According to analysis in ‘What do researchers do?', which looked at 2003-07 doctoral graduates and their subsequent career destinations, around 13%-15% gain a post as a lecturer. There are, however, wide discipline variations as outlined below.
Although there are some ‘teaching only' posts, most lecturing roles have a substantial research element.
Higher education lecturers undertake most or all of the following activities:
- design and deliver lectures, seminars and tutorials
- develop and implement new methods of teaching to reflect changes in research
- assess students' coursework and mark examinations
- undertake administrative tasks
- support students in a pastoral/advisory role
- undertake personal research projects and contribute to the institution's research profile and publication record
- supervise students' research activities
- attend and contribute to conferences and seminars in their field
- participate in knowledge transfer activities.
In most disciplines, progress in an academic career is dependent on a solid research track record: being a good teacher alone is usually not enough. For further information on what is expected of HE staff at different levels of responsibility, see the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff's Library of Academic Role Profiles.
The popularity and scarcity of permanent academic positions available relative to the number of research staff means that competition for posts in most subjects (there are few exceptions) is extremely high. For some ideas on how to increase your chances of a successful academic career, read these expert views.
The likelihood of entering an HE career in a lecturing role varies according to discipline. Over the five years analysed in ‘What do researchers do?', there was only slight variation in the overall figure, ranging from 15% (2003 employed UK doctoral graduates) to 13% (2005). However, as the 2005 data illustrates, there are considerable discipline variations:
- Biological sciences - under 5%
- Physical sciences and engineering - 7%
- Biomedical sciences - 10%
- Arts and humanities - 26%
- Social sciences - 32%
Conversely, doctoral graduates in science and engineering subjects were more likely than arts, humanities and social science doctoral graduates to take up research staff posts.
Here are a few examples of lecturers' career profiles:
- Stewart - human geography researcher - lecturer
- Sarah - French researcher - university lecturer
- Rosalind mammalian genetics researcher - senior lecturer
- John - geography researcher - lecturer
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