Are you thinking of applying for a lectureship? Are you familiar with what is involved in the process?
The PFDC and PFDC Reps Network have collated FAQs based on questions that are typically asked by postdocs and fellows who are applying to lectureship positions as their next career step. This is not an extensive list but is a great starting point for understanding the lectureship application process.
1. What is a Lectureship?
A lectureship is a university position that combines elements of teaching, research, and administration. The balance of the three in the role will depend on the university and department. They are often 'open-ended' following a period of probation, although fixed-term lectureships are also advertised.
Lectureships are a step on the academic ladder following a period of being a postdoc or holding an independent fellowship. Typically, an academic career route in the UK would be from lecturer to senior lecturer, reader and then professor.
A good insight into the UK system can be found on the academic job site jobs.ac.uk.
Lectureship posts in the UK are broadly equivalent to “Assistant / Associate Professor” roles in other countries. If you are searching for job adverts online, it is worth knowing that some UK universities are also moving to using the “Assistant / Associate Professor” term, rather than “lecturer”, so it is always best to search for that term as well and to to check the job description carefully, to ensure the job is at the right level.
2. How do lectureships differ at different places?
All lectureships are a balance of teaching, research, and administration. The main variations in the UK are in the proportion of time you will get for each. A detailed study of the job description should give you a good indication of what is expected.
It is very important to understand what type of university you are considering applying to. The UK university system is complex and with a long history (detailed in this good British Council article) but broadly, universities fall into research-intensive or teaching-intensive institutions.
Salaries for lecturers vary widely across the UK (as does the cost of living), with London universities often adding ‘London weighting’.
3. Are all lectureships permanent?
No, not all lectureships are permanent. Although often talked about as the way to become a ‘permanent’ academic, lectureships, like most other roles, are offered on a variety of terms.
Fixed-term contracts (two or three years) as well as parental covers are common, and it must not be assumed there will be a continuation afterwards.
When a role is advertised as ‘permanent’ or ‘indefinite contract’, it will require the passing of probation (see below) before you have this status.
4. What is probation?
Probation is a time where you can develop your skills as a lecturer whilst the University provides you with training. A probationary period with any employer is a chance for them to ensure you can do the role before they confirm your appointment.
It is a time to ask for help and support: “a supportive and developmental probation process is vital in providing an appropriate level of support and training for new members of staff on commencement of their employment” (University of York).
Lecturer probation length varies from university to university but is typically two or three years. During this time, most universities will ask you to complete a postgraduate qualification in university teaching. At Imperial new lecturers need to complete the 3 ‘Introduction to’ workshops as part of their probation, and in other universities you might need to attain a Postgraduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching. Working towards a qualification from Advance HE as a postdoc / fellow or a qualification as a new lecturer will often reduce probation time if you move universities so it is worth considering.
At Imperial you can find out more about gaining a teaching qualification by visiting the Educational Development Unit website:
Make the most of your probation period. Find out what support you are entitled to and ask for it. The academic jobs site jobs.ac.uk offer this advice for probationers.
5. Where is the best place to look for lectureships?
Lectureships are advertised on the institution’s webpage and in the UK on jobs.ac.uk. The two best methods to ensure you see all available roles are setting up an email notification of jobs on jobs.ac.uk (or find the equivalent if moving overseas) and using your network proactively.
Scanning individual university websites might take too much time, so ensure you are signed up to any email notifications of jobs from institutions you would like to work for, using broad filters (especially if your research is interdisciplinary). However, also sign up for jobs.ac.uk notifications - Lectureships do not become available very often, so do not narrow your choices to just a few institutions.
Let your network know that you are considering the move to lecturer. If they know, they can let you know about opportunities. Use your postdoc time to build a wide network in your field. Most senior academics say they would not be where they are without the help and support of their network. Make sure your personal webpage at Imperial, website or LinkedIn is up-to-date in case someone comes looking for you.
