Education and training

Higher education

Higher Education (HE) lecturers work in universities and other types of institutions of higher education. The HE sector in the UK is undergoing a period of great change, with increasing regulation of the sector by Government via the Office for Students. There is an ongoing expectation on the sector to deliver high quality education and excellent research, alongside a need to provide value for money to students, students' families, the government, and other stakeholders such as business. The financial pressures on universities are particularly affected by student tuition fees, an issue which is under regular review. There is also a growing development of non-traditional universities, with some private companies and online education companies developing

The need to attract students and make successful bids for funding for research and other activities means universities are inevitably in competition with each other, often on a global scale, while also needing to maintain collaborative partnerships with other institutions, eg in areas like research.

Types of graduate roles

Lecturers work with undergraduate and postgraduate students in a university, higher education institution or further education college, teaching on academic or vocational courses. In addition most are actively engaged in undertaking their own ongoing research and in some cases, supervising a small number of PhD students. Lecturers often undertake additional roles, for example as personal tutors, or leading on particular aspects of the activities of an academic department such as developing teaching practice, admissions tutors, or representing the department at meetings and events.

Entry points

HE Lecturer
As well as possessing a 2:1 or 1st class degree in a subject related to the area you want to lecture in, it is usual to have undertaken a PhD. For more vocational areas, eg architecture, dentistry and law etc, you will need several years of professional experience. Although a teaching qualification is not required, most Universities expect newly appointed academics to complete an in-service training course eg Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning.

After a PhD, the pathway to developing an academic career is likely to vary depending upon your discipline and the type of role you aspire to. The majority of HE Lecturers combine teaching and research, although a smaller number focus mainly on either research or teaching. The route you take will also depend upon your discipline, for example there are differences between the typical progression of a humanities lecturer as opposed to one in science or engineering, or the health professions.

Skills and experience required

As well as a passion for the subject and ability to enthuse students, lecturers have to be able to balance the often conflicting demands of their teaching workload and maintaining an active research career. They will be expected to submit successful funding bids and to establish their academic reputation through publishing papers and presenting at conferences and seminars, in order to contribute to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) for their department.

It is useful to get experience by assisting academic staff with research projects in your department, or via the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience programme. Many PhD students seek out opportunities to gain teaching experience, participating in tutorials, seminars or marking.

Job search strategies

Vacancies are commonly advertised on the websites of individual universities and on specialist websites. They may also be advertised in academic journals for the subject area concerned, and on the websites of the relevant learned societies. See 'Useful resources' for links to the main vacancy sites.

Useful websites for further information
Academic career (University of Manchester)
Tailored information to support those who want to make a career in academia.
Ambitious Futures Programme
An annual graduate programme for higher education management, run in conjunction with a number of partner universities.
Education and training (National Careers Service)
A wide range of jobs in education, training and instruction.
Higher education jobs (Guardian)
News and jobs in the HE sector.
Jobs in higher education, including teaching, academic research, PhD opportunities, administration and student services roles.
Teaching and education (Prospects)
Job profiles related to careers in teaching, including teaching English as a foreign language.
Times Higher Education
Includes news along with academic and administrative jobs.
Provides careers pages for researchers.
Debate, analysis and information on Higher Education issues.
See also

Related information in the following sectors:

Last updated: 22 Jan 2019