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Engaging variable hours teaching fellows and external specialist staff

Guidance on how to engage and recruit variable hours teaching fellows and external specialist staff.

Variable hours teaching fellows

Variable hours teaching fellows support academic staff and contribute to the teaching activities across the university by providing some of the following input:

  • specialist professional contribution, which is not available from existing academic staff

  • teaching cover for lecturers undertaking research

  • teaching input where the breadth of the full academic role is not required and a permanent contract is not appropriate, such as summer schools

  • temporary cover for long-term sickness and sabbaticals

Engaging a variable hours teaching fellow

Departments and Faculties should follow the University protocol on the recruitment of external specialist staff in order to identify an individual that they wish to engage on variable hours teaching fellow's arrangements.

Once the department or faculty have selected the appropriate people to engage, they must contact Human Resources.

There are two components of the contract:

  • Variable Hours Agreement − this is the overarching agreement of a variable hours teaching fellow. It confirms the contractual arrangements that apply when they accept a Schedule of Assignment

  • Schedule of Assignment − this confirms the specific schedule of work the variable hours teaching fellow is signing up to

Your HR Administrators (Operations) will issue the Variable Hours Agreement and the first Schedule of Assignment provided all of the required information has been given to them.

It is the responsibility of the department to issue any subsequent Schedule of Assignment and to hold a copy of this securely and confidentially.

The variable hours contract

  • The contract FTE must be less than 0.2 FTE (equivalent to 322 hours per year)

  • When a Variable Hours Agreement is raised, unless and until work is offered and accepted through a Schedule of Assignment, the agreement is devoid of mutuality and obligation. If work is offered and accepted through the signing of a Schedule of Assignment, a contract will arise and the agreement comes into effect. When the work is completed the contract is deemed to be discharged, leaving only the non-contractual framework − as confirmed in the Variable Hours Agreement − in place

  • The pension scheme applicable to these staff is USS variable time membership

  • Rates of pay will increase in line with nationally agreement pay award

Paying variable hours teaching fellows

Variable hours teaching fellows must complete and submit timesheets in order to receive payment through the Payroll. Please read Payroll's timesheet checklist so you are clear about how to complete and submit your timesheets.

Pay rates will be line with the appropriate grade for the job as determined by the Department of Human Resources. The minimum pay rates with effect from 1 August 2023 are:

Grades Hourly rate Holiday pay Hourly rate inc holiday pay 
6 £15.60 17.65% £18.35
7 £19.55 17.65% £23.00
8 £24.02 17.65% £28.26

Recruitment of external specialist staff

1. Purpose

The purpose of this guidance is to ensure that there is a consistent, fair and proportionate process for the recruitment of external specialist staff. External specialists are used by academic departments on a variable hours basis to support teaching and/or tutoring often in relation to their specific individual expertise through delivering lectures or seminars from one-off events up to a maximum of 0.19 FTE.

This guidance describes the process to be followed for recruiting these external specialist staff up to a maximum of 0.19 FTE. For those staff working 0.2 FTE or above the Recruitment and Selection Code of Practice will apply. The appointment of external examiners and of individuals providing occasional lectures through a Confirmation of Engagement is outside the scope of this document.

2. Recruiting and maintaining a ‘bank’ of external specialist staff

Departments may retain a ‘bank’ of external specialist staff who they will use on an as-and-when basis often based on a particular expertise or experience that they are able to bring to a programme or to cover for any gaps in teaching or tutoring. Alternatively, they may identify specific learning and teaching requirements in advance through a Schedule of Assignment.

If departments anticipate they need to appoint additional external specialists in the next semester or academic year they should create an advertisement highlighting the range of activities available. The advertisement should clarify that there is no guarantee of work and that they may be placed on a bank of external specialist staff. This advertisement should be passed in the normal way to their HR Administrator who will place it on the University’s jobsite. The advertisement may have a longer closing date than with other vacancies, such as three to six weeks, or may remain open for a significant period of time.

Applicants will normally be asked to apply via our e-recruitment system (Stonefish) or by submitting a CV. Their details will be passed onto the academic department concerned.

The academic department will shortlist applicants and set up interviews to take place either in person or virtually through Skype or by video or phone conference. The recruiting department will select those candidates that best meet the requirements of the programmes and expertise for which they are seeking cover. They will inform their HR Administrator within the Department of Human Resources of the appointment(s) to be made.

Depending upon the amount of work that it is envisaged that the external specialist may be undertaking the member of external specialist staff may be appointed on a Variable Hours Contract Agreement or contracted as a contractor (with a contract for service) through Purchasing Services if they meet the requirements of a NESA assessment. Once appointed external specialist staff may remain on a department’s ‘bank’ for a number of years and will be used and paid only when required. Departments will normally monitor the working time and contractual position of these staff on a yearly basis. Those who have not worked for two years or more will normally be removed from the bank.

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