Principal Lecturer (HE)

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Job Description

Principal Lecturers teach students at higher education institutions. Teaching usually takes place during the day between 9am and 6pm although some lecturers are also required to teach in the evenings. Principal lecturers divide their time between classroom hours and preparing for teaching or meeting students privately. The job may also involve some research activities including presenting research findings at conferences worldwide. Principal lecturers are also involved in the day to day running of the degree programme provided by their department. Principal lecturers will be expected to take part in the strategic planning and decision making for their department and will be involved in managing lecturers and leading team-taught programmes.


  • 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
  • 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
  • Running degree programmes
  • Managing large teams of staff

Salary and Conditions

  • Starting salary usually c. £44,000-£55,000 in the UK.
  • Most principal lectureships are permanent, full-time positions, although part time posts and job shares are occasionally available.
  • 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 University and College Union.

Entry Criteria

Most principal lecturers will have a PhD. They will have a very good bachelor’s degree: a first or upper second class. Some principal lecturers have a separate masters degree, especially in the humanities fields. Occasionally a principal lecturer with personal vocational experience will be taken on without a PhD.

Principal lecturers are expected to do take part in Continuing Professional Development activities throughout their career, run by their own university. This is done part time while working.

Career Path

There are steady annual salary increments in most jobs. After a few years a principal lecturer can apply for promotion if a professorship vacancy becomes available although this can be sought earlier in special cases. The next scale is professor.

To increase promotion chances principal lecturers are advised to produce internationally renowned research, publishing their work in reputable journals and books and attending conferences, and being innovative in their teaching practice.

Major employers

HE principal lecturers 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. Not every university uses the job title ‘principal lecturer’. The post-1992 universities are more likely to do so. The position is analogous to Reader, although a Reader will be more research focused and a Principal Lecturer more involved in the running of teaching programmes.

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