ECH Teaching: Terms of Employment

1 October 2014

In 2014 a flurry of articles and correspondence highlighted the issues around the employment of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in British higher education generally. Discussion is likely to be ongoing as universities enter a period of significant financial pressures for retrenchment at the same time as many experience growing student numbers (not least in History) and are being encouraged to improve student experience through increasing contact hours while preserving quality.

The precise terms and conditions of employment for GTAs vary considerably from institution to institution. Rates of pay may also reflect the qualifications of the GTAS (with those with PhDs receiving a higher rate) and the levels of responsibility they are assigned in particular roles. Almost all GTA work will be paid at an hourly rate with a set number of hours assigned to the role to cover all or some of direct teaching time, feedback, preparation, assessment and training, although where marking is involved this may attract a different rate per script.

As a generalisation, it is clearly the case that what is often very demanding work is not well paid, and pay may not take account of all the work that is required to execute the role effectively. Those becoming GTAs need to go into the role with their eyes open and ensure they acquaint themselves with the terms and conditions to which they are signing up (and in some cases they may be obtaining employment at more than one institution simultaneously).  Issues to bear in mind are discussed further below.

At the postdoctoral level, a certain amount of teaching may be built in to the terms of a funded research fellowship or other position, in which case there is unlikely to be any additional income stream associated with the teaching. But for those taking over someone’s teaching in the form of a temporary appointment there will be important considerations to bear in mind, which are discussed here.

The RHS is committed to promoting good practice in the employment of temporary teaching staff at all levels, as reflected in the RHS/History Lab Plus Code of Good Practice for the employment of such staff.

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