Annex 18 - Policy on postgraduate research students who teach

1. Introduction

1.1.  The University of Bristol recognises the importance and values the contribution of Postgraduate Research (PGR) students in the teaching and assessment of students. Teaching also provides valuable experience for PGRs in many career pathways. Given this, the University encourages its PGRs to apply to suitable teaching activities, unless it impedes the successful completion of their research degree.

1.2.  The primary responsibility for the details laid out in this policy, as well as overall line-management of a School’s PGRs who teach, lies with the respective School Education Directors or equivalent.

1.3.  PGRs must be contracted for teaching duties and paid the rate agreed within that contract. The contract must specify the rate of pay, number of contact hours, preparation time, assessment time, and other related duties. The contract must be agreed with the School Manager before the PGR takes up their teaching duties.

1.4.  PGRs who teach will normally only be involved in the teaching and assessment of undergraduate students (exceptions are covered in 3.4 below).

2. Opportunities to Teach

2.1.  All PGRs should be made aware of all teaching opportunities available to them and the process for application, although such opportunities to teach will vary across Schools, dependent upon the subject, its preferred models of delivery, and student recruitment.

2.2.  The process and arrangements for selecting PGRs to be involved in the teaching process should be fair and transparent and is normally the responsibility of the School Manager or Student Administration Manager. Selection will be based on teaching requirements, the PGRs’ communication skills and knowledge of the subject, and any other relevant experience.

2.3.  Unless there is a contractual agreement, such as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) scholarship, PGRs cannot be compelled and should not be pressured to take on teaching duties. However, the University strongly encourages PGRs to teach where appropriate for their personal and professional development.

2.4.  Every PGR who teaches must have a teaching mentor (see 5.3 below).

2.5.  Teaching must not impede the successful completion of the PGR’s own research degree and must not contravene any relevant funding conditions or UK immigration conditions where applicable.[1] PGRs should discuss their planned or agreed teaching activities with their research supervisor/s and the School Manager or other relevant role should arrange for the supervisor/s to be notified of contracted teaching and assigned teaching mentors.

2.6.  Where processes regarding a PGR’s fitness to study, unsatisfactory progress, or enhanced academic support have been triggered, the teaching load will have to be reviewed in a meeting including the School Education Director, the School PGR Director (and, if relevant, the appropriate DTE Director), the teaching mentor and the research supervisor/s.

2.7.  Any contract or offer of teaching will be subject to the PGR satisfying the requirements of a Right to Work check (performed by HR) and any additional UK immigration conditions relating to the work.

3. Activities and Responsibilities

3.1.  A PGR may, as appropriate, be employed to deliver or contribute to the following teaching activities[2]:

3.1.1. Seminars, tutorials and workshops;

3.1.2. Laboratory and other practical classes, including projects;

3.1.3. Field trips;

3.1.4. Occasional lecturing (see 3.3); and

3.1.5. Assessment and marking.

3.2.  In line with recommendations from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), unless the PGR holds a GTA post, their teaching activities should not normally exceed an average of 6 hours per week across the calendar year (including all preparation, assessment and marking), taking into account local circumstances (unit structure, intensive teaching, etc.), visa requirements and any particular funder guidance.

3.3.  PGRs should not normally deliver lectures unless they are invited to provide a (paid) lecture within their research specialism.

3.4.  A PGR should not normally be involved in teaching at Masters level, unless they have relevant specialist knowledge and relevant experience, and the School Education Director has approved their involvement.

3.5.  It is the individual responsibility of PGRs to ensure they are aware of, and comply with, any working conditions of their UK immigration permission.

4. Pastoral care and student wellbeing

4.1.  PGRs who teach might find themselves to be a first point of call for students who are experiencing personal, wellbeing or academic difficulties. PGRs who teach are not expected to provide pastoral care for their students. However, they need to be aware of the University´s system of pastoral care provision and need to know how to direct students to appropriate members of staff if the need arises (see 4.2 and 5.1 below).

4.2.  PGRs who teach will, in the normal run of their duties, encounter pastoral issues and must be trained accordingly. They must be paid to undertake the mandatory pastoral care training given to permanent members of staff (see the relevant e-learning package developed by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust). PGRs who teach must also be made aware of the support provided by the University for students and be included in relevant School and Department processes as appropriate. Schools must provide guidance on how to respond to situations and orientation on the appropriate local administrative processes.

