Code of Practice for GTA Training, Support and Development

Note: While this Code focuses on Graduate Teaching Assistants (i.e. registered postgraduate research students employed on GTA contracts), in large part it is relevant also to other categories of the Extended Workforce, such as Demonstrators and Tutors. The Code of Practice should be read in conjunction with other relevant University policies, referred to at appropriate points in this document.

1. Introduction

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) at the University of Glasgow are postgraduate research students (PGRs) who undertake paid teaching alongside their studies. GTAs make a vital contribution to the University’s learning and teaching environment, and have a particularly important role to play in ensuring an excellent experience for taught students. Opportunities for employment as a GTA also contribute to the academic experience of PGRs, helping to prepare them for future careers in academia and beyond, and fulfilling a key requirement of some funding bodies.

The University of Glasgow aims to provide excellent training, support and development opportunities for GTAs. This Code of Practice sets out the institution-wide expectations relating to all aspects of GTA training, support and development. It recognises that GTAs contribute in different ways across the institution, in line with different disciplinary modes of teaching and student support, and sets out threshold expectations, drawing on existing good practice. GTA roles are closely aligned to Descriptor 1 of the UK Professional Standards Framework.

The Code is designed as an overarching framework and outlines the responsibilities of all parties involved in this support, recognising that GTAs are PGR students as well as being integral members of teaching teams. Section 2 sets out the status of GTAs, with regard to their position as postgraduate research students. Sections 3, 4 and 5 then set out the roles of the University, Schools and subjects/course staff respectively in relation to GTAs. Finally, Section 6 outlines the responsibilities of GTAs themselves.

2. PGRs and GTAs

Postgraduate research students who are hired by the University to undertake GTA activities are formally employed by the University in this latter capacity, with rights and responsibilities as set out in their contracts of employment. This relationship with the University is separate from their status as PGRs for which they have signed the student contract. However, PGRs should be mindful of the impact of their employment on their studies and seek support, both as research students and as employees, to balance this appropriately.

The PGR Code of Practice sets out some broad elements of good practice as it relates to PGRs who are also employed as GTAs:

  • GTA work, while not a long-term career role, is important to students as employment and also contributes very positively to their work experience and professional development.
  • As employment, this is separate, albeit linked in many ways, from their academic activity and progression as a student in pursuit of their doctoral work.
  • Supervisors have a role in supporting the academic and professional development of their PGR students and can make recommendations about their employment and how they approach it. However, supervisors should not constrain a research student’s ability to undertake GTA work. Where it is felt that any employment is interfering with a research student’s progress in their doctoral work then this may be raised informally with the student as an academic issue.
  • Supervisors have the ability to comment formally on research students’ progress as part of their Annual Progress Review (APR) and may choose to raise any issues there. However, outcomes of APR are normally recommendations for academic improvement rather than formalised courses of action.
  • PGRs who are employed as GTAs should receive appropriate induction, training, line management and mentoring to prepare them for and allow them to develop in their roles, as set out in this Code.

The link between the work of a PGR as a student on their doctoral research and their employment within the University can be challenging to navigate for students as well as those who support them. For issues relating to the conduct of their research or their work as a student, they are bound by and subject to the policies and regulations that apply to students and to the programme they are registered on. For issues relating to their employment, they are bound by and subject to their contract of employment and relevant policies, processes or employment law. Grey areas may emerge where research and teaching are closely linked, where employment impacts on academic progress, or where academic supervisors are engaged either in supporting their students with professional development or are themselves engaged in teaching or leading teaching in the School or Institute. However, students and supervisors should be aware that research students’ work as a GTA is employment and separate from their studies. While supervisors may provide advice or guidance in their roles as supervisors and supporters of students, they are not line managers and should not be in a position to prevent students from undertaking GTA work or other employment. Issues should be raised informally between students and supervisors, or formally via Annual Progress Review where this is warranted.

Graduate Schools have a responsibility for PGRs in their Colleges for broad oversight of postgraduate matters and setting policy and strategy relevant to their College, sitting alongside institutional policies and strategies. While learning and teaching and day-to-day supervision are very much ‘local’ activities in subjects, Schools and Institutes, Graduate Schools have a role in coordination between these as well as in providing elements of training to students and to supervisors. Supervisor training is important for supervisors to understand their evolving role in a sector which continues to grow and adapt, and in supporting them to in turn support their research students effectively. Supporting their research students in their work as GTAs may not be something that all supervisors are comfortable doing. Training can help to bridge this gap and provide tools for supervisors to understand their roles, develop a role that is comfortable for them and/or where students can look for additional information or support beyond the supervisory relationship. 