6. Do I need everything on the job description?
You do not need everything on a job description. Job descriptions are often written for the ultimate ideal candidate who seldom exists. If you match most of the essential criteria, then you could explore with the institution whether you would be a good fit. You may well have additional skills that could be a real value addition for that employer.
The best way to do this is to have a telephone call with the person named as the source for further information in the advertisement. Email them and ask for a 15-minute phone call at their convenience. Do not lead with “I haven’t got X”! See the question below about contacting the department.
7. Should I contact the department before I apply?
Yes, if possible, you should talk to the department with the vacancy. Most academic adverts have a contact for informal enquiries and candidates who do this have a much better idea of what the job entails, who they are looking for and whether it would be a great role for them.
You may also consider contacting some of the academics in the department who you feel would be a natural match for collaborations.
8. What should I ask when enquiring?
You should ask sensible questions that help you understand the role and how you might fit best. When enquiring using a brief email, ask for a telephone or video call to discuss the post, as this is much more personal and time-effective (the recruiter is a busy academic). Ensure that nothing you ask could be found out by looking at their website or the detailed job description and do spend time looking at both the research and teaching parts of the institution’s information before you call.
Some great questions to ask include:
- How did this lectureship become available?
- What, how and who will the new lecturer be teaching?
- What is the typical teaching load?
- What support does the university give new lecturers?
9. What should I highlight on my CV?
Your CV should highlight how you meet the job specification (true for all roles). The job advertisement is your guide to the structure (sections) and order of your CV. Your CV should be tailored for every individual application; do not use a generic ‘lectureship’ CV. Try to match the balance of the job description with your CV sections on research, teaching, and administration. Ask someone to look at the job description and then your CV. Can they find the essential criteria in 30 seconds or less?
By the time you apply for a lectureship you will have a great deal of experience. You may well need to collate and reduce some sections (for instance the ‘poster’ section in publications). This will create space for the more senior experience you have e.g., keynote talks.
Highlighting your administrative roles (committee memberships, responsibilities) is important and you may not have had to do this before.
The PFDC can assist you with your application during a one-to-one session.
10. Have I got enough publications?
It is difficult to put precise numbers on publications because every discipline differs in typical rates of publication. What panels are looking for is someone with a good track record in their field. They will also be looking for a lecturer who can contribute positively to the REF.
How can you find this out? Seek out those who have been recently appointed as lecturers in your discipline at institutions like those you are considering (research-intensive settings are more likely to put emphasis on publications). Look at the publication records of these new lecturers and this should give you a good indication of what is expected.
Certainly, pushing to finish and submit any outstanding publications will help with your applications.
If you have had career breaks, must work part-time due to caring responsibilities, or due to illness, disability, or large-scale impact from the Covid-19 pandemic, ensure you have highlighted these. Panels can then compare your publication rate fairly against those who have not had such breaks.
Many organisations have signed The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), where they move away from using journal-based metrics, such as journal impact factors (JIFs), in assessing the research achievements of staff or candidates, and you should be familiar with it if they mention it on the job description.
11. Do I have to have had a fellowship?
No, a fellowship is not an essential step. Universities are looking for the best candidate they can get. Someone who has had a personal fellowship has already demonstrated many of the skills required from a lecturer in the research sphere. They will have publications and evidence of securing funding. Therefore, fellowships are a great steppingstone towards a lectureship. A fellowship holder will also have experience in complex applications and interviews.
But lectureships also focus on teaching and administration which need to be evidenced. It is no longer sufficient to be great at research. Universities are now providing education to paying students, which in turn has increased the demand for quality teaching. Panels will be looking for someone who is the best fit for the requirements of that role. If teaching is a high priority, then someone whose CV showcases excellent research but nothing more may well not be shortlisted.
12. Is teaching experience with graduate students enough?
Graduate student teaching is valuable teaching experience and can be enough for some lectureships. Researchers sometime struggle to get undergraduate teaching experience but might have a wealth of experience working with Master’s and doctoral students. This is teaching experience but is often poorly articulated on applications. Working through the STAR Framework at Imperial might help formalise your experiences. Many lectureships are held in departments where only graduate students are taught and supervised, so always be led by the job description.
