Teaching, Learning and Academic Experience

We believe that enabling both students' unions and staff within institutions to engage in conversations about teaching and learning is key to improving students’ academic experience. All students regardless of how, where or why they study should feel that their institution is delivering an excellent experience.

Teaching Quality

Due to its diverse and unquantifiable nature, it is almost impossible to be prescriptive about what constitutes quality teaching. However, this doesn't mean we can't come up with core principles that form its basis. NUS believes that quality teaching is educational, eclectic and empowering and when institutions ask whether they are meeting that quality, it is students that are best placed to reply.

There are many other dimensions to quality teaching, such as academic support and class sizes, and as a student looking to reviewing these areas it can seem like a a daunting challenge. However with resources and support from NUS, feedback surveys such as the Learner Satisfaction Survey, Annual Quality Reports and assessments, there are ways to document these various building blocks of a quality teaching and learning experience.

This also includes Student-Led Teaching Awards, which allow students to have their say on what quality teaching looks like and to reward the members of staff who have gone the extra mile. This is another way to gather data on what students think is good learning and teaching practice, allowing this to support educational campaigns, help spread good practice and showcase the great teaching that goes on at your institution to the wider education community.

Postgraduate Research Supervision

Postgraduate research students are allocated at least one supervisor. Their role is to support the student in their academic work, meet with them on a regular basis to track progress throughout their study and provide guidance on the structure and content of their work. Often a secondary supervisor is appointed to look after a student’s professional development, while a wider supervisory team or “board” will often be chosen to comment on a student’s progress at key points in their study.

High quality supervision is essential to PGR success, so it is crucial that the right environment is in place to allow relationships between the student and their supervisor to thrive, whilst ensuring that the procedures are in place to support the student when relationships break down. We understand that excellent supervision depends on academics receiving the right training as well as the management of other pressures that impact on academic staff, such as workloads, research and funding pressures and wider academic commitments.

• QAA Quality Code Chapter B11

Postgraduates Who Teach

Teaching in HE can be challenging and in some cases, the reward does not justify the challenge. The pressures of postgraduate study make time a precious resource for PGR students. It is important that they are appropriately supported and fairly compensated for devoting time to teaching others.

Unfortunately postgraduates who teach are not always treated as fairly as they should be. Although there are some departments and institutions that should be commended for their good practice, there are far too many cases of postgraduates working long hours without the training and support they need and being paid for only a small portion of their work.

We know how valuable postgraduate teachers are to the undergraduates they teach and to the institutions who employ them. It is in the interests of universities to ensure that postgraduates are treated fairly and given generous training and support. Undergraduates too will benefit greatly from having highly-skilled inspirational teachers.

• Postgraduate Employment Charter 2014
• Campaign Guide: Postgraduates Who Teach
• Postgraduate Teaching Report 2013