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Postgraduate students who are employed to carry out academic or academic-related work are participating in a professional activity which is an aspect of their continuing professional development. They are members of the staff and must be integrated into the social and academic life of departments as valued colleagues and members of a professional community. All postgraduate students employed to undertake academic and academic-related work have the right to:

  • Equal access to employment opportunities and fair appointment procedures
    • All jobs should be advertised widely enough to ensure that all who are suitably qualified are aware of the opportunities. Appointments must be made in accordance with clear selection criteria which are non-discriminatory and accord with equal opportunities policies and good practice, including the collection of data for the purposes of monitoring.
  • A letter of appointment
  • A job description
  • A written statement of terms and conditions of employment
    • Postgraduates should have a clear indication of their rights and responsibilities as employees. Together the letter, the JD and the statement comprise most of the contract of employment. They should set out the employment responsibilities, hours of work, an estimate of the time to be allocated to different responsibilities, the rate or rates of pay, the intervals at which remuneration is paid, the duration of the contract, the member of staff responsible for supervising the work, and employment details required by law.
  • To belong to a trade union of choice
    • To be represented by and take part in the activities of the recognised union
  • Training
    • Appropriate and adequate induction and training as required for the work undertaken.
  • Oppportunities for ongoing professional development
    • Access to centrally-provided staff development and training programmes on the same basis as other academic and academic-related staff.
  • A fair rate of pay
    • Pay calculated as a fraction of the academic and academic-related salary scales at a point on the scale consistent with qualifications and experience and subject to annual incremental progression.
  • Pay for all employment responsibilities and hours of work
    • This should include hours of teaching, preparation, marking, attendance of meetings and lectures etc, office hours, communication with students, invigilation, administrative responsibilities, and training associated with the job.
  • Access to university and departmental resources, facilities and support on a par with other academic and academic-related staff and adequate to fulfill the employment responsibilities including access to library, computing, audio-visual, car-parking, photocopying, e-mail, telephone, stationery, social, technical and secretarial facilities and to office or desk space and staff common areas.
  • Parity in terms and conditions of employment with other academic and academic-related staff.
  • Clear and regular procedures for assessment and review
  • Opportunities to participate in staff meetings and events
  • Formal representation on appropriate departmental and university committees.
  • An allowance for travel time and expenses when travelling in performance of duties for the employer.
  • A grievance procedure for addressing employment concerns the same as that for other academic and academic-related staff.

Good Practice Guide

For the employment of postgraduate students as teachers

Employing departments and institutions should show due regard to the graduate student teacher's personal research and course work. Departments should monitor teaching workloads to ensure that they do not present an obstacle to fulfilling academic course requirements in a timely way.

Each employing department should appoint a senior member of staff as a mentor responsible for coordinating postgraduate teaching and overseeing the training, development, support and assessment of postgraduate teaching staff.

Employing institutions should have a code of practice on the employment of postgraduate student teaching staff including a statement of rights and responsibilities and a recommendation that postgraduate teaching staff join the recognised union.

Employers have a duty to provide insurance cover to indemnify postgraduate teachers against legal liability arising from actions in the course of their employment.

Postgraduate students employed to teach or demonstrate are entitled to expect:

  • The opportunity to state teaching preferences in the application process. Teaching preferences of applicants should be taken into account in the appointment process.
  • A written specification of their duties. This should include the number of hours required in preparation, marking, required hours of attendance (including lectures and meetings), contact hours, office hours, invigilation, communication with students, administration, and compulsory training, etc.
  • Appropriate and adequate training to prepare them for their work see below.
  • Supervision or mentoring by a senior member of staff.
  • Information about what resources and support for teaching are available within the university.
  • Course materials. These must include a copy of all books and instructional materials required for students taking the class, at no cost. In no circumstances should postgraduate student teaching staff be required to pay for materials that they need in order to fulfill their employment responsibilities.
  • Secure storage for personal belongings and student assignments and appropriate means for communication with students and for the collection of student work.
  • Pay based on the actual number of hours required to complete all employment responsibilities. This should include preparation, required training, office hours, required meetings or hours of attendance, communication with students, invigilation, fieldwork, and assessment or grading activities.
  • Evaluation and assessment from a senior member of staff and feedback from student evaluation and assessment forms.
  • An opportunity to give feedback on the course, teaching methods, and the support available for teaching work.
  • Formal representation on the departmental teaching committee.
  • The right to participate in course development.
  • Teaching practice accredited on the same basis as it is for other staff.

Training

Postgraduate students employed to teach are entitled to expect appropriate and adequate training to prepare them for their work. This will vary depending on the nature of the course to be taught and the teaching role and responsibilities. However, postgraduate students employed to teach or demonstrate are entitled to expect:

  • Peer participation in the development and delivery of training.
  • Training prior to the beginning of the course.
  • Induction and orientation to teaching in the department.
  • A briefing on the course to be taught including the role and professional responsibilities of the teacher and, as appropriate, an overview of the course, objectives of the course, the syllabus and reading list, course requirements, teaching methods, the administration of the course, and guidelines on the late submission of coursework and on extensions.
  • Training in the specific skills which will be needed to teach the course, eg laboratory demonstrating, class facilitation, small group work, lesson planning, presentation and communication.
  • Training on relevant university policies including fire and safety regulations, equal opportunities policies, sexual harassment policies, policies governing consensual relationships with students, guidelines on cheating and plagiarism, confidentiality guidelines and information about referring pastoral concerns to specialist offices or agencies and about student support services.
  • Training on pedagogical theory.
  • Ongoing support and development during the course (eg regular course briefing meetings, observation of teaching, meeting with a mentor, regular teaching workshops, teaching-practice diary, participant-led peer support meetings).
  • Ongoing peer support.
  • Training on marking, including assessment, grading and feedback, and guidance in the form of marking scales and assessment criteria.
  • Lab safety training and hands-on experience with any equipment used in demonstrating work and guidance as to the expected results and common problems of an experiment in advance of the demonstration work.
  • Training on teaching students with special needs.
  • The opportunity to have their own class observed and to observe a peer teaching.