Higher education (HE) lecturers teach academic and vocational subjects to undergraduate and postgraduate students. They work in universities and in some colleges of further education. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical laboratory demonstrations, field work and e-learning. Multimedia technologies are being increasingly used.
HE lecturers also pursue their own research to contribute to the wider research activities of their department/institution. Many aim to have their research published, either in the form of a book or scholarly article, and this can help raise the profile of their employing HE institution. Administrative tasks take up a significant part of the working day. Many lecturers also take on a pastoral role with their students. As HE lecturers progress along their career paths, they may be expected to undertake a managerial role of the relevant department.
Typical work activities
- Delivering lectures, seminars and tutorials.
- Developing and implementing new methods of teaching to reflect changes in research.
- Designing, preparing and developing teaching materials.
- Assessing students’ coursework.
- Setting and marking examinations.
- Supporting students through advisory role.
- Undertaking personal research projects and actively contributing to the institution’s research profile.
- Writing up research and preparing it for publication.
- Supervising students’ research activities.
- Completing continuous professional development (CPD) and participating in staff training activities.
- Carrying out administrative tasks related to the department, such as student admissions, induction programmes and involvement in committees and boards.
- Managing and supervising staff – at a senior level this may include the role of head of department.
- Representing the institution at professional conferences and seminars, and contributing to these as necessary.
- Establishing collaborative links outside the university with industrial, commercial and public organisations.
- The ability to sustain an interest in and enthusiasm for their area of specialist research and to impart this to students and peers.
- Published research and willingness to participate at professional conferences and seminars.
- A capacity for original thought.
- Expertise in their own subject area.
- The potential to expand their knowledge in order to teach a broad curriculum.
- Excellent oral and written communication skills.
- Confidence in dealing with a wide range of people.
- The ability to organise their own workload within competing demands.
- The ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
- Excellent analytical skills.
- Commitment to the profession and to their own continuing professional development (CPD).
- A flexible approach to work.
- Good IT skills.
During the first few years, new lecturers generally concentrate on building up their teaching skills and experience and developing their research profile.
Higher education institutions have the quality of their research assessed by the Research Excellence Framework (REF). This is then used by funding bodies to help to decide where their research funding goes. To help with this, new lecturers are expected to actively contribute to the research profile of their department by consistently producing work of a publishable standard.
New lecturers also need to network with peers by attending and participating in conferences and seminars. This needs to be maintained throughout their career.
Early responsibility is common and most lecturers are given a high degree of independence in their work very early on. As their career progresses, lecturers can expect to take on further responsibility in teaching, research or administration and, in some cases, a combination of all three. Management responsibilities are also likely to increase. Promotion to more senior levels depends on a willingness to undertake different roles and on the continued demonstration of an active research profile. These senior levels may include the following posts: senior lecturer; principal lecturer.
Progression to very senior levels may be possible for candidates who continue to build up expertise in these areas. This could be to posts such as: reader; chair/professor; dean.
For experienced HE lecturers, there are also opportunities to take on more developmental and managerial duties, e.g. programme/course director or module leader, which can reduce the proportion of hours dedicated to research and student time. Further career opportunities include working as an examiner or an academic author.
Original content at prospects.ac.uk