There are two sorts of visiting lecturer posts. One, common in the US, where a non-permanent member of staff who does not have a contract elsewhere is employed for a short time to deliver teaching or meet research agendas. This sort of lecturing is seen as one step above adjunct teaching (and often much more lucrative) but below permanent tenured professor positions.
Another type of visiting lecturer post, where someone already has a permanent position at one university, means that they spend a short time lecturing or researching at another university by mutual agreement of both institutions. This article will focus on this second type of visiting lectureship.
1) Why would it benefit me?
If you already have a permanent academic position, why would you be interested in undertaking visiting lecturer posts?
There are several reasons: perhaps the university that wants you to visit is a very prestigious university; this would look good on your CV. There may be scholars there with whom you have always wanted to work, again this is good for developing your future career. Perhaps there is a library, archive, laboratory or other resources at the university that will allow you to develop your research in new directions.
So, holding a visiting lectureship is prestigious in itself and it can also help you to boost your CV in practical ways.
2) Why does it benefit the visited institution?
Having a specialist in a particular subject area give one-off lectures, to help advise postgraduates or to contribute to the department’s research culture increases the profile of the host institution.
It also benefits them because closer links can be forged with your home institution. Perhaps they will send visiting lecturers to your university, developing ties and undertaking collaborative research. Increasingly, large cross-institutional projects are the beneficiaries of much research funding money in the UK, so it is important for universities to develop these sorts of connections.
3) How do I get a visiting lecturer post?
Many visiting lecturer posts are filled in response to suggestions from members of the department concerned. So, networking is the most obvious way of securing a post. Other roles will be publicly advertised but, even in these cases, personal contacts within the institution will be important in securing a recommendation.
4) Be careful!
It is important to clarify in advance what you will be expected to do during your time at the visited university. If you are expected to teach, will you be marking work? Leading seminars or only giving lectures?
You may be flattered to be involved, but don’t be taken advantage of. It is important to make clear what you want to get out of your visit so that you are not forced to do some teaching that no-one else wanted to do.
Make sure you are clear about what the university will offer you. At the very least you should have an office space, a computer and access to their library.
Salary: it is important to know in advance whether your post comes with a salary or fee. Some visiting lecturer posts just pay expenses while others pay a wage.