4.3.  Schools should also provide local inductions to handling personal information, which is subject to the Data Protection Act and should be treated as confidential (more information of the Data Protection act is available here). Personal information shared by a student must not be disclosed to any third party (including parents and guardians) without the express permission of the student. Sensitive data may be disclosed in an emergency situation when it is in the vital interests of the student. In the first instance, the Senior Tutor of the School should be consulted. Advice on this can also be obtained from the Secretary's Office or, if out of hours, from Security Services.

4.4  The University recognises teaching and its related duties can be both demanding and rewarding. PGRs who teach should be made aware by the School that they have access to University support resources available to permanent staff. Apart from these services, PGRs who teach who experience problems are encouraged to talk to their unit director, line managers or supervisors as a first step. Regular meetings with the unit director should also be used to address problems early on.

5. Training and Support

5.1.  All PGRs who teach must receive appropriate training. This must include:

5.1.1.    An initial discipline-specific induction, which must be provided by the School before the PGR undertakes any teaching activity, including, where relevant and applicable, more detailed guidance on subjects such as marking, teaching preparation and expectations, practicalities around office hours and student contact, etc.;

5.1.2.    At least one of the training courses for postgraduate teachers provided by the Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching. The appropriate course will depend on the PGR’s previous teaching experience and must be taken within six months of starting to teach.

5.1.3.    Mandatory pastoral care training mentioned in 4.2.

5.2.  PGRs who teach must be paid for the mandatory training they undertake.

5.3.  Each PGR’s teaching (including any assessment) must be mentored and monitored by a named member of academic staff (typically the programme or unit director, or the co-teacher on the unit, depending upon local circumstances, or, where appropriate, the supervisor). The mentor is responsible for providing the PGR with feedback on their teaching through regular monitoring/observation and providing guidance on assessment. They or a person they nominate conduct scheduled teaching observations at least once a teaching block and decide whether the PGR needs any additional training or support. They should meet the PGR regularly and at least once a teaching block.

5.4.  A PGR’s experience of teaching, and any related skills development, must also be discussed with their supervisor/s as part of the formal review of their development and progress, in line with the requirements for Annual Progress Review as set out in the Section 6 of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes.

5.5.  Wherever appropriate, topics related to PGRs who teach should be fed into or otherwise represented at all levels of the PGR representation structure as laid out in the Section 8 of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes.

5.6.  Further information and support for PGRs who teach as teaching assistants and demonstrators is available on the HR webpages.

6. Quality Assurance

6.1.  A PGR should not be named as Unit Director when contributing to a unit, nor should they be members of the Board of Examiners, nor be given any responsibility for the management of programmes, unless special dispensation is provided by the Faculty Education Director.

6.2.  Schools must ensure that the extent of the involvement of PGRs in the delivery of a taught programme is managed and reviewed with the overall learning experience of students in mind. The quality of this experience will be central to decision making about the type, content and amount of teaching undertaken by PGRs. The responsibility for this process lies with the School Education Director.

6.3.  As part of standard University quality assurance processes, the School (through the programme or unit directors and in collaboration with the respective teaching mentors) must evaluate the performance of PGRs who teach (during and at the end of the teaching activity and including any assessment) in order to ensure that students receive teaching of the appropriate quality. Such evaluations must take account of the taught students’ feedback as well as any reports resulting from staff observation of the teaching.

6.4.  The official grievance procedure for PGRs who teach is the same as for other staff. However, in the first instance issues regarding teaching should be discussed with the teaching mentor or be escalated up to the School Education Director. Those issues impacting on the PGR’s research should be discussed with their supervisor/s or escalated to the School PGR Director and, if relevant, the appropriate DTE Director.

Good practice guidance for PGR students who teach

Introduction

The involvement of PGRs in the teaching process has mutual benefits for students and staff: 

The following suggestions and notes aim to maximise these benefits. 

Teaching observation

The Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching provides guidance and a form for the observation of teaching.


[1] Such as the number of weekly working hours permitted on a student visa (formally known as Tier 4). For information on student visas and working conditions please see http://www.bristol.ac.uk/directory/visas/work-visas/  or contact the Student Visa Advisers.

[2] Please see the role descriptors for further information: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/hr/hpt/hpt-descriptors-summary.html