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Assistant professors without PhDs?

By 13 April 2012 31

Not naming any names, but I keep seeing people coming up from the University of Canberra revelling in the title of “Assistant Professor” who are yet to complete their doctoral thesis.

I’m curious as to what, if anything, our learned readers make of this?

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31 Responses to
Assistant professors without PhDs?
buzz819 9:53 am
13 Apr 12
#1

That they are academic wannabes?

Here_and_Now 10:00 am
13 Apr 12
#2

It’s not unheard of. The titles aren’t like a rank system, with ‘Professor’ above ‘Doctor’. As I understand it, generally to be at the level of being recognised as an Assistant, Associate, or any other kind of Professor, you’d likely have done a PhD, but it’s not universal.

Nothing to fuss about, really.

EvanJames 10:09 am
13 Apr 12
#3

It’s rather hard to come up with a valid Ph.D topic on much of what Canberra University of TAFE teaches. Ph.Ds being research-based and all.

dpm 10:14 am
13 Apr 12
#4

AFAIK (and I don’t know much), there’s no specific qualification (e.g. PhD) that must be a requirement before becoming a profeessor, let alone an assistant professor?

c_c 10:24 am
13 Apr 12
#5

Meh, even a professor plays second fiddle to those who earn the title “Well Endowed Professor” – um, that doesn’t sound right?

New Yeah 10:38 am
13 Apr 12
#6

I always thought Assistant Professor was a title used in the States, and is roughly comparable to what we call a Lecturer or Senior Lecturer in Australia.

I wouldn’t be comfortable calling myself Assistant Professor if I was yet to be awarded a PhD, but then again, things might be done differently at UC.

pajs 10:54 am
13 Apr 12
#7

I wasn’t aware of ‘Assistant Professor’ being used in Australia like it is in the States. ‘Adjunct Professor’ used to be the title outside the rank/promotion system, often to cover people doing a bit of teaching or research coming in to the academy from a background in practice, usually while keeping their original job.

Has UC tried to rebadge this?

p1 10:57 am
13 Apr 12
#8

I had a couple of very senior lecturers at uni (not UC) who didn’t have PhDs. Although they were very much in the minority, and very unlikely to get to that level these days.

I think Assistant Professor is just a made up title for the same position.

astrojax 12:31 pm
13 Apr 12
#9

a doctorate isn’t a requisite for senior academic positions, irrespective of how ubiquitous it seems. i recall anu had an arts faculty dean (and dept head) who had not ever gained a doctorate (so was ‘mr x’, not dr x) [though he was very handy on a harpsichord and his understanding of ancient philosophy was impecable...]

not sure what the op’s problem is – or is it just a naive beef?

johnboy 12:35 pm
13 Apr 12
#10

just a question

EvanJames 12:39 pm
13 Apr 12
#11

There is a position in our higher ed system of Associate Professor, but that’s not an assistant anything. Professor-ship is the awarding of a Chair at an institution to a person. I think they can hold onto the title after they step down or retire.

A Ph.D is not mandatory, it just signals how far the person got in academia. Some might have opted for a Masters instead, or several of them.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 12:42 pm
13 Apr 12
#12

The struggles of academia – who gives a crap?

astrojax 2:06 pm
13 Apr 12
#13

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

The struggles of academia – who gives a crap?

clearly, jb gives one [however small it may be...] :)

and frankly, without academia, tell me where you’d be?

New Yeah 3:31 pm
13 Apr 12
#14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

The struggles of academia – who gives a crap?

The OP doesn’t seem to indicate a ‘struggle’ as such, just seeking clarification.

Oh, to be a self-made businessman with a diverse portfolio of investment properties. Then I too might not give a crap.

Jim Jones 3:43 pm
13 Apr 12
#15

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

The struggles of academia – who gives a crap?

People who aren’t aggressively anti-intellectual?

