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In the two universities I studied at, as well as in the university I am currently teaching at, the tutors (teaching assistants) are usually master students. This means that they work for two years, graduate, and are replaced by new TAs (a small number of them continue to doctoral studies, in which case they work for four additional years). This has several apparent disadvantages:

  • Becoming a good tutor takes time to learn and practice. The fact that most tutors only work for two years means that students get sub-optimal tutoring.
  • Since the TAs know that their job is temporary, they do not have much incentive to improve. Some of them just do the minimum requirement; some of them do even less than that (of course, there are master students that are great tutors, but the incentive system does not support this).
  • Whenever new TAs arrive, the course lecturers have to put a lot of time and effort in guiding them and explaining them what is expected from them.

I would like to suggest to my university, to use the budget currently spent on TAs, for hiring full-time TAs for a long-term position. This would incentivize them to improve and become experts in tutoring, so the level of teaching could improve. My questions:

  • Is this model of full-time long-term TAs common in other universities?
  • Does it have any disadvantages?
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  • Perhaps it's not the case in Israel, but in other countries students are given TAships so that they can have money to pay rent and buy food and stuff. If you remove those positions, what are you going to expect of your students? Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 18:15
  • @AzorAhai-him- undergraduate students pay rent, but food, and in addition, pay a tuition. Once they graduate and become master students, they are usually exempt from paying the tuition, and in addition (at least in my university) they get a stipend. So their economic situation is much better. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 19:39
  • So all students get a stipend, and those that TA get more? Or it's just a requirement of the program to TA? Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 20:04
  • @AzorAhai-him- all students who do not work outside the university get a stipend. Those that TA get a salary in addition to the stipend. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 21:24
  • Well, this is all good context, I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you other than to suggest that salary is probably much cheaper than paying the students a full-time salary and benefits once they graduate from the program (or similar; or else they're not qualified to teach the class, no?). Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 21:42

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I don't think it is a good idea. If you want to attract skilled personnel, then making it permanent is no where enough. The work needs to be rewarding. A permanent TA would just do the same thing over and over again without control over what (s)he is doing. After all, (s)he is the TA, not the lecturer or professor responsible for that course. There should be a possibility of a career. This sounds like a dead end job to me. If none of that applies then the financial rewards may compensate, but I don't think your department is going to like paying a lot. Also think of the social dynamics when a TA earns more than her/his boss. In short, it is not going to be an attractive job, and will likely attract people you don't want to be taught by.

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  • All valid. The job would be worse than an adjunct, probably. But given the variety of universities, worldwide, it probably happens somewhere.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 14:03
  • I could feasibly think of TAs earning more than their bosses for that specific job in here, because their boss' main source of funding is elsewhere and well, we got to somehow financially support the students... Not quite sure it actually happens, but it might.
    – Lodinn
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 17:50
  • @lodinn that supports my point; it is so awkward that you need special circumstances for it to happen. Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 20:09
  • Aren't there people who seek a permanent position as highschool teachers? Being a tutor is arguably a better job, since you teach more advanced material to more mature students. Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 0:29
  • @ErelSegal-Halevi not really. High school teachers have control over how they teach. A tutor has none of that. Tutors in my field are mainly used for undergrad courses, and the level there isn't that much more advanced than high school stuff, nor are undergrad students that much more mature. If teaching was my passion, then I would definitely prefer the high school teacher job over a tutor job. Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 9:18

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