The Employment, Development And Support Of Part-Time Lecturers In One UK University

Marshall, Sarah (2004). The Employment, Development And Support Of Part-Time Lecturers In One UK University. EdD thesis The Open University.



This research explored the nature and extent of the contribution of part-time lecturers to student learning in Higher Education, through a case study of one UK University. It drew on the experiences and opinions of part-time lecturers themselves, and of course directors, who had direct responsibility for managing the courses on which the part-timers taught. The primary data for the study was collected through a survey of each of these two groups of staff, covering the academic year 2000-2001. While the survey data in this study were largely quantitative, the inclusion of open questions provided opportunities for staff to express their own views. The issues raised were analysed against the background of previous research and emerging policy and legislation.

The overall picture that emerged was of a group of staff who were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subject areas and committed to teaching students.However, their enthusiasm was tempered in many cases by the general failure of the university to manage this very important human resource strategically or effectively. There were examples in the responses of poor communication with part-time staff, poor administration, especially in relation to contracts and payment, lack of consideration of the information and resource needs of part-time lecturers, limited training and development opportunities, high levels of uncertainty and a tendency for managers to view part-time lecturers as a `flexible commodity'.

Course directors frequently referred to the additional administration and student support that full-time academics had to take on because of the nature of the contracts given to most part-time lecturers. While there were a few examples of part-time lecturers who were well-integrated and expressed a sense of belonging to the faculty and the organisation, there were many who felt isolated and marginalised: they were rarely included in decision-making processes received only such information as directly related to the module(s) they were teaching, rarely communicated with students outside the lecture theatre or classroom and, when they did undertake broader roles (which many did), were rarely paid for the additional work.

Some recommendations are made for a more strategic and inclusive approach to the management of part-time lecturers, which it is believed would have benefits for part-time and full-time lecturers alike, and would also enhance the quality of the student experience. Suggestions are also made for future research and development, including an exploration of the potential for web-based communication to reduce isolation.

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