If you wish to build up your undergraduate teaching portfolio, you will need to seek out opportunities and be inventive, especially if you are in a research setting with little undergraduate contact. Study the curriculum for subjects you could teach at your university and seek out the course organiser. Offering to do a guest lecture, seminar or practical class may all be welcomed.
13. Do I have enough teaching on my CV?
The amount of teaching experience required will vary from role to role, so it is hard to quantify what is ‘enough’ on your CV. No one expects an applicant to their first lectureship position to have five years’ worth of lecturing experience, but the job market is competitive, so highlighting all the teaching you have done is essential. Use the job description to guide you, but do not be put off by the words ‘experienced’ or ‘several’ years teaching. You will probably have more than you think.
Compile a list or spreadsheet of teaching you have done. List everything you have ever taught (high school, undergraduate, postgraduate) and include the following metrics: type of teaching, level of teaching, numbers taught, duration taught, feedback scores and qualitative evidence (student ad hoc feedback). Think laterally too – research supervision, technician training and outreach can be regarded as teaching.
Identify the key gaps in your experience and look to fill them. You do not need years of experience, just evidence you have tried a variety of teaching. Researchers have built up successful portfolios by giving guest lectures on courses, running symposia, writing online courses about their research or technical methods, supporting struggling students (with statistics for instance) or helping with exam assessments. Look for opportunities by talking to course convenors or speaking directly to the lecturers.
Contact those advertising and understand what level of experience they are looking for. If still in doubt – apply. The process of applying will help make future applications better.
14. Do I need a teaching qualification?
No, you do not need a teaching qualification. Lecturers in most institutions in the UK are expected to undergo some form of postgraduate training in teaching as part of their probation (see other sections).
However, universities are looking for excellent teachers for their students and an applicant with an evidenced interest in teaching will be viewed favourably. Qualifications or attendance at teaching events can provide such evidence. At Imperial, researchers can access the STAR Framework, which can lead to Fellowship of the HEA, a UK nationally recognised standard.
15. What is a research statement?
A research statement will outline your research so far and what you hope to work on when appointed as a lecturer. It is often asked for as part of the application documents, but the precise format again varies hugely. This is what currently advertised roles on jobs.ac.uk ask for:
- describe your future research plans (no more than two A4 pages in total).
- a covering letter including your research plans.
A research statement should paint you in a positive light – do not forget that you are applying for the role, not your research group or PI. It should evidence that you are ready for independent research, and you have clear goals including how you are going to fund it. This last part is key – knowing what you can apply for and when is important. Lecturers are expected to fund themselves and their groups.
You are also bringing your research to a department. How do you fit in and what is the value added of having you in their research environment? Do not assume collaborations – talk to people first before saying “I will work with Dr X on Y” in your application. All this should be part of you sounding out the institution as a good fit for you and them.
16. What is a teaching statement?
A teaching statement is a document which outlines your beliefs and practices surrounding teaching combined with solid evidence of how you have successfully implemented these. As part of your lectureship application, you will probably be asked for a teaching statement (or asked for this on the application form).
Each university and department often have their own application procedure about how they would like teaching evidenced. If teaching is not mentioned as part of the application, still be prepared to talk about it at interview.
Compiling a list or spreadsheet of teaching you have done, techniques and novel teaching strategies you have tried will be helpful in preparing this statement (and interview questions). If you have student feedback or scores, be sure to include them (if they are positive). Expand on certain points: rather than just state “I use problem-based learning” can you provide a mini case study focusing on what it delivered for the student? Ensure any description of your teaching means something to people outside your institution. Course codes are not needed, and ‘seminar’ can mean different things. Where possible quantify your statements with student numbers and course level.
