Policy on PGR students who teach

This policy defines the University requirements for PGR students who teach.


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 PGR students in many career pathways. The University encourages its PGR students to apply for suitable teaching activities at appropriate points during their period of study where this does not impede the successful completion of their research degree. There is a central application process for teaching opportunities.

2. This policy covers PGR students who are primarily a member of the University as a student. It does not apply to academic staff who are additionally studying for a research degree. The principles of this policy apply as good practice to PGR students who are registered elsewhere and who teach at the University.

3. The Head of School is responsible for PGR students who teach within a school and for the operation of this policy. The Head of School will normally delegate line-management of PGR students who teach to a relevant academic in the school, such as the School Education Director, a Programme Director, or a Unit Director. Other arrangements, such as contractual and administrative matters for PGR students who teach, will normally be delegated to the School Manager or a delegate.

4. The Head of School (or delegate) is responsible for:

a. ensuring that there is support and an appropriate teaching load for a PGR student who teaches and

b. ensuring that students being taught by a PGR student have a good-quality experience.

The teaching load should be consistent with the school workload allocation model. Where a PGR student teaches away from their home school, the Head of School (or delegate) of their home school retains a responsibility for ensuring that the PGR student’s teaching load does not impact negatively on wellbeing or on research progress.

5. PGR students must be contracted for teaching duties and paid the rate agreed within that contract in line with the University’s employment policies. 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 or delegate before the PGR student takes up their teaching duties.

6. PGR students who teach will normally only be involved in the teaching and assessment of undergraduate students (exceptions are covered in paragraph 19).

Opportunities to teach

7. All PGR students should be made aware of all teaching opportunities available to them and the central process for application, recognising that such opportunities to teach will vary across schools, and will depend on subject area, the school's preferred models of delivery, and on student recruitment.

8. The process and arrangements for selecting PGR students to be involved in the teaching process should be fair and transparent and are normally the responsibility of the School Manager or Student Administration Manager. Selection will be undertaken by the relevant Programme Director and based on teaching requirements, the PGR student’s communication skills and knowledge of the subject, and any other relevant experience.

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

10. Every PGR student who teaches must have a teaching mentor.

11. Teaching must not impede the successful completion of the PGR student’s own research degree and must not contravene any relevant funding conditions or UK immigration conditions where applicable. For PGR students studying on a student visa, the number of working hours permitted per week must be taken into account.

12. PGR students should discuss their planned or agreed teaching activities with their research supervisor/s. The School Manager or another relevant colleague should arrange for the supervisor/s to be notified of contracted teaching and assigned teaching mentors.

13. Where a PGR student requires enhanced academic support, or is subject to the continued concern stage of the unsatisfactory academic progress procedure or to the support to study process, the student’s teaching load must be reviewed in a meeting including the Head of School (or delegate), the School PGR Director (and, if relevant, the appropriate Doctoral Training Entity Director), the teaching mentor and the research supervisor/s.

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

Activities and responsibilities

15. A PGR student can, as appropriate, be employed to deliver or contribute to the following teaching activities:

a. Seminars, tutorials and workshops;
b. Laboratory and other practical classes, including demonstrations and projects;
c. Field trips;
d. Occasional lecturing (see paragraph 18); and
e. Assessment and marking.

16. The teaching support role descriptors provide more information.

17. In line with the recommendation from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), unless the PGR student holds a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) post, their teaching activities should not normally exceed six hours in any week (including all preparation, assessment, marking and office hours), taking into account local circumstances (unit structure, intensive teaching, etc.), visa requirements and any particular funder guidance.

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

19. A PGR student should not normally be involved in teaching on Masters-level units, unless they have relevant specialist knowledge and relevant experience, and the Head of School (or delegate) has approved their involvement.

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

Pastoral care and student wellbeing

21. PGR students who teach might find themselves to be a first point of call for students who are experiencing personal, wellbeing or academic difficulties. PGR students who teach are not expected to provide pastoral care for their students and should not be appointed as a Personal Tutor. 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.

22. Consequently, PGR students who teach must be trained accordingly. They must be paid to undertake the mandatory pastoral care training given to permanent members of staff. PGR students 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 on the appropriate local administrative processes.

23. Schools should also provide local inductions for handling personal information, which is subject to the Data Protection Act and should be treated as confidential.

24. The University recognises teaching and its related duties can be both demanding and rewarding. PGR students 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, PGR students 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.

Training and support

25. All PGR students who teach must receive appropriate training. This must include:

a. An initial discipline-specific induction, which must be provided by the school before the PGR students 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.;

b. The introductory teaching course for those new to teaching at Bristol provided by the Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching. Other optional further teaching development is also available to PGR students.

c. Mandatory pastoral care training.

26. PGR students who teach must be paid for the mandatory training they undertake.

27. Each PGR student’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 student with feedback on their teaching through regular monitoring/observation and providing guidance on assessment. The mentor (or a nominee) must conduct scheduled teaching observations at least once a teaching block and decide whether the PGR student needs any additional training or support. They should meet the PGR student regularly and at least once a teaching block. The Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching (BILT) provides a common teaching observation form and guidance.

28. A PGR student’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 monitoring set out in the regulations and code of practice for research degree programmes.

29. Wherever appropriate, topics related to PGR students who teach should be fed into or otherwise represented at all levels of the PGR student representation structure.

30. Further information and support for PGR students who teach as Graduate Teachers and demonstrators is available on the HR webpages.

Quality assurance

31. A PGR student mustnot be named as Unit Director when contributing to a unit, nor should they be a member of the Board of Examiners or be be given any responsibility for the management of programmes, unless special dispensation is provided by the Faculty Education Director.

32. Schools must ensure that the extent of the involvement of PGR students 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 PGR students. The Head of School (or delegate) is responsible for this process.

33. 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 PGR students 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 recorded in blue as well as any reports resulting from staff observation of the teaching.

34. The official grievance procedure for PGR students 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 escalated to the Head of School (or delegate). Issues impacting on the PGR student’s research should be discussed with their supervisor/s or escalated to the School PGR Director and, if relevant, the appropriate Doctoral Training Entity Director.

Good practice guidance for PGR students who teach

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

  • Undergraduates and other taught students benefit from interacting with individuals who are often closer to their experience of being a student than academic staff.
  • the PGR student gains valuable transferable skills to benefit their career development by participating in teaching and the wider activities of their school.
  • staff are supported in providing research-rich teaching.

The following suggestions and notes aim to maximise these benefits.

  • It is deemed good practice for PGR students to begin their teaching experience by taking part in a co-taught or team-taught unit.
  • If possible, experienced PGR students who teach should be offered progressive levels of teaching and be paid at the level appropriate for the relevant role descriptor.
  • Where possible, the University should provide space and IT equipment to ensure confidentiality of student work.
  • As standard, the school should draw attention to the Staff Counselling Services, the employee assistance programme which is available 24/7, and the University Occupational Health Service. PGR students who teach should also be included in staff wellbeing activities at School level such as away days, break-out sessions or wellbeing walks. They should also, as appropriate, be included in meetings or workshops to plan or enhance the School’s or programme’s provision of teaching and the student experience.