Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) scheme: Challenges, opportunities and recruitment process


The GTA scheme provides PhD scholarships where postgraduate research students undertake PhD research while also engaging in structured opportunities for development and experience in learning, teaching and assessment. Their Core responsibilities include teaching-related activities, such as leading lecturing and/or tutorials, supervising Undergraduate and Postgraduate projects, assisting students in understanding technical materials, marking, and providing feedback to students to aid their development.

Besides undertaking a PhD research project, becoming an independent researcher and an expert in their own field, being a GTA is an excellent way to develop their own abilities. For example, enhancing their knowledge and gaining new knowledge in new topics, and develop teaching skills which will be extremely beneficial for pursuing a teaching career in academia. Undertaking research alongside GTA duties will strengthen their position in finding a lecturing post in the higher education sector and become more employable.

Whist the programme is beneficial to GTAs and universities faculties through training ‘lecturers to be’, the scheme is demanding. The GTAs are expected to complete a number of training programmes including a teaching course that will support the student to achieve Associate Fellowship of HEA by the end of their studies, completing PhD research methods training, and complete their confirmation of their research proposal within the three months from their enrolment date. These challenges might have implications for the recruitment process of GTAs. For example, firstly, a thorough assessment of the applications and paying especial attention to the applicant performance during their MSc and dissertation mark, ideally at least merit is key. Secondly, interviewing the applicants is a necessity, even if online due to Covid-restrictions or international applicants, and design interview questions to further explore the applicant’s potential to succeed with such a demanding programme. And thirdly, ensure that the interview panel has both teaching and research specialists such as the Head of the Department to assess the applicant’s teaching skill and a potential Director of Studies to assess the applicant’s research topic.  Then make a collective decision and only recruit those applicants who are likely to successfully complete the programme in a timely manner.

Please leave a comment about what is the GTAs recruitment process in your university?