Report raises concerns over part-time lecturers

April 16, 1999

Serious doubts exist about whether institutions manage their part-time staff responsibly, according to a report commissioned by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education.

The report finds "serious grounds for concern over the quality of teaching and learning delivered by some part-time staff". But it says too little information on these staff exists to allow for any firm conclusions.

The report calls for a system that would ensure that numbers of staff involved in teaching and research are systematically reported to the Higher Education Statistical Agency. It also suggests that information should be regularly collected on the proportion of teaching being done by each category of temporary and part-time staff and that these statistics should be used alongside quality measures such as teaching quality assessment and research assessment exercise scores.

Earlier studies have suggested that about half the academic staff in British universities are on fixed-term or part-time contracts, or both, and that they carry out about 20 per cent of teaching.

On behalf of Natfhe, Anand Chitnis and Gareth Williams of the Centre for Higher Education Studies, looked at teaching quality assessments in business and management studies, chemistry, communication and media studies and computing for all English universities and colleges of higher education to assess the part played by staff on different types of contract.

They found that while some departments were praised for constructive use of postgraduate and specialist outside professionals, others were criticised for excessive use of under-supervised, part-time staff, putting a strain on the continuity of courses.

Those institutions that performed best seemed to extend good practice in training and development to all staff. For this reason, the report recommends that the new Institute for Learning and Teaching should ensure that arrangements for accreditation and membership include part-time staff.

The research also called for a "concordat" for part-time staff, similar to that developed for fixed-term research staff.

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