Assistant Professor (HE)

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Job Description

Assistant Professorships are roughly equivalent to lectureships. It is a title used in the U.S., but a few universities in the U.K., such as Warwick, are also moving over to the use of this title. Assistant Professors teach students at further or higher education institutions. Teaching usually takes place during the day between 9am and 6pm although some assistant professors are also required to teach in the evenings. Assistant Professors divide their time between classroom teaching hours, lesson preparation and meeting students privately. The job may also involve some research activities if based in a higher education institution, including presenting research findings at conferences worldwide. Assistant professors are also required to seek external funding for their research activities to enhance the prestige of their institution.


  • Delivering large group lectures to between 20 and 200 students
  • Delivering small group teaching to between 1 and 20 students
  • Pastoral care of students
  • One to one advice on particular pieces of work
  • Course design
  • Lecture/seminar planning
  • Marking assessed work
  • Keeping student records of achievement
  • Attending planning meetings to ensure cross departmental parity
  • Undertaking research projects
  • Presenting research at conferences
  • Administration tasks (e.g. admissions tutor) within the department

Salary and Conditions

  • Starting salary usually c. £28,000-£44,000 in the UK.
  • Permanent positions are available but many staff are employed as part-time or on temporary contracts.
  • Permanent staff can opt into a final salary pension scheme (Teachers Pension Scheme). Sick pay allowance varies from institution to institution but is often more generous than the private sector. Maternity and paternity leave also vary from institution to institution.
  • Staff can join the UCU union.

Entry Criteria

Most assistant professors will already have their PhD. They will have a very good bachelor’s degree: a first or upper second class. Some assistant professors have a separate masters degree, especially in the humanities fields. Very rarely, an assistant professor with personal vocational experience will be taken on without a PhD.

Assistant professors are expected to do a teaching qualification soon after they start, run by their own university. This is done part time while working. An example of this is the Diploma in Post-Compulsory Education.

Career Path

There are steady annual salary increments in most jobs. After c. 5-7 years an assistant professor is usually eligible for promotion although this can be sought earlier in special cases. The next scale is associate professor, reader and professor.

To increase promotion chances assistant professors are advised to be research active, publishing their work in journals and books and attending conferences, and being innovative in their teaching practice.

Major employers

Assistant professors are mostly employed in publicly funded universities or HE colleges. There are many different sorts of these in the UK. Oxford and Cambridge are the most prestigious, followed by research-based institutions such as the Russell Group. The post-1992 group of universities, which used to be Polytechnics, are also large employers of lecturers. There is one private university in the UK, based in Buckingham. Every large town or city in the UK now has its own university.

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