Gets my travel juices going…

1412649_video_camera… but the bigger question is can academia be done differently?

For many early career academics, feeling run-down, overworked, underpaid and pressured to perform is all part of the job – something to be tolerated in the hope that a fruitful and rewarding university career awaits.

But two disillusioned young scholars recently decided instead to abandon their fledgling academic careers to pursue the true meaning of higher education by embarking on a round-the-world trip, visiting institutions that approach university life rather differently from traditional institutions in the UK, and making a documentary film about it.

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Dangers of Part-Time Teaching? @timeshigher

Indeed, after many years of part-time teaching – it’s somewhat easier if you already work in the institution and so have those facilities available, but it’s hard work:

Part-time teachers are not getting the support they require from university departments, despite their growing importance within the academy.

Although around 40 per cent of staff in higher education work part-time, they tend not to receive the level of academic or administrative support supplied to their full-time peers, according to a paper delivered at the Society for Research into Higher Education’s annual conference.

Amanda Gilbert, lecturer in academic development at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and Fran Beaton, senior lecturer in higher education and academic practice at the University of Kent, interviewed dozens of part-time lecturers for a book, Developing Effective Part-time Teachers in Higher Education: New Approaches to Professional Development, which was published in October.

Presenting a paper about their findings at the SRHE conference, held at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, Dr Gilbert and Ms Beaton said that universities had to do more to ensure that part-time staff were treated equitably.

A lack of office space or administrative support was a frequent complaint among their interviewees, Ms Beaton told delegates on 13 December.

“Many people told us: ‘My car boot or bicycle basket is my office’,” she said. “Universities need to have a clear strategy for how part-time teachers are recruited and…where they will work.”

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Research Students as Teachers?

The following is definitely a real issue for students, whatever the reality, the perception affects their behaviour. Even as someone with 11 years of teaching experience, but not full time within the department,  the students felt cheated that they had not got the tutor that they expected, making it far more difficult for me as the replacement tutor…

Universities’ reputations could suffer if undergraduates perceive that the institutions are leaving teaching to “an insufficiently trained, inappropriately paid and poorly motivated workforce of teaching assistants”, according to a new study.

Researchers from Heriot-Watt University’s department of accountancy, economics and finance carried out an online survey of postgraduate student teaching activities. About 1,100 students, mostly researchers, responded.

Of the 500 respondents from Scottish institutions, more than 60 per cent were involved in teaching – 84 per cent of those by choice. Typical duties for postgraduate teaching assistants include tutoring, demonstrating and helping with assessment. Around 13 per cent also lectured.

Most of those surveyed taught for up to four hours a week, but a small number taught for more than eight.

“Considering that preparation and teaching hours appear to require a similar number of hours…this could place some research students at a disadvantage,” the researchers say in a paper on the Scottish results, “The Role, Responsibilities and Remunerations of Graduate Teaching Assistants in Scotland”, currently under review for publication.

 The study found a wide variation in pay rates, from £6 to £72 an hour. The highest salaries were in law, music, and accounting and finance, with the lowest in sport, physics and bioscience. Training was not universally available and was often generic rather than subject specific.
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‘Work is Exhausting’ @timeshighered

Gender seemed to have most impact on the way burnout revealed itself, the study suggests. Male lecturers typically had higher depersonalisation scores, for example, while their female peers tended to suffer more emotional exhaustion.

This probably reflected, the authors suggest, the draining effect on women who were having to “juggle multiple roles at work and at home”, on the one hand, and their reluctance to adopt “a distant, indifferent professional persona” on the other.

The researchers also report that “staff exposure to high numbers of students, especially tuition of postgraduates, strongly predicts the experience of burnout”.

However, they suggest that lecturers with qualities that might make them particularly suited to the job suffered more than their less engaged colleagues. The quality of “openness” may “make (academics) appealing tutors, encouraging greater interaction with students”, but it also appeared to “predispose teachers to burnout”, the paper says.

Full story.



‘Too Detailed and Prescriptive’

Experts have raised “serious concerns” about new requirements for lecturer training.

The proposals, set out by the Higher Education Academy, are “too detailed and prescriptive” and could be counterproductive, staff in the field have warned.

Plans to revise the UK Professional Standards Framework were published by the HEA in November after the Browne Review called for teaching qualifications to be made compulsory for new academics.

The framework, which was first published in 2006, is used to accredit universities’ teaching-development activities, but the HEA has admitted that many staff do not see it as “relevant” to their career progression.

Under the HEA’s proposals, the updated framework says that in future, all staff on academic probation will have to complete an HEA-accredited teaching programme, such as a postgraduate certificate in higher education. Postgraduates who teach would also have to take an HEA-accredited course.

A “sector-wide profile” on the number of staff who have reached each level of the framework would be published by the HEA annually.

Meanwhile, training courses would have to meet more detailed requirements.

Read full story. An interesting story, as I look to complete my PGCLTHE, which I have found very helpful in enabling me to think about my own teaching practice, and those things that I can do differently, and enabling me to learn from others.