VicePope 3:51 pm
13 Apr 12
#16

Agree with much of the above. Professor etc is a job rank/title – a doctorate would be common, but one of the best was reputedly Fred May from Sydney Uni in the 70s who boasted but a BA. Associate Professors used to be one or two ranks (if there was a Reader) down from that, but above tutors/lecturers/senior lecturers. Assistant Professor sounds a bit like government agencies that call half their staff managers. Getting to be a real Professor requires a combination of academic ability and bureaucratic skill. Doctorates are just about the academic ability/certification side of it – or, really, about the ability to trudge through something amazingly obscure for a very long time.

In this town, it would be interesting to know when there was last a non-graduate Secretary and whether there are more than a handful of old-timers in the SES without a degree.

p1 5:11 pm
13 Apr 12
#17

VicePope said :

In this town, it would be interesting to know when there was last a non-graduate Secretary and whether there are more than a handful of old-timers in the SES without a degree.

I suspect that even the old timers of the SES have probably been talked into doing a BA in something-or-other part time by distance at some time in the past.

dr. faustus 5:22 pm
13 Apr 12
#18

UC is one of the few Australian universities that have adapted the US staff level ranking system: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. ANU was considering it as part of the last EBA, but there was a lot of resistance from staff, IIRC. I’m pretty sure UWA use this system, but not too many other Australian universities have adopted it. It’s not unique or invalid, just rare.

Assistant Professor is basically equivalent to Lecturer in other universities. I had heard that UC hire all new junior faculty at Assistant Professor level on a contract (5 years, maybe), and they get put on ongoing if they are promoted to Associate Professor in that time (and not renewed otherwise). I have no idea if this is still the case, but the NTEU was organising a bit of agitation against the arrangement a few years ago.

There isn’t necessarily any requirement for faculty members to have higher degrees, although it varies between disciplines. In law, for example, you’ll find very senior academics who don’t have HDRs (Higher Degree Research).

UC has few “vocational” courses (which is what EvanJames is referring to). One of these is journalism, which has been in the media a bit lately. Some of their staff were presumably hired on the basis of their industry experience and are (presumably) deemed suitably experienced to forego qualifications. Some of them will be working towards PhDs while the teach (not that unusual, but in most non-vocational courses you’d only get a job on faculty if you were in the dying days of your doctorate). And some presumably have PhDs.

I think what JB is seeing is some of the junior faculty or faculty appointed on the basis of “industry experience” and UC’s somewhat unusual (for Australia) naming of their academic levels.

(Disclaimer: I’ve never worked at UC, but did work at ANU for a while (but not now), so take my implied prejudices for what they’re worth.)

c_c 5:28 pm
13 Apr 12
#19

dr. faustus said :

UC is one of the few Australian universities that have adapted the US staff level ranking system: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. ANU was considering it as part of the last EBA, but there was a lot of resistance from staff, IIRC. I’m pretty sure UWA use this system, but not too many other Australian universities have adopted it. It’s not unique or invalid, just rare.

Makes sense for UC, much like American cheese, American academic definitions make it easier to call something what it’s not. In UC’s case, they started with the name of the whole place!

milkman 6:21 pm
13 Apr 12
#20

Jim Jones said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

The struggles of academia – who gives a crap?

People who aren’t aggressively anti-intellectual?

People who are more interested in real world outcomes?

beejay76 10:45 pm
13 Apr 12
#21

milkman said :

People who are more interested in real world outcomes?

Hope you don’t get sick, bro, and need some of that theoretical nuclear imaging or ivory-tower medication, hey?

Clown Killer 11:41 pm
13 Apr 12
#22

As a (rather casual) outside observer of academia, it would seem that your chance of jagging an academic job would appear to be based on the number of refereed publications you’ve managed to jag, and your track record in scoring ARC grants … As far as having a PhD is concerned, in the professional world it’s simply a ‘flag’ to let me know that you’ll need a little gentle finessing when you find out you’re going to be managed by an arts grad. (possibly without even an honours degree) who earns $75k more a year … But that’s life.

LSWCHP 11:46 pm
13 Apr 12
#23

c_c said :

dr. faustus said :

UC is one of the few Australian universities that have adapted the US staff level ranking system: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. ANU was considering it as part of the last EBA, but there was a lot of resistance from staff, IIRC. I’m pretty sure UWA use this system, but not too many other Australian universities have adopted it. It’s not unique or invalid, just rare.

