Student Questions and AnswersThese FAQs are for students and are updated regularly.
How are students views shared with senior management at SOAS?
The Director has regular meetings with the Students’ Union sabbatical officers. The Deputy Secretary and other senior members of staff also meet with them on both a formal and informal basis to discuss a wide range of issues that affect students at the School.
You can get in touch with the officers.
Who are fractional teaching staff?
A Fractional Teaching Fellow is part-time and employed on a ‘fraction’ of a full-time equivalent (FTE).
The majority of fractional teachers are employed on fixed-term contracts to cover permanent academic staff teachers who are on Research Leave or Maternity Leave etc. There is also a significant number of permanent fractional teachers employed by the School.
Who are Graduate Teaching Assistants?
Graduate Teaching Assistants or GTAs are employed as part of a programme aimed at providing training opportunities and teaching work experience for SOAS research students. The School recognises the need to maintain a number of teaching posts to help with the training of PhD students who intend to pursue an academic career. As such GTA posts are fixed-term in nature, so allowing the next generation of PhD students to also benefit from such teaching experience.
GTAs are paid in exactly the same way as fractional teachers (see above).
September 2014 - What is the dispute between SOAS and its fractional teaching staff all about?
In previous years there have been instances where fractional teachers have not been paid adequately for their work. This is recognised by the School. In order to improve terms and conditions for these highly-valued members of staff, the School has been in negotiations since May 2014 with UCU, the University and College Union which represents academic teaching staff.
The School has responded by:
• offering substantially improved terms and conditions. These have been benchmarked against other leading institutions and the School believes its offer is as good as or better than any other in the higher education sector. A summary of the improved terms and conditions can be found at https://www.soas.ac.uk/hr/staffinfo/fractional-teachers/.
• providing much greater clarity about the role of fractional teacher through a revised Fractional Staff Policy, which gives clear guidance on the amount of work appropriate for preparation, administration and assessment, in addition to contact teaching.
Which institutions was the offer benchmarked against and what are the differences?
The School looked at LSE, UCL, Essex, Birkbeck and Queen Mary, University of London.
In particular, the SOAS offer improves on these comparators in the following areas:
- training: SOAS sees fractional teaching work as a development opportunity for early career researchers and our new graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are paid a fixed fee of £200 to attend a three-day compulsory training course that is professionally accredited. Of our comparators, only one offers professionally accredited training and they do not pay their GTAs to attend.
- coursework marking: SOAS pay for coursework marking is based on output of 2.5 scripts per hour, while most comparators calculate it on the basis of 3-4 scripts per hour.
- preparation: like most (but not all) comparators, weekly class preparation is included in the multiplier. However, unlike all comparators, on top of this SOAS pays for full and half course preparation: new GTAs are paid 10 hours plain time for preparation of a full course in addition to weekly class preparation, while Teaching Fellows (TF) and Senior Teaching Fellows (STF) and returning GTAs are paid 5 hours plain time for preparation of a full course. We are aware of no other HEI that pays separately for preparation on top of a multiplier
Attending lectures, revision tutorials: Like most (but not all) comparators, when necessary for pedagogic reasons, SOAS pays for attendance at lectures and revision tutorials in plain time hours.
Broadly what are the improvements in terms and conditions in the SOAS offer?
The new terms and conditions will benefit all fractional teaching staff and represent a major improvement for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) – the group of our own students to whom we offer teaching as a career development opportunity. They will also place clear limits on the amount of preparation and marking that is expected. For example, not counting any additional marking or lecture attendance that might be agreed:
- a GTA or TF teaching 1hr per week would be 30% better off, and up to 90% better off if they were a GTA who had not taught the course before;
- a GTA or TF teaching 5hrs per week would be 10% better off, and up to 22% better off if they were a GTA who had not taught the course before;
- an STF teaching 2hrs per week would be 13% better off, whilst an STF teaching 5hrs per week would be 8% better off, without including additional payment for marking that is currently undertaken by many STFs within the multiplier.
The new contracts ask fractional tutors to do less preparation - won't this undermine the student experience?
The new contracts set out clear expectations for preparation that are consistent with those at other comparator universities, including LSE, UCL etc. The School is also seeking to deliver better support and mentoring to fractional teaching staff, so they are better able to carry out their roles, and the student experience is improved.