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I'm originally from the UK and did my PhD there. After that I left the UK and have over 10 years experience in academia, but my positions have all been research-only. I have never given lectures (aside from a couple of guest lectures at summer schools) and never supervised a student.

Now I desperately want to move back to the UK, and ideally, to get a permanent academic position there. However, it seems that all(?) such positions in the UK have a substantial teaching component. Applying for them is depressing, because although I probably score reasonably well on the research side of the requirements I have absolutely zero experience or qualifications for the teaching side of a UK academic post, and I probably wouldn't be able to carry out the teaching duties without some fairly substantial support.

(This is not to say I'm unwilling to teach - it's actually something I've always wanted to do - I just don't have any experience or knowledge about it.)

So my question is, what can I do about this situation? How does one go about getting into academic teaching, especially in the UK, if one only has research experience? Is it realistic to apply for lecturer positions, and if so, how can I write an effective job application despite my complete lack of experience for a key part of the position?

Or alternatively, are there other kinds of position I could be applying for besides lecturer, which would make use of my research skills while preparing me for a teaching position in the future? If it's necessary I don't mind dropping back an academic rank or two, or even accepting a non-permanent position, but I would imagine most postdoc positions wouldn't be suitable, and because of being outside the UK system for so long I don't have much idea what else is available.

Since this is likely to be field-dependent: I'm pretty interdisciplinary, but I'm aiming mostly at computer science departments.

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  • What Field are you in? Commented May 6, 2022 at 14:47
  • @IanSudbery I'm pretty interdisciplinary, but aiming at computer science departments.
    – Phenomenom
    Commented May 8, 2022 at 1:38

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Answers to this are going to be very field dependent. In my field (Molecular Biology/Computational Biology), very few people have much in the way of teaching experience when they are appointed to lectureship positions, even though the jobs have a large amount of teaching associated with them.

At research intensive institutions your research record, and how confident the hiring panel is that you have fundable ideas for a research program will be far more important than any teaching experience. Hiring committees tend to assume that because they managed when dumped in front of a class of a 100 undergrads with no experience, then anyone can. Has the risk of ending up with a lot of unhappy undergrads and an academic who spends a lot of there time doing something they have no training in (welcome to having a faculty job - 50% teaching with out teacher training, 50% managing the research of others without any management training). Actually, this isn't quite true. Most instructions will require new hires to do a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning.

If you want to avoid teaching, then you need to be looking at one of the small number of research institutions that are semi or fully independent of universities. But competition for jobs at these is even more fierce.

In other fields - notably the arts and humanities, I think teaching experience is genuinely required in order to be hired at this level, but I'll let others comment on that.

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    Can confirm that in the fields I have knowledge of (theoretical physics and developmental biology), an academic's first permanent post is often the first time they have to teach (in most cases, the teaching load goes from 0 to very substantial - make sure you're ready for this). Mention any supervising, seminar series, vaguely teaching-related expertise in your CV and you should be fine.
    – Ottie
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 19:59
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Most UK permanent lectureships will require teaching.

An option you could consider is applying for an independent research fellowship. These can be very prestigious (and competitive) and are hosted at a UK institution. You don't need to be currently employed at the host institution, but do need to seek their support for your application (it's often in their interest to do so - effectively a free experienced researcher to boost their profile).

Once you hold a fellowship at a UK institution you could potentially gain teaching experience with the aim of applying for a permanent position in the future (unlikely a department will refuse teaching help!). It is very common for holders of such research fellowships to move to a permanent position either at their host institution or another during/after the fellowship tenure. Of course there are no guarantees, but many/most elite universities in the UK are far more interested in your research than teaching experience.

For example (from STEM):

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