Research students who are trained as and who work in GTA roles benefit from more than just teaching experience. While experience in learning, teaching and assessment is an important professional skill for many PGRs who may want to work in academic settings in a variety of roles, it is also of value in developing a broader range of skills that are beneficial to PGRs in future employment of a range of types. Funders of PGRs understand this and encourage universities to support this development. Students report in the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) in particular that their ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences is improved, that they have developed professional contacts or networks at a greater rate than students who do not have teaching experience and that they have more opportunities to discuss their research with other students.

GTAs who are concerned about the impact of their contracted minimum GTA hours on their studies should also discuss this with their supervisor and designated point of contact within the School or Institute in the first instance.

3. University policy and training

GTA employment is governed by the University’s Extended Workforce Policy. The policy states that “The University of Glasgow is committed to providing its post-graduate students with the opportunity to carry out tutoring and demonstrating as part of their early career development and to providing the necessary training and support to fulfil these important duties.” (Extended Workforce Policy, §2.5)

3.1. Extended Workforce Policy

  • The University, in consultation with the recognised Trade Unions, has developed an Extended Workforce Policy which is the main reference point for all Human Resources-related queries during a GTA’s employment at the University. This policy contains information on a variety of matters relating to the GTA contract of employment including:
    • Contractual arrangements and working hours - see also the EWP Procedural Guidelines which note in particular that “GTA contracts should be for up the three academic years where possible (but may be for one or two based on the individual’s period of study). The number of hours in the contract should be as many as can be confirmed and guaranteed.” (Procedural Guidelines 4.2)
    • Guidance on pay and conditions (Please note: local variations may exist within the parameters of this Policy for time claimed for some elements of the GTA role due to the different requirements of the work in different subject areas); 
    • Generic job descriptions for GTAs (Grade 6), Demonstrators (Grade 5) and Tutors (Grade 6);
    • Guidance on the maximum number of hours that student visa holders are permitted to work in total across all employment, and the respective responsibilities of student visa holders as employees and the University as the employer.
  • GTAs are eligible to join the University and College Union: Glasgow (UCUG). Union membership is open to all academic and academic-related staff at Grade 6 and above, regardless of full-time, part-time or short-term contractual status.

3.2 Policy information

3.3 University core training for GTAs

  • The University provides central training for GTAs in the form of a statutory introduction to teaching for all GTAs. This is the GTA Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education programme (GTA ILTHE), which is run by the Academic & Digital Development  (ADD) team.
  • This training is a requirement and a once-only class for GTAs during their time teaching at the University of Glasgow. It is designed to complement the training that GTAs receive from their School/College (see Section 4.3 below).
  • The GTA ILTHE takes the form of a blended session delivered through a flipped learning approach.
  • Where possible, GTAs should complete the GTA ILTHE before beginning their work as a GTA.
  • GTAs are paid for three hours at their normal training rate to attend the statutory GTA ILTHE training (one hour of flipped content in advance of a two-hour live session).
  • Completion of the Introduction to the General Data Protection Regulation, Information Security Awareness, and Equality and Diversity Essentials Moodle courses is required of all University of Glasgow staff, including GTAs. GTAs can record their training when accessing HR Core with their staff login.

3.4 Further University training, support and development for GTAs

4. School/Institute responsibilities for GTAs

It is at School/Research Institute (henceforth ‘School’) level that most responsibility for GTAs lies, as Schools handle recruitment and payment of GTAs, in line with HR policies, and also share responsibility for providing appropriate training and support. It is recommended that Schools identify a School GTA facilitator to coordinate GTA activity. Where it is not possible or appropriate to identify a single GTA facilitator, Schools should ensure that the responsibilities of the various relevant post-holders are transparent to GTAs and to staff working with GTAs.

4.1 Recruitment and roles

  • The recruitment of GTAs should be conducted in line with the Aims of the University’s Recruitment policy and Extended Workforce Policy.
  • Colleagues should be fairly paid for the work that they do, reflecting both the contribution and the time spent on associated activities. For hourly-paid colleagues engaged in tutoring and graduate teaching related activities, this includes being paid appropriate time for preparation, administration and marking, in addition to their teaching or class contact time.
  • Schools must provide GTAs with a clear outline of contracted hours (including contact hours, training, any office hours and time for responding to student emails where this is a part of their role, expected time for preparation and marking, attendance at meetings, as appropriate), any other responsibilities, and expectations.
  • Schools should ensure that staff working with GTAs, such as course conveners, are familiar with the conditions which apply to GTAs (e.g. essential training expectations, payment conditions for preparation and marking).

