Doctoral School

What do you do?

There are many staff in professional services across campus working to support doctoral researchers. In this item we highlight a staff member and service supporting the doctoral community & tell you a bit more about their role, and how they can help you.

Picture of Dr Liz SageName: Dr Liz Sage
Role: Teaching Fellow in Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Department/Division: Academic Development and Quality Enhancement

What do you do?

I work in the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement office as a Teaching Fellow in Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education. It’s a new role at the University and I took up the post in September this year.

I’m the point of contact for advice and guidance around teaching and learning at Sussex, and I convene the Starting to Teach course for doctoral researchers and Associate Tutors, and work on the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCertHE) course for Lecturers and Teaching Fellows.

The Starting to Teach course is a five-workshop module designed to help doctoral researchers new to teaching get the training they need, and to assist current Associate Tutors with less than three years’ experience in gaining Higher Education Academy recognition for their teaching.

My role also involves looking at ways of building up informal support across the University for Associate Tutors and doctoral researchers who are just starting out in teaching.

Alongside the work I carry out within the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement office I also teach within the School of English, where I obtained my doctorate in 2013.

What support do you offer to doctoral researchers?

I provide advice and guidance to doctoral researchers around the Starting to Teach course, and support for any other teaching-related issues at the University. For those researchers who already have some teaching experience, I work to support them in gaining recognition as an Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA) through the Starting to Teach programme.

I have regular office hours (see below), during which doctoral researchers and Associate Tutors can drop-in with any questions or concerns related to teaching practice.

As I’m responsible for improving the support available to those new to teaching at Sussex, I’m also really keen to hear from researchers about the kinds of support that would help them in their teaching practice.

How can doctoral researchers get in touch?

Doctoral researchers can get in touch by sending an e-mail to or by calling 01273 87(7021).

They can also drop in to see me at Essex House Room 239 during my office hours on Tuesdays (15.00 – 16.00) and Thursdays (14.00 – 15.00). If you would like to meet but cannot attend during my office hours, please e-mail me to arrange an appointment.

Doctoral researchers wishing to sign up to the Starting to Teach programme should complete the registration form available on the Starting to Teach pages of the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement website and e-mail this to

What's the most common question you are asked by doctoral researchers?

Doctoral researchers often ask me how they should best deal with being a student who has been given the responsibility of teaching other students. I try to remind doctoral researchers that their School or Department has asked them to teach, and wouldn’t have done so if they didn’t think they were up to the job! It’s also important to remember that while you may not consider yourself an expert in the particular topic you are teaching, as a doctoral researcher you still have years more experience than your students when it comes to the broader subject area. And sometimes, not being the expert can actually enable your best teaching - it affords you a much better understanding of the particular challenges your students are facing.

Doctoral researchers also frequently ask for advice around how they can encourage reluctant students or groups of students to participate in seminars. The Starting to Teach course offers training to provide new teachers with the knowledge and skills required to create interested and active students, but I also advise researchers to tap into the experience of other teachers within their Schools or Departments. Your colleagues are an invaluable resource with a wealth of experience and may be able to impart some really useful advice!

The third question I’m commonly asked is whether more informal support can be made available at the University for doctoral researchers who teach.

Within my role I’ll be working to increase the support available to new teachers, and this will include regular informal lunchtime sessions taking place each term, where Associate Tutors and doctoral researchers who teach will be invited to drop-in to network and discuss issues related to teaching. These will be events led by you and your needs, and will offer the opportunity for you to discuss your experiences of teaching with other researchers at Sussex.

The first lunchtime drop-in session will be taking place on Wednesday 18th November (12.00 - 13.30) in The Creativity Zone, Pevensey III. Download the flyer.

Are there any useful online resources doctoral researchers need to know about?

Doctoral researchers who teach can find out more about the Starting to Teach course via the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement office website. Over the next couple of months there will be a number of updates made to the website, including links to other useful websites and resources to support good teaching practice. 


Doctoral School