RSA Statement on Teaching by Researchers

The issue of research staff undertaking teaching activities has become a hot-topic recently, with the news that one department at Lancaster is now requiring its research staff to undertake teaching activities. Below is a statement by the RSA on teaching by researchers in general.

The RSA’s view on this:

  • Teaching activities may be beneficial to research staff for career development purposes. Departments offering the option to get involved with teaching is a good thing. But…
  • All career development activities, including teaching activities, must be optional. As supported by UKRI and the Concordat (see below), it is up to the researcher to decide what development activities are best for their career.
  • Career development activities may include teaching activities but are not limited to them. Therefore teaching should be balanced against other activities already being undertaken by a researcher (e.g. training courses, outreach, student supervision/mentoring).
  • The teaching activities offered should truly have career development potential. If the work is similar to that previously undertaken (e.g. as a PGTA) it offers no real development potential.
  • Teaching (and other activities) should not affect the researcher’s research activities and should be limited in scope/hours.
  • Research staff should not be used to fill budget gaps, i.e. in place of academic staff or paid postgraduate teaching associates (PGTAs).

The RSA draws particular attention to the following documents.

UKRI Grant Terms & Conditions:

The issue of teaching and demonstration work by UKRI funded research staff (and fellows) is clearly covered by UKRI guidance (bold by RSA):
Providing that it is related to the research project on which they are currently working, Research staff and Research Fellows may, during normal working hours, undertake teaching and demonstration work, including associated training, preparatory, marking and examination duties, and NHS clinical sessions for up to an average of 6 hours a week (pro rata for part-time staff) calculated over the period that they are supported on the grant.”

Additionally, when the UKRI were contacted for clarity on teaching duties by UKRI funded researchers, they made the following statement (bold by RSA):

“You will notice that the above does specify that this is “providing that it is related to the research project”….  Overall, we would always encourage the individual to choose how they spend the six hours a week depending on their own circumstances and career direction.”

Clearly then, UKRI require the teaching activities to be related to the research being undertaken by the researcher. They also state that it should be up to the individual, not the host department or institution, to decide how they spend those six hours a week – whether that be teaching, supervising, outreach, training etc.

Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

The University is a signatory of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (hereafter, “the Concordat”). One of the three key principles of the Concordat is Professional and career development. The theme to this whole principle is providing opportunities (which may include teaching) for researchers to help develop themselves for future careers. However, the emphasis is clearly on providing those opportunities – not forcing them on researchers.

Indeed, it is for the researchers themselves to “Take ownership of their career, identifying opportunities to work towards career goals, including engaging in a minimum of 10 days’ professional development pro rata, per year.”

It is not for the institution or department to use the Concordat to force through any activity it wants.