on further responsibilities in teaching, research, administration or management. Those taking on more responsibility in management may have less student contact and also less time for research.

Promotion to more senior levels may include the following posts:

  • senior teaching fellow
  • senior lecturer
  • reader
  • research fellow
  • professor
  • chair
  • dean.

There may also be opportunities to work outside the university in areas such as consultancy, the media, publishing and public speaking.

Further information

The British Accreditation Council (BAC), 44 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4LL. 020 7447 2584. Website: www.the-bac.org

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS). 020 7215 5555. Website: www.bis.gov.uk

The Higher Education Academy, Innovation Way, York Science Park, Heslington, York YO10 5BR. 01904 717500. Website: www.heacademy.ac.uk

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK), 5th Floor, St Andrew's House, 18-20 St Andrew Street, London EC4A 3AY. 0300 303 1877. Website: www.lluk.org

Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL), 21 De Montfort Street, Leicester LE1 7GE. 0116 285 9702. Website: www.uall.ac.uk

Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ. 020 7419 4111. Website: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk

University and College Union (UCU), Carlow Street, London NW1 7LH. 020 7756 2500. Website: www.ucu.org.uk

 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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