Code of Best Practice for Early Career Academic and Temporary Contract Employment (Languages and Related Disciplines)

Recognising that the university, its academic team, and the students of the university, may be seen as a triumvirate, in which each part of the whole body excels when treated equally with the others, this Code of Best Practice exists to promote the best interests of academics, in particular Early Career Academics (ECAs). It ensures they have manageable workloads and are sufficiently remunerated, and are offered opportunities for personal career development and fair working conditions. This Code has in part been informed by a Survey designed by the UCFL (previously UCML) ECA Special Interest Group and completed by 192 respondents: link to ECA Survey Report.


The Code of Best Practice proposes best practice standards centring around integrity and equality in all respects, in all the operations of the university and all of those involved in it. To this end, best practice should include ensuring a fair return for all those involved and without exploitation of one party in favour of another. The Code is shaped on examples from best practice already in place in UK universities and is designed to be available to Departments (and Schools/Colleges) to normalise such practices. 

Departments will be invited to report annually on how they have supported ECAs by UCFL.


1. Contract

a. Contracts that cover an academic year should preferably be of a minimum of 12 months in length and include protection of pension contributions & terms; summer months should never be treated as unpaid leave.

b. When possible, hourly-paid contracts should be avoided and fractional/full-time contracts offered.

c. For hourly-paid contracts, each hour taught should include adequate paid time for preparation, marking, student support, and admin.

d. ECAs should be retained for the duration of their contracts, irrespective of any early return for cover roles, which should be stipulated in job adverts.

e. Where the need for the post is demonstrably permanent, the university should avoid the use of rolling fixed term contracts.

f. Time for research and/or scholarship should be recognised as part of any contract in the form of protected time/workload allocation.

g. Departments should aim to provide opportunities for scholarship colleagues to take periods of scholarship leave where that kind of leave is available.

h. In best practice, departments or colleges who employ ECAs would extend an automatic offer, subject to satisfactory performance, of ‘Associate’ or ‘Honorary’ status on the termination of the employee’s contract, preferably for a duration equivalent to the length of the contract. This would include the right to institutional email and online library resources. This would be available to employees on 10-month or term-time only contracts.

2. Workload

a. Departments should ensure that all teaching and admin allocation for ECAs is in line with manageable workload models. 

b. Transparent workload models should be standardised and explained to ECAs in induction meetings. 

c. The module review process should allow new staff to bring in and/or adapt existing modules to accommodate their own research or scholarship.

d. Where ECAs are required to teach modules out of their area of training they should be given additional time in the workload for preparation.

e. All adjustments to teaching duties should be discussed with the ECA before allocation and should be appropriately recognised in workload and financial reward.

f. For permanent posts, teaching hours should preferably be capped for a period of time in the first years of employment. 


3. Research/Training/Teaching needs

a. Workload models should include reserved research/scholarship or training time, according to contract type. Departments should aim for a broad definition of scholarship*. 

b. Departments should allocate a mentor focused on the ECA’s career progression, which should be included in the workload model for both parties. 

c. Mentoring of ECAs should be given an appropriate place in the progression of senior staff.

d. Temporary staff should be included in peer-review or personal development processes within the department.

e. ECAs should be supported to undertake relevant professional training opportunities, such as those provided by the Higher Education Academy and REF mentorship, regardless of contract type. 

f. ECAs should have parity of access to appropriate internal funding irrespective of contract length and type.

g. Where possible, ECAs should be able to retain copyright and intellectual property rights in any work created by them.

h. Universities should provide all equipment needed for remote or on-site working.

4. Integration

a. Departments should try to provide new ECA staff with assistance in moving location or finding temporary accommodation.

b. Departments should include ECAs on staff email lists and invite them to staff events, both academic and social, and support them to sit on governance bodies.

c. In best practice, an ECA rep may be appointed to report internally on ECA concerns.

* ‘Scholarship’ is defined in this Code of Best Practice as any intellectual activity which contributes to the development of knowledge and may be used in teaching and in learning. It may include pedagogy, interdisciplinary collaborations, and intellectual enquiry into any aspect of the discipline area which can, in the fullness of time, be incorporated into curriculums of study.

This is a live document that may be periodically reviewed and updated to best serve the needs of the communities that it represents.

Get in touch

The UCFL ECA Special Interest Group is always keen to hear from colleagues and Early Career Academics in Languages and related disciplines. If you would like to give feedback or comments, please contact the ECA Rep on the UCFL Executive Committee.