4.2 Induction

  • Induction of GTAs by Schools should take place before GTAs begin teaching, regardless of the point in the year when GTAs start. 
  • In addition to a synchronous or in-person induction session in which GTAs have the opportunity to ask questions, induction information should also be made available to GTAs in the form of a handbook or Moodle site for ongoing reference. Schools should bear in mind that some GTAs may be new to the UK Higher Education sector, as well as to the University of Glasgow (see Appendix for a suggested induction template) and provide appropriate induction information. 
  • Schools should identify and highlight to GTAs a named person or people (in some areas called a ‘GTA facilitator’) to whom GTAs should refer with any questions about their contractual conditions, core training and payment. This may be a professional services member of staff or an academic and professional services member of staff working together, as appropriate to the School. The GTA facilitator role should be recognised as a student/staff support role in workload models. Changes in the GTA facilitator should be notified to Academic & Digital Development.
  • Further, Schools should notify GTAs of a neutral School contact who is not primarily responsible for GTAs whom they can contact confidentially with questions or concerns about their experience. This may, for example, be the Head of School or a Head of Subject, as appropriate.
  • Inductions can also play a part in enabling GTAs to support each other, and should be used in this way where possible.
  • Schools should provide practical support as appropriate for GTAs, e.g. information on the accessibility of teaching rooms; provision of print documents (or print credit) where needed; provision of other necessary materials; provision of meeting rooms if GTAs are expected to offer feedback meetings to students.

4.3 Core training for GTAs

  • School-level core training for GTAs is intended to complement the University-level core training outlined above (Section 3.3). In practice, this may be devolved to subject areas or programmes as appropriate to the structure of the School. This training functions to ensure that GTAs receive not only broad training in the policies and processes of teaching (and where appropriate assessment) at the University of Glasgow, but also more specific training in local processes and expectations, and an introduction into a local community of teaching.
  • Three hours of paid subject-specific statutory training is required to be provided by Schools. This statutory training can take different forms, depending on the needs of local areas, and Schools may wish to adopt and tailor the materials that Academic and Digital Development offer (see ‘Developing as a Graduate Teaching Assistant’, or contact for more information).
  • GTAs must be paid for undertaking core School-level training (in addition to the University-level GTA ILTHE set out in Section 3.3 above).
  • Where Schools wish to offer additional optional development, in skills not core to the work being undertaken, they must make clear to GTAs whether this development is paid or unpaid to enable them to make an informed decision on whether to participate.
  • GTAs who have questions about the availability or payment of training should contact the relevant GTA facilitator or other contact in their School.
  • Payment for training should happen ‘as you go’, rather than (for example) in a single annual payment, to facilitate compliance with visa requirements.
  • Schools should ensure (for example via induction materials) that GTAs are familiar with the University’s support services and resources for taught students. Schools must also clarify to GTAs the limits of GTA responsibility for taught students, and provide GTAs with the name of a local contact whom they can approach for advice. This will typically be the relevant course convener or member of staff with primary responsibility for GTAs in the School.

4.4 Payment for preparation and assessment

  • Paid preparation time for teaching must be at a fair and realistic rate for the time required to carry out the work. As the Extended Workforce Policy specifies “Colleagues should be fairly paid for the work that they do, reflecting both the contribution and the time spent on associated activities. For hourly paid colleagues engaged in tutoring and graduate teaching related activities, this includes being paid agreed appropriate time for preparation, administration and marking in addition to their teaching or class contact time.”
  • The time required for teaching preparation is likely to vary according to the nature of the teaching and the amount of guidance that Schools give to GTAs. Preparation time payment rates should reflect an understanding of the work being undertaken by GTAs, and rates should be established in a way that enables the GTA voice to be heard.
  • Similarly, where GTAs are involved in assessment and feedback, Schools must establish fair and realistic marking rates and make these transparent to GTAs before GTAs take on the assignment. Rates must take account of the time it takes to provide high quality feedback to students.
  • Schools must be able to provide a justification for any variations from established norms in relation to preparation or marking payment (in Colleges/Schools where established norms exist).
  • For concerns relating to specific employment issues, including pay, the first point of contact should be the course convener/subject area or School administration team, with specific advice being available from People & Organisational Development

4.5 Support for assessment and feedback

  • Where GTAs are involved in assessing and giving feedback, relevant staff must provide guidance and support to GTAs prior to the start of the process. This should encompass guidance on grading in line with the Code of Assessment (such as provision of marking rubrics), providing feedback, and the expected turnaround times. Relevant staff must also provide support during the process, as needed, for example by offering the opportunity to discuss assignments that GTAs may find challenging to mark.
  • Where appropriate, GTAs may be involved in marking work that counts towards a student's final award, such as at Honours level or, exceptionally, on PGT programmes. In this situation, the provision of appropriate guidance and support is particularly important. In determining whether such involvement is appropriate, relevant considerations will include a GTA's previous marking experience and the nature and level of detail of the marking rubric.
  • It is good practice to offer debriefings to GTAs who have been involved in assessing work. This is particularly important as a development opportunity, for example where GTAs are new to marking, or where moderation or second-marking has shown the marking to be out of line with expectations. 

