The question I often get asked by those outside higher education is how did you get casual lecturing work? The answer is – I asked nicely.
From my experience most associate lectures never interviewed for their job but instead they contacted the institution offering their experience and availability.
This may not be the same in all disciplines but it does appear to be a recurring theme in humanities and social science.
Universities always have gaps in teaching and they nearly always need someone to pick up this teaching, usually a very short notice.
In order to become an associate lecturer it is desirable, if not essential, to do the following:
- Contact the course leader / programme leader / subject group leader at the institution you are interested in
- Email them with a CV, and your areas of teaching interest
- Make it clear what experience you have whether it be in industry and/or teaching experience
- Be prepared to work at short notice and be flexible
- Be prepared to teach things a little out of your comfort zone
- Don’t expect masses of work straight away, it may begin with a guest lecture, some dissertation supervision and then a seminar group before it becomes steady work
- Don’t expect anything to happen quickly – universities are notoriously slow at everything
- Before you start chase human resources to make sure your contract is in hand and IT to make sure you have a working login
- Be prepared to be out of the loop on what is happening on the course as a whole, you contribution is valued but you will not necessarily be privy to staff/team meetings or decisions about the modules you teach on
Associate lecturing is a great way to work part-time hassle free or to get your foot in the door to move onto a staff job, but there are two sides to the coin:
- You can tailor a timetable of teaching to suit you and your other work/leisure/family needs
- You have the flexibility to pick and choose what and when you teach
- You can do the frontline teaching without having to do any of the back office paperwork and meetings
- You can work for multiple and competing institutions at the same time (I worked for The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University simultaneously)
- You can build up a great bank of experience to further your CV and future employment prospects
- You can feel isolated from the team and disconnected from decisions made about the modules you are teaching on
- You can end up teaching other people’s work which can be confusing/frustrating
- You cannot be a module leader so you can never have full ownership of a module even if you do all the teaching on it
- You can find yourself taking on a big workload yet you do not get any of the benefits like holiday, sick pay, maternity cover
- The associate lecturer market is increasingly competitive and you need to be able to offer something above and beyond traditional skills
- Higher education institutions are increasingly expecting lecturers to have teaching qualifications such as a PG CERT or to be a fellow of the HEA
Further HR advice
-If possible get a PAYE contract as this means you don’t have to worry about doing a tax return, you will progress up the pay scale and you have more evidence to argue the case for a staff position
-Understand where you are on the spinal scale as this will put you in a much better negotiating position should you be offered a full time job
-Know your rights concerning consolidation of contract from AL to staff