A teaching statement can be strengthened by evidencing that you have looked to develop yourself as a teacher. Attendance at courses, symposia or reading about best practice in your field will add to your statement. Familiarity with university online learning systems and virtual teaching are also great experiences to have and can be easily added to your CV. Could you offer a Master’s level additional lecture online or write materials to support an existing course grounded in your research?
As with all aspects of your application, follow the guidance. If they ask you for two pages focusing on virtual teaching, then give them this. Stick to word and page limits whilst ensuring it is easy to read. Ask to see colleagues’ examples to give you ideas and match what you say to what you will be doing in that institution as a lecturer. Some great guidance, although US-focused, can be found here.
17. Who will I be teaching?
Lecturers can teach a variety of students: foundation, undergraduate, Master’s, graduate researchers, or external professional clients. This is a key question to find the answer for. Some job descriptions are very clear on this point, but others will just mention ‘contributing to the undergraduate curriculum’. There are two key things to do if the latter is the case.
The first is to really study their website, not just the research pages. Look at who their standard undergraduate is (what qualifications do they need on the course, can students study remotely, how are they being ‘sold’ the degree?). Chances are this student population will be different to the environment you are used to from both your own student experience and your experience as a teacher (all universities are different). Use your network to find people who attended this university to get the insiders’ view. What do academics in the department teach? Work out the subjects / courses you would be able to teach, given their curriculum.
The second is contact the person ‘for more details about’ mentioned in the advert. It is perfectly acceptable to do this and will help you understand if the post is the right one for you (or not). Asking how the lectureship came about will tell you if they are missing a particular teaching strength or if they are setting up a new master’s course. Evidence that you have done your research during this conversation. It is ok to ask what the anticipated teaching load for the lecturer would be at this point but do not try negotiating – this is a fact-finding call.
18. How much teaching will I have to do?
Teaching loads vary between disciplines and institutions. It will be up to you to find out. There will be the advertised amount (X lectures a term for instance) but if you are new to the course and university, planning and writing those lectures will take you longer than the advertised teaching time.
Understanding the teaching load is probably the most important thing to do before you apply. If you are wanting to build up your research portfolio then a teaching load of four days per week will not suit. But if you are passionate about teaching, that may well be the perfect job. The best way to find out is to ask. Approach either the contact person in the advertisement or a lecturer in the department to finetune your understanding. It is better to chat to them before you meet them at the interview for the first time.
Use your network to find people who have recently held lectureships at that university (or a similar one) and ask them about their experiences. How long did they spend in prep/teaching/evaluation/assessment? What are their tips and tricks? Ensure the people you chose have been a new lecturer within the past ten years or so. An experienced professor will have had a very different experience when they started.
Bear in mind that your teaching will also count as evidence towards a postgraduate qualification that most new lecturers need to undertake.
19. What else might they ask for?
Every university has its own hiring procedures, with some asking to complete large application forms and others just asking for a CV and covering letter. Excellent advice on the latter can be gained from a one-to-one with the PFDC and the jobs.ac.uk website.
Other additions to your application could include (not an exhaustive list!):
- A diversity and inclusion statement (asked for by a department trying to create a more inclusive and accessible culture).
- A personal statement or cover letter (this wraps the elements of teaching, research, and administration that you bring into one document). Use paragraphs to highlight these different elements.
- A questionnaire asking for ethnicity / gender. These are used by HR departments to monitor applications. These will be removed before the application is seen by the panel.
20. What is an EDI statement?
An equality and diversity statement is a document outlining your contributions and approach to creating a more inclusive and accessible culture. Be guided by the job description as to how long this needs to be. There has been an increased focus on this aspect in recent years, as universities have looked to develop in these areas.
Things to consider adding to this might be:
- Working with underrepresented groups to attract them to your university or discipline
- Outreach work with underrepresented groups
- Committee work such as being part of your institution’s Athena SWAN working group
- Ensuring equal access to learning materials and events
- Adaptations you have made to techniques or systems to ensure equity of use
Be aware of the context of the institution you are applying to. Have there been any notable incidents (good or bad) recently? What are the student demographics for the courses you might be teaching on?
