“I Still Feel Isolated and Disposable”: Perceptions of Professional Development for Part-time Teachers in HE


  • Jennifer S Leigh University of Kent




part-time teachers, development, hourly-paid lecturers


Part-time teachers form an increasingly large part of the workforce within the Academy, in the UK and internationally. They can be employed on sessional or hourly-paid lecturer contracts, and as casual employees are not always able to access professional or academic development and support that is available for other employees. In 2013/14, there has been extensive coverage in the national and higher education press about ‘zero-hours’ contracts. Although some part-time teachers are also graduate students and able to access development through graduate schools and the like, it is likely that many hourly-paid lecturers are left without support. A survey of hourly-paid lecturers at one University in the UK provided data on how these individuals perceived the support and development opportunities available to them. Accessing the hourly-paid lecturers was challenging. Unsurprisingly, given the difficulties in communicating with them as a cohesive group, 60% (n=78) reported that they were unable to access or unaware of any development opportunities. In addition, this group of UK part-time teachers reported feeling isolated and lacking in support, as has been reported by casual academics in Australia.

Author Biography

Jennifer S Leigh, University of Kent

Lecturer in Higher Education and Academic Practice,

Centre for the Study of Higher Education,

University of Kent


Beaton, F., Bradley, S., & Cope, S. (2013). Supporting GTAs who teach. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 8(2), 83–91.

Browne, J. (2010). Securing a sustainable future for higher education: an independent review of higher education funding and student finance. Available from dera.ioe.ac.uk

Bryson, C. (2004). Strategic approaches to managing and developing part time teachers: A study of five higher education institutions. London: Learning and Teaching Support Network/HESDA.

Bryson, C. (2013). Supporting sessional teaching staff in the UK – to what extent is there real progress? Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 10(3). Available from http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol10/iss3/2

Butler, S. (2013, 5 September). Universities twice as likely as other employers to use zero-hours contracts. The Guardian.

Gibney, E. (2013, 12 September). Researchers’ ‘unrealistic’ hopes of academic careers. Times Higher Education.

Gilbert, A. (2013). The expansion of part-time teaching in higher education and its consequences. In F. Beaton & A. Gilbert (Eds.), Developing effective part-time teachers in higher education (pp. 1–17). London: Routledge.

Gill, J. (2013, 5 September). Feeling less than zero. Times Higher Education, 5.

Glaister, P., & Glaister, E. (2013). Standards of university teaching. MSOR Connections, 13(2), pp. 61–65.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.11120/msor.2013.00011

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. (2013). Developing teaching assistants as members of the university teaching team. Toronto: Government of Ontario.

Knight, P., Baume, D., Tait, J., & Yorke, M. (2007). Enhancing part-time teaching in higher education: A challenge for institutional policy and practice. Higher Education Quarterly, 61(4), 420–438.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2273.2007.00350.x

Malcolm, J., & Zukas, M. (2009). Making a mess of academic work: Experience, purpose and identity. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 495–506.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562510903186659

Morgan, J. (2013, 5 September). UCU homes in on widespread use of zero-hours deals. Times Higher Education.

NUS. (2013). Postgraduates who teach. London: National Union of Students.

Partridge, L., Hunt, L., & Goody, A. (2013). Future proofing university teaching: An Australian case study of postgraduate teacher preparation. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 8(2), 112–131.

Rajagopal, I., & Farr, W. (1992). Hidden academics; the part-time faculty in Canada. Higher Education, 24(3).

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00128449

Ryan, S., Burgess, J., Connell, J., & Groen, E. (2013). Casual academic staff in an Australian university: Marginalised and excluded. Tertiary Education and Management, 19(2), 161–175.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13583883.2013.783617

Silverman, D. (2006). Interpreting qualitative data (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Sutherland, K., Wilson, M., & Williams, P. (2010). Success in academia? The experiences of early career academics in NZ universities. Wellington: Ako Aotearoa National Project Fund.

Times Higher Education. (2014, 13 February). News in brief: Casual culture expands. Times Higher Education, 16.

Trowler, P., & Cooper, A. (2002). Teaching and learning regimes: Implicit theories and recurrent practices in the enhancement of teaching and learning through educational development programmes. Higher Education Research and Development, 21(3), 221–240.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0729436022000020742

University and College Union. (2013). The use of zero hours contracts in further and higher education. Retrieved from https://ucu.custhelp.com/ci/fattach/get/129380/0/filename/UCU_Use_of_Zero_Hours_Contracts_Report_0913.pdf

Whitecross, R., & Mills, D. (2003). Professional apprenticeship or contract-labour? A survey report on the use of teaching assistants within UK anthropology departments. C-SAP: Centre for Learning and Teaching – Sociology, Anthropology and Politics.

Woodall, J., Geissler, C., Anderson, V., Atfield, R., Brown, N., Bryson, C., . . . Ousey, K. (2009). Supporting part-time teaching staff in higher education: Persectives from business and health. Oxford: HEA.






Original Research