Lecturer (higher education): job description

Higher education lecturers are employed by universities and higher education establishments to undertake teaching, research and administrative duties within a specialist subject area.

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There is no legal requirement for higher education lecturers to gain formal teaching qualifications.

What does a higher education lecturer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • interviewing course applicants
  • lecture planning, preparation and research
  • contact and teaching time with students
  • checking and assessing students' work
  • encouraging personal development via tutorial or pastoral work
  • invigilating examinations
  • attending staff meetings
  • general administration
  • writing research proposals, papers and other publications
  • reading academic journals
  • supervising PhD students and research staff
  • managing research budgets
  • attending and speaking at conferences and seminars
  • preparing bids for funding for departmental research projects

The requirement to publish research work and general commitment to the job commonly results in higher education (HE) lecturers working long hours, including evenings and weekends. An excellent teaching and research record is generally necessary for career progression as there is strong competition for senior positions.

Typical employers of higher education lecturers

  • Universities
  • Higher education establishments

Many people enter the profession via part-time teaching or temporary contracts. Vacancies are advertised via the internet, in local, regional and national newspapers, in Times Higher Education and in publications relevant to the subject area to be taught. A few specialist recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.

Qualifications and training required

To become a higher education lecturer you must have a relevant degree; the minimum academic requirements are a good undergraduate degree (minimum 2:2) and a postgraduate qualification (often a PhD). Many HE lecturers are mature candidates who have also gained several years' pertinent professional or industrial work experience.

You don't need a specific teaching qualification to become a lecturer in HE. However, you may be able to gain valuable experience of teaching students while studying for your PhD, perhaps as a graduate teaching assistant.

Some universities provide training and qualifications for newly appointed lecturers. The Higher Education Academy (HEA) accredits university teaching and continuing professional development courses.

Key skills for higher education lecturers

  • Highly motivated
  • Excellent presentation skills
  • Excellent research skills
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Expertise in a particular subject area or areas
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