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Staff guidance for organising teaching assistants

Course unit budget for teaching assistants

Each course unit has a budget for the employment of teaching assistants which can be spent as the course unit leader sees fit.

For example: it may be desirable to pay 1 TA for the full workload, or it may be suitable to dispense with TA contact in favour of marking without contact. The importance is the overall financial cost of the course unit.

If a course unit requires additional TA support it is important that the course unit leader applies to the relevant teaching director and Head of Administration to secure funding in advance of delivering the course unit.

Course unit budgets are calculated as follows.

  • The default number of hours a TA supports a PGT course unit is 15 hours.
  • The default number of hours a TA supports a UG course unit is the contact time of the lab or examples class.
  • PGT units are entitled to receive TAs at a ratio of 1:15 (TAs to students).
  • UG units are entitled to receive TAs at an aspirational ratio of 1:10 (TAs to students) - with the proviso that on rare occasions when a qualified TA is not available the lab supervisor counts as a TA.
  • Allocations by ratio are rounded to the nearest whole number with halves being rounded up.
  • Each course unit can spend up to two hours per TA for preparation (see below).

If a course unit requires TAs to be allocated in any manner other than the default contact time please inform the TA administrator.

PGT example budget

An MSc course unit with 30 students is entitled to two TAs each available for 15 hours plus two hours per TA for preparation. The budget is therefore 34 hours of labour which can be spent as the course unit leader sees fit. Usually this will be two TAs each delivering 15 hours contact in a lab plus 2 hours of preparatory meetings with the TAs but it could be spent on one TA spending 30 hours marking and 4 hours preparation.

UG example budget

A UG course unit with a weekly two-hour lab running for ten weeks with 200 students split over four lab groups is entitled to five TAs in each lab group totaling 400 contact hours.

  • 5 (TAs) x 2 (Hours) x 10 (Weeks) x 4 (Labs) = 400 Hours of labour

The minimum allowance for preparation is 10 hours (5 TAs x 2) however in a course unit with multiple labs it is common for more than the minimum number of TAs to be employed in which case the preparation budget is increased accordingly with the number of TAs. If the course unit leader were to employ fewer than five TAs the preparation budget is the minimum allowance which is 10 hours.

TAs cannot be expected to undertake course unit specific duties, such as marking or developing teaching material, without payment.

Monitoring attendance of teaching assistants

The TAs allocated to each course unit can be seen on the TA allocation page.

TAs are contractually obliged to attend teaching sessions and perform any duties agreed with the lab supervisor at the beginning of the semester. If this does not happen, in the first instance speak to the TA, and if the problem recurs, or there are any general issues with TA conduct, contact Caroline Jay (TA Champion).

Preparation for teaching assistants

Feedback from students has highlighted that it is important for TAs to be adequately prepared to support course units by fully understanding the teaching materials.

The lab supervisor is expected to provide TAs with teaching materials in good time to prepare for labs and discuss any problems.

TAs are expected to prepare for labs in their own time (i.e. without payment) by reading the lab material and ensuring they meet the skills requirement to support the course unit.

Lab supervisors are expected to explain what is required of their TAs and provide opportunity to discuss the work. It is recommended this is achieved by holding group meetings for which TAs are paid (up to the budget of 2 hours per TA per course unit). If this method of preparation is unsuitable for a particular unit course the course leader is at liberty to spend the equivalent budget in an alternative mode of preparation.

Examples of lab supervisor led preparation which TAs have found helpful

  • The opportunity to discuss aspects of the exercises including, where necessary, working through more difficult exercises with the lab supervisor.
  • The opportunity to clarify aspects of the marking scheme so that TAs are able to mark consistently.
  • Identifying a 'lead' TA who has worked on the course unit before and can offer advice to new TAs.
  • Taking five minutes at the start of each lab to clarify the activities for that particular session.