CVs & Cover Letters

How to Write an Academic Cover Letter – Free Template Included!

students watching a lecture

Academic roles vary greatly from purely research appointments to a more lecture-based, teaching role in Colleges and Universities. Whatever the main focus, it’s likely there will be an element of teaching, especially in the early years of your experience, so no matter how research focussed you are it’s worth keeping this in mind.  

In this post, we’ll share tips & information on writing a cover letter for the role of University Lecturer, helping you to craft your letter in a way that makes you stand out and shares your academic expertise appropriately – we’ve even included a cover letter example to get you started! 

What are employers looking for?

Universities are looking for experienced academics who are equally at home publishing peer-reviewed research papers on their topic of expertise, and planning lectures and conferences that share research outcomes and knowledge with diverse – and often large – audiences. Successful Lecturers should have a real passion for sharing information in this way, and for optimising students’ opportunities to develop great career options.

Academic researchers and Higher Education Lecturers will need a postgraduate degree in their chosen specialism, a teaching qualification such as a PGCE, and will often be expected to work towards, or to already have studied, a PhD. You’ll be teaching and supervising students from undergraduate to postgraduate level, so will be expected to have unrivalled academic expertise, a great idea for an original research topic, and the self-confidence to support student development and drive exceptional learning outcomes.  

Using keywords for academic careers

As with all sectors and all roles, the clue to success lies in reading the job description carefully and making sure you cover all of the key points in your letter. The key skills you’ll need will include strong intellectual & technical aptitude, great communication and teamwork, confident public speaking, flexibility, passion, resilience and a demonstrable record of quality research and documentation. 

Unlike any other sector, your qualifications are vital to your success and should be included in the introductory paragraph of your letter. You should share the titles of your degrees, the Universities you studied at and, where applicable, your ambition for further study and research. The example we’ve shared is based on a role with a heavy teaching element and a PhD yet to be achieved – more academic roles with a larger research focus will require a Doctorate to have been achieved already and the ambition should then change from further academic study to possible research topics. 

Tone and style

Universities are notorious for having a somewhat formal tone and style. They lean towards taking themselves very seriously and you should reflect this in your cover letter. They also like to see why you’ve chosen them and it’s a profession where a little flattery goes a long way. It’s OK to warm your letter up with a little bit of personality of course, and they will be interested in your passion for collaboration and knowledge sharing, just be careful not to overdo it. 

The University website will provide some clues here – visit the website and look deeper than the inevitable smiling students on the Home page. Read their latest news, a few of their course descriptions, their events page and their vision and values. How they present this information, the language they use and the ‘feel’ of the pages will provide some hints to the tone and style they’re looking for. While you’re there, take those values on board and make sure you reflect them back in your cover letter – a good match for ethics and ethos will give you a valuable edge.

A note of caution

Academic are used to writing essays and having the luxury of thousands of words to express their ideology. This is not the case here. A quick google search for Academic Cover Letter will return hundreds of weighty, lengthy examples that don’t hit the right tone at all. Your cover letter should be one page or less, covering your academic record, ambition, experience and enthusiasm as concisely as possible. 

Education cover letter example showcasing best practice

Below is a sample marketing cover letter that puts the tips we’ve talked through into practice. Go ahead and download the template as a Word Document here and use it as a starting point for writing your own cover letter.

To: [Name of Faculty Head, Name of University/College, City & Postcode]

Re: [Advertised job title]
Dear [Joe] [Mr. Bloggs] 

I am pleased to apply for the role of Psychology Lecturer at XXXX University and to attach my CV for your attention. I hold qualified teacher status, a Master of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Sunderland and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Manchester. I am hoping to commence a PhD/MPhil later this year. 

Over the past 5 years Psychology has increased in popularity as a study subject in the UK, and has enjoyed a period of refreshed research and renewed interest. My own research has been in the field of social Psychology, looking at societal interactions, particularly in a modern political context. My dissertation – for which I received a distinction – was centred on how preconceptions, economic conditions and social interactions can be leveraged to influence voter statistics in political decision making.

For the past 2 years I have been lecturing at XXXX on a temporary contract. This has given me a wonderful opportunity to refine my teaching practice and gain experience in engaging and motivating my audience. I have also advised students on appropriate research topics and created short courses on Social Psychology to complement the curriculum.

I’m now looking for a permanent position, with more research potential and the opportunity to join a strong academic faculty in the pursuit of knowledge. My key areas of expertise include developing & evaluating psychological therapies, understanding how psychology can be used to influence outcomes and collaborating effectively with multicultural peers to share and expand knowledge. I’m confident that my strong academic record and commitment to teaching & learning excellence will be an asset to XXXX and will make a robust contribution to your already outstanding global reputation. 

Thank you for your time. XXXX Primary looks like a wonderful school and I hope I get the chance to meet you very soon.

Yours sincerely,
Name Goes Here

0123 456 7890