Emma Jackson and Jason Graham, who both lecture in law at City of Glasgow College, share their experiences of lecturing in further education and what it's really like. They offer their advice on how to get into this career and how they managed it themselves.
What does being a lecturer in law in Further Education involve?
It is important to establish at the outset that a university lecturer role differs to a college lecturer, or FE (Further Education) role, in that universities often require, or encourage, lecturers to produce research. This tends not to be in case in FE, although it can be an option.
As you may imagine, the majority of the day is allocated to teaching students, with lecturers typically teaching between 21 – 23 hours per week, if full-time, with the rest of the week involving class preparation, lessons and marking.
Working as part of a team of passionate lecturers allows for the assimilation of ideas, deliberating on approaches to teaching for different subjects and ensuring materials are kept fresh and up-to-date with changes and developments in the law.
Collaborating with colleagues to share materials and manage events and projects helps to ensure the job is one of exciting variety. Events can include visits to the High Court in Glasgow or police stations in connection with subjects such as Criminal Law and Scottish Criminal Procedure, and co-ordinating events involving guest speakers, with Brian McConnachie QC being one of the most recent visitors.
There is sometimes the presumption that, as a college lecturer, only school leavers are taught. However, this is not the case. We have a significant number of mature students, with around 60% of the student population at City of Glasgow College over the past three years being categorised as mature students of 21 and over (City of Glasgow College, Student Records, Data from 18/19 - current).
We also often deal with external employers, creating training and courses for their employees. We provide several distance learning courses, meaning that the lecturer is not classroom facing, but rather, communicating with students via email and online digital platforms.
Our delivery of courses on Criminal Law and Civil Procedure to employees within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, a relationship that has been ongoing and developing for over 10 years, is one such example.
Essentially, FE, particularly with regards to Legal Services, goes well beyond school students in classrooms. The variety of students and methods of delivery is varied and this is to be welcomed and encouraged.
One of the obvious and most talked about advantages are holidays and, yes, they are rather amazing! For anyone with young children, they negate the cost of childcare during school holidays,and they are also great for those bitten by the wanderlust bug, who can enjoy six weeks of travel during the summer.
The joy of helping students achieve their dream, whether that be to progress to university or attain employment, especially if they have been presented with obstacles, is a wonderful feeling - something that we thrive on.
We have many students that start City of Glasgow College at Level 5 and work their way up to completing HND Legal Services. Seeing these students flourish is massively rewarding.
Lecturing instils a passion and a thirst to keep up-to-date with your main areas of teaching expertise, whether that be Criminal Law, Property Law or more besides. Being allocated time to review new cases and legislation in preparation for class is interesting and enjoyable, helping to maintain a thriving working environment, succeeding in a team where everyone has the same interests - law and student aspirations.
How to secure an FE lecturing job in law
The educational requirement on adverts will often stipulate that an LLB is required. Needless to say, anything more advanced, such as a Diploma in Legal Practice, an LLM, or a PhD is all the more attractive. For HE jobs at universities, such higher degrees are normally a minimum requirement.
A TQFE (Teaching Qualification in Further Education) is not needed, but may be in the future and is certainly an advantage. Some people may choose to self-fund this qualification and complete it prior to entering into the lecturing profession. Others will complete it in service, which may see the college cover the tuition fees. Teaching contact hours are normally reduced for a year to allow for essay and work completion on the course, and to help prepare for classroom observations.
Although not essential, teaching experience is desirable and certainly very beneficial.
We appreciate that many people struggle to get teaching experience, but note that this does not necessarily have to be in FE. Volunteering to train less senior members of staff in current employment is one such way. Alternatively, seeking out voluntary teaching experiences, or ‘shadowing’ lecturers in FE, or even HE institutions, can be beneficial in getting a ‘start’.
Indeed, some of our current lecturers explored and benefited from such opportunities at the start of their lecturing journeys. It is interesting to observe how many students are making positive use of platforms such as LinkedIn to explore opportunities, and seek to create opportunities to get into lecturing.
So, just how did the authors of this piece find themselves as enthusiastic and energetic FE lecturers?
In Jason’s case, a chance enquiry from a friend of a friend, who knew he had recently completed his LLM in International Law, as to whether he would be interested in undertaking some tutoring hours at Glasgow Caledonian University, was the catalyst.
This was done whilst he was working full-time with Morgan Stanley and the opportunity was accepted more out of curiosity than anything else! Increased hours at university, followed by voluntary redundancy at Morgan Stanley, alongside lecturing at the College of Commerce in April 2007, led to a full time, permanent position in August of that year.
Emma’s journey took a different path.
A law student, she was also a qualified dance teacher with her own academy and thrived on inspiring, supporting and educating young people. Years later, having completed her Diploma in Legal Practice, she was working full-time at Strathclyde University and still teaching dance, when she spotted a bank Law Lecturer post at Glasgow Kelvin College. She interviewed successfully for the job, but it was only one day per week.
Shortly afterwards, another job came up, again for bank staff, but at Glasgow Clyde College. She was now working between three jobs across Strathclyde, Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow Clyde, whilst still running and promoting her dance academy.
In 2018, City of Glasgow College advertised a post for a permanent Law Lecturer and the rest, as they say, is history. Emma is now successfully working as the Curriculum Head for Legal Services, combining her teaching skills whilst progressing the HND qualification and making it even more relevant to students and employers alike.