Higher education lecturers teach students who are studying at university or college. They usually carry out research alongside their teaching responsibilities.
Higher education lecturers are responsible for providing students with the knowledge and skills that they will need to succeed in the course being studied. These courses may be academic or they may be vocational. Either way, higher education lecturers will provide students with lectures, seminars, tutorials, and supervisions, and they may also help them conduct field research or practical experiments in a laboratory environment. Most higher education lecturers conduct research in their own field of expertise when they are not teaching and also provide pastoral support for the students they are responsible for. Some of these students may be undergraduates but some will be postgraduates. Higher education lecturers will therefore be interacting with individuals of all ages on a daily basis.
There is a slightly higher percentage of men involved in higher education lecturing than women, particularly in senior positions. However, there is no reason why women should not be encouraged to apply for positions in higher education.
Higher education lecturers who work in their position on a full-time basis can expect to earn in the region of £25,000 to £38,000 per year. It is not unusual for lecturers to be provided with a salary in excess of £40,000. Senior higher education lecturers may earn even more than this, with many earning over £50,000. Lecturers working in London will be paid more and individuals who have conducted important research in their field and thus developed an excellent reputation in a particular area can expect to be paid very well.
Higher education lecturers may perform the following tasks during a typical working day:
- Preparing lectures, using a variety of new and more traditional techniques.
- Delivering lectures to students in an engaging manner.
- Leading seminars, tutorials, and supervisions.
- Setting examinations.
- Helping students to prepare for examinations.
- Marking examinations.
- Marking essays and coursework.
- Providing constructive feedback to each student.
- Helping students to carry out academic research.
- Providing students with individually tailored reading lists.
- Providing students with pastoral support and advice.
- Answering queries from students via e-mail, telephone, and face-to-face contact.
- Performing research.
- Writing up research.
- Organising the publication of research.
- Presenting the findings of research to other academics.
- Providing support for other academics involved in the same field of research.
- Helping to further the reputation of the institution where they are employed.
- Performing administrative tasks.
Potential higher education lecturers will be expected to hold degrees which are relevant to the academic field they wish to become involved in on a professional basis. Individuals should also possess a relevant PhD, although if the course being taught is heavily vocational, this may not be a requirement. It is also important, as well as having a very strong academic background, to have the enthusiasm and ability to teach and a desire to conduct original academic research.
Many universities have made the completion of postgraduate teaching qualifications specifically designed for higher education lecturers compulsory and individuals will be expected to complete courses accredited by the Higher Education Academy whilst conducting teaching duties and original research.
Higher education lecturers should possess the following skills:
- A passion for the subject being taught.
- Originality and creativity.
- Good teaching skills.
- Good communication and interpersonal skills.
- Good oral and presentation skills.
- Confidence, diplomacy, and tact.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Organisational skills and the ability to meet deadlines.
- The ability to work with people from a wide range of backgrounds and of all ages.
- The ability to motivate students.
- The ability to maintain professional standards at all times.
It is difficult to generalise about the hours worked by higher education lecturers. Many do not have set timetables and may not perform teaching duties for an entire day. However, during this day, they may spend from the early hours of the morning until the small hours of the next morning conducting research. Many lectures take place in the evening, as do seminars and supervisions. Higher education lecturers will also usually need to make themselves available for students to contact at all hours of the day or night. Lecturers will often need to work over weekends. After several years in the role, many higher education lecturers decide to take sabbaticals, allowing them to focus purely upon research for a year.
The working environment will differ on a daily basis. Typical environments include lecture theatres, teaching rooms, individual offices, laboratories, outdoor environments used for field research, and academic libraries. Lecturers often have to spend long periods of time on their feet and the job can also be relatively stressful, particularly during examination periods.
Individuals should be able to show previous experience of working in a teaching environment. Aspiring lecturers could try working on a voluntary basis at a local school or higher education institution during university vacations to gain valuable experience. It will also be useful if applicants can show evidence of previous research.
Major Employers of higher education lecturers include:
- Law schools.
- Business schools.
Some higher education lecturers progress to become senior lecturers, who will be responsible for management tasks. Others may progress to become the head of a particular department and will be responsible for putting together the syllabus and organising the content of the courses taught. Alternatively, some choose to become exclusively involved in research and academic publications. These individuals may be able to set up and subsequently lead research teams.
Also known as…
- University lecturers
- College lecturers
What’s it really like?
Pauline has been a higher education lecturer for approximately thirty years. Prior to becoming a university lecturer, she taught in a state high school.
After making the transition to a university environment, Pauline taught Italian language and literature at universities in Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield, and London before transferring to the Film department at Queen Mary, University of London ten years ago.
During a typical day at work, Pauline prepares classes, carries out research, and then teaches students. She also spends time marking their work and, later in a typical working day, Pauline performs relatively undemanding administrative tasks. She also deals with general student enquiries. Pauline really enjoys working with ideas. She finds it very challenging re-directing the skills she learnt whilst teaching literature in order to make them relevant to film studies. Pauline also enjoys interacting with enthusiastic students. Making time to carry out research can be difficult and frustrating at times, but it is very rewarding when she does find the time to perform this task.
However, Pauline does not enjoy having to do so much marking and she believes that many of the administrative tasks she has to perform on a daily basis could be undertaken by other individuals who are not responsible for teaching. She also finds unenthusiastic students very frustrating and becomes annoyed when individuals fail to share her passion for the subject she is teaching.
Pauline is currently content with her position and believes that she will not be making a career change in the near future. Whilst there are further career advancement possibilities, Pauline would need a stronger research record in order to take advantage of them. She spent several years out of the working environment in order to bring up a family and, although she does not regret this choice, it has left her with a gap in her CV as far as publications are concerned.
On the topic of publications, Pauline will be releasing a book in June: Sophia Loren, Moulding the Star which explores the forces that gave her enduring star status. She spent a year researching the book and was given sabbatical leave by Queen Mary during this time. Pauline spent eighteen months writing up her research after spending a month in Rome, working in a large film archive on the outskirts of the city. She also spent time at the State Film Library in Cinecitta. Her expenses were covered by a grant from the British Academy and she was also provided with a travel grant by the University of London.
Those thinking of becoming higher education lecturers should, according to Pauline, be prepared to work almost entirely on their own. It can be quite an isolated job since a lot of time is spent doing research. Furthermore, individuals should not expect to earn a great living from this job but, on the positive side, it is very flexible.