4.6 Further development

  • Where possible, Schools should consider providing opportunities for further development of GTAs beyond their current contracts. 
  • Schools are encouraged to offer GTAs a means of forming a community and sharing experience with other GTAs and staff, for example through GTA Moodle sites or subject teaching forums, etc.
  • Schools should provide GTAs with information about opportunities for peer support, mentoring and/or teaching observation where these exist or can be facilitated.
  • Schools should flag opportunities for further training, such as the Developing as a Teacher course.
  • GTAs should be given feedback on their teaching, including via the same mechanisms as other staff (e.g. student-staff liaison committees and EvaSys feedback). Schools should offer an opportunity to discuss this feedback, and consider it alongside additional feedback from course conveners and others involved in working with the GTA.
  • Where relevant, GTAs should be given the opportunity to become involved in wider activities around teaching planning and quality assurance, such as course and assessment design meetings, staff meetings with a teaching focus, staff-student liaison committees, Periodic Subject Reviews.

4.7 The GTA voice

  • GTAs should have opportunities to raise concerns or issues within their School and for their voice to be heard in relevant decision-making processes. This will take different forms according to local structures, but may include GTA representation on the School Learning and Teaching Committee or involvement in teaching-related elements of subject meetings. 
  • For concerns relating to specific employment issues, the first point of contact should be the course convener/subject area or School administration team, with specific advice being available from People & Organisational Development
  • Where appropriate, Schools should establish an elected position of GTA representative, to enable the GTA voice to be heard. The expectations and responsibilities of the GTA representative should be set out transparently. (See also Appendix 3)
  • Schools should set out how GTAs feed into local processes and committees and how issues raised by GTAs will be responded to.

5. Course convener responsibilities for GTAs

While much of the responsibility for supporting GTAs sits at School/Research Institute level, a number of types of support are also provided at a more local level. This may be best seen to sit at the level of the Subject Area (where this is a meaningful structure in the School) or the course. For simplicity, we refer to this here as responsibilities of the course convener, but this is intended to encompass the level at which much of the day-to-day support for GTAs is located.

5.1 Induction and briefings

  • The course convener or other GTA facilitator should meet with GTAs before teaching starts, to ensure that GTAs are comfortable with expectations and have an opportunity to ask questions or raise issues.
  • All GTAs teaching on a course should be given the same opportunities in terms of meetings and briefings with the convener.
  • The course convener or other designated member of staff should hold regular briefings with GTAs teaching on the course. This may take different forms, but would preferably include some face-to-face in-person or virtual meetings. Some briefing information may be best communicated by email, Moodle or other asynchronous means, but there should be an opportunity for GTAs to raise questions or seek additional information to help them in their role.

5.2 Supporting GTAs in teaching delivery

  • Course conveners should provide GTAs with – or direct GTAs towards – guidance in using teaching spaces and technology as appropriate (e.g. to ensure safety in laboratories, use technology in TEAL rooms, use the VLE and other communication tools appropriate for online or blended teaching, etc.).
  • GTAs should be given appropriate access to course/programme Moodle sites, including announcements that are sent to students.
  • Course conveners must ensure that GTAs are provided with relevant course materials in good time before teaching sessions. Ideally, this would be available by the start of the course to enable GTAs to plan. Exceptionally, where additional teaching materials have to be produced during a course, GTAs should receive this at the very latest one working day in advance of the teaching event, in line with the expectations of materials being made available to students in the Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy.
  • Course conveners have a responsibility for providing GTAs with feedback on their teaching. This may take different forms, and where possible should include all of the forms of feedback which other staff receive, such as access to course feedback gathered from student-staff liaison committee meetings (and the opportunity to attend these meetings) and relevant feedback from EvaSys course evaluation questionnaires. Where GTAs are delivering a number of sessions on a course, it is good practice to seek personalised feedback from students on individual GTAs’ performance through EvaSys. Course conveners should offer GTAs an opportunity to discuss the feedback on the course and on their own performance one-to-one.