21. What is the 'administration' part of a lectureship?
When you remove teaching and research, the other parts of your role are collated into the term ‘administration’. This is usually mentioned on job adverts e. g. “research activity is expected to account for 60% of time whereas teaching and administration is expected to account for 40% of time” (Advert for Engineering Lecturer, University of Cambridge) but not detailed. This may include committee membership, assessments, outreach, recruitment, undergraduate selection, but this list is not exhaustive.
The best way to understand this third of the lectureship triangle (teaching, research, and administration) is to ask the lecturers in your department about it. What do they do? How long does it take? Do not just take one answer though as this will vary hugely. It may well be an opportunity to work in areas that you are passionate about. These could include being on an Athena SWAN committee, developing access programmes for disadvantaged or underrepresented students, or championing your discipline nationally through a learned society.
22. How much administration will I have to do?
This is hard to quantify as we might view writing a grant or marking exams as administration, even though we could label them as research and teaching. Traditionally, lectureships have been viewed as a third teaching, a third research and a third administration but the university sector is far too variable to make assumptions.
Seek out those who have been recently appointed as lecturers in the institutions you are considering and ask them what their average week looks like. Ask them when the busy times of year are or when they get their research done. What does the university expect of them? What else do they choose to do within the department?
Quite often this aspect is viewed negatively, but the administrative side exposes you to a broader network of people, raises your professional profile and develops your skills. If you are aiming for promotion, you will need all of these. This article has a helpful viewpoint from jobs.ac.uk.
23. How can the PFDC support my application?
The PDFC can offer a one-to-one session to review your application in relation to a specific job description.
You can attend the pop-up ‘Lectureship Applications – where to start?’ and check our online resources:
- Research Vision Video
- Tip Sheets (including academic CVs and Research Vision)
- Information about the Research Culture Toolkit
The following courses are also relevant:
24. What will the interview be like?
Most lectureship interviews consist of a presentation and detailed interview questions. Increasingly these are being offered remotely but some institutions have longer, face-to-face processes which include meeting the department, teaching a class and a traditional interview.
The presentations vary from a five-minute presentation about your research plans, to a 40-minute lecture aimed at a specific student set. Target your presentation firmly at the intended audience. Be mindful they might not remember everything in your application. This may involve looking at curricula to find out what a second-year student at this institution really knows about X. Be upbeat, introduce yourself and use lots of eye contact, especially in virtual settings.
25. How do I prepare for a lectureship interview?
Lectureship interviews will vary according to institutions. Your invite letter or email should explain what is expected of you, as well as logistics such as time and location. Read the invite carefully.
Interviews will vary on focus, panel size, time, presentation(s) requested and question type.
Presentations might include:
- A seminar on your research topic - often separate from the actual interview time, can be up to a one-hour seminar style open to the entire department.
- A teaching presentation - often short in duration (ten minutes) and with a specific audience and topic in mind.
- A research plan presentation – can be up to 30 minutes and include your research achievements, your fit with the department, and your plan for the first five years in that institution.
For interview questions they may focus on your achievements as a researcher so far, how your research fits their department, or more on you, the candidate, your motivation, visibility, and career aspirations. It’s important to prepare yourself for a range of questions.
How to prepare:
- Become a mock interview panellist - To experience being on an interview panel and ‘the other side of the table’, volunteer to be a panel member on our mock interviews by completing our volunteer form.
- Attend the Interviewing for Lectureships course.
- Speak with current lecturers – ask them about their experience of interviews.
- Re-read your application and CV.
- Book a mock interview with the PFDC.
- Have a technical mock interview with your department where you can present your seminar-style presentation in full.
- PFDC has a list of academic interview questions to help you prepare.
- Practice your presentation(s) – make sure you address what you’ve been asked to present and stick to the time limit!
The jobs.ac.uk website has an interactive interview question tool with hints on how to answer each question.