5.3 Supporting GTAs in student support/pastoral matters

  • The extent of a GTA’s role in student support and pastoral matters should be made clear from the start. Typically, a GTA may act as a first port of call for students, but would direct students with support needs to other staff or student support services as appropriate.
  • Where GTAs are expected to act as a first port of call, they should be provided with guidance or training as appropriate.
  • Where GTAs are not expected to handle student support or pastoral matters outside of the classroom, students on the course should be given guidance on whom to contact with such matters, such as the course convener or a member of staff in the subject/School/Research Institute with particular pastoral responsibilities.
  • Course conveners should assist GTAs with understanding and implementing provisions for students in their classes who are registered with Disability Services.

5.4 Supporting GTAs in assessment and feedback

  • Course conveners retain overall responsibility for course assessment.
  • Prior to each assessment in which GTAs are involved as markers or moderators, the course convener should ensure that all GTAs on the course are provided with the information and guidance they need to successfully carry out the assessment. Ideally, this would take the form of a meeting or briefing covering the following topics, as appropriate: interpreting the marking criteria; detailed marking guidance; marking of an exemplar; examples of feedback; the expectations of feedback in terms of content, format, structure, desired quantity and quality; the process for moderation; and discussion of standards. See also Section 4.5 above.
  • The course convener should provide guidance on the time which marking and providing feedback is realistically expected to take. For payment for marking, see Section 4 above.
  • Where useful, the course convener may wish to direct GTAs to the Assessment and Feedback Toolkit or to use this as a resource when talking to GTAs about good assessment and feedback practice.
  • Course conveners have responsibility for ensuring that moderation and/or second marking (in line with the University’s guidelines on Moderation and Second Marking) is appropriately carried out. When markers are new to marking, as will frequently be the case for GTAs, this will typically involve more robust arrangements.
  • To support their development, GTAs should be provided with feedback on their marking and the feedback they produce for students.

5.5 Facilitating GTA peer support

  • Subject areas and/or course conveners have a role in facilitating peer support for GTAs. This may take many forms, for example: providing access to rooms in which groups of GTAs can carry out marking, facilitating peer observation of teaching, providing GTAs with a Moodle site or similar to discuss approaches to course material and/or marking.
  • Subjects also have a broader role in integrating GTAs into the local learning and teaching community, for example by ensuring that they are invited to contribute to Periodic Subject Reviews, are given the opportunity to feed into Annual Monitoring processes, and are invited to local learning and teaching events, as appropriate.

6. GTA responsibilities

  • GTAs have contractual obligations and responsibilities as employees of the University of Glasgow, as laid out in the University's Human Resources Policies and Procedures.
  • GTAs must undertake the statutory training (the centrally-provided GTA ILTHE and an equivalent amount of School or subject-specific training, and core training for all staff – see Section 3.3 above).
  • GTAs’ specific responsibilities for delivery of teaching and assessment (where relevant) are set out in their contract. These will typically include: delivering small and/or large group teaching, engaging with teaching briefings, contributing to marking, moderation and other assessment processes in Schools, and undertaking training for marking, all in a timely way.
  • GTAs should engage in – and be paid for – further opportunities for development and support where the School considers these to be necessary to their role.
  • GTAs must maintain communication with relevant colleagues in Schools (e.g. the course convener or GTA facilitator) if they are unable to deliver teaching as agreed, or to complete marking or return feedback within specified timelines.
  • Where expectations are unclear, GTAs should seek clarity from the relevant colleague (e.g. course convener or equivalent, School staff with responsibility for GTAs). This includes, for example, guidance on the allocated hours and payment arrangements for teaching, preparation and marking time; mandatory and additional training and payment arrangements for this. GTAs should not exceed allocated hours for such activities without prior consent, as payment may not be authorised.
  • GTAs must ensure they understand what is expected of them in terms of their role in the pastoral support of taught students. GTAs commonly find themselves to be a first point of contact for students who are facing difficulties of different types, but should be made aware by Schools of how to handle issues that are not straightforward, by involving other members of staff (such as the course convener or equivalent) or the various Student Services. Counselling and Psychological Services’ Helping a Distressed Student provides excellent guidance. 
  • GTAs should share concerns about students with the course convener or other appropriate member of staff in the School (in line with confidentiality guidelines).
  • If GTAs experience any difficulties relating to their duties, they should speak to the relevant contact as outlined in their induction.
  • Where issues arise that cannot be resolved informally, the University has a Grievance Procedure which provides a framework for handling grievance.