Makes sense for UC, much like American cheese, American academic definitions make it easier to call something what it’s not. In UC’s case, they started with the name of the whole place!

Ummm…lemme see now…I reckon that last sentence is crap.

I don’t really care if they call their academics Professors or Big Bananas. What matters, as with most things in life, is the results. I’ve worked with many UC graduates over the years, and I work with quite a few of them now. The ones I’ve known have been as well educated and technically capable as the graduates from any other University in Australia. Sometimes more so.

Diggety 1:54 am
14 Apr 12
#24

c_c said :

dr. faustus said :

UC is one of the few Australian universities that have adapted the US staff level ranking system: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. ANU was considering it as part of the last EBA, but there was a lot of resistance from staff, IIRC. I’m pretty sure UWA use this system, but not too many other Australian universities have adopted it. It’s not unique or invalid, just rare.

Makes sense for UC, much like American cheese, American academic definitions make it easier to call something what it’s not.

c_c, I wouldn’t slag US universities if you are currently doing an undergrad at any of Canberra’s universities.

Keep that in mind until you experience otherwise.

milkman 8:46 am
14 Apr 12
#25

beejay76 said :

milkman said :

People who are more interested in real world outcomes?

Hope you don’t get sick, bro, and need some of that theoretical nuclear imaging or ivory-tower medication, hey?

No doubt there are very smart people who’ve studied and researched at uni.

I was referring more to the ANU Arts type academia of underwater basket weaving.

johnboy 9:04 am
14 Apr 12
#26

I don’t know if it’s true, but I had heard that most of the philosophers in American universities are paid for by the US Marine Corp.

The thinking goes that it takes around $1,000,000 a year to keep a Marine ready for action, but you can get about 20 philosophers for that kind of money.

And a new paradigm is a much more powerful thing than 1 trained Marine.

c_c 10:14 am
14 Apr 12
#27

johnboy said :

I don’t know if it’s true, but I had heard that most of the philosophers in American universities are paid for by the US Marine Corp.

The thinking goes that it takes around $1,000,000 a year to keep a Marine ready for action, but you can get about 20 philosophers for that kind of money.

And a new paradigm is a much more powerful thing than 1 trained Marine.

I can’t confirm that, but it sounds right. It’s also a common, though more indirect occurrence in Australian Universities. You’ll get certain areas of Defence or the Intelligence community funding events at Universities, even going so far as to vet the speakers and attendees much to the chagrin of some academic staff who see it as nothing more than stacking support in their favour.

More to the point though are the new research centres being established like the Public Policy and National Security ones at ANU where they receive special, separate premises with high security and the folks who work there need high level clearance. The funding may not explicitly come from Defence but it’s clear why the Commonwealth is putting money into it.

Ko. 11:14 am
14 Apr 12
#28

c_c said :

More to the point though are the new research centres being established like the Public Policy and National Security ones at ANU where they receive special, separate premises with high security and the folks who work there need high level clearance. The funding may not explicitly come from Defence but it’s clear why the Commonwealth is putting money into it.

Well yeah, it is clear the Commonwealth are putting money into it because they fund the whole University.

c_c 11:26 am
14 Apr 12
#29

LSWCHP said :

I don’t really care if they call their academics Professors or Big Bananas. What matters, as with most things in life, is the results. I’ve worked with many UC graduates over the years, and I work with quite a few of them now. The ones I’ve known have been as well educated and technically capable as the graduates from any other University in Australia. Sometimes more so.

First, let’s be frank, the only reason University of Canberra became a “university” was due to funding changes meaning CAEs were obsolete. There was never a purposive change from an academic viewpoint, it was all about the dollars. It’s only recently they’re even getting serious about research which is what Univeristies should be about in the first instance.

You are quite correct though, it is true that UC graduates are quite often “technically capable” and desired by employers. Indeed it is “technical” capability that UC brags about to prospective students, stating that unlike ANU and other potential places, UC delivers more “practical” learning over “theoretical learning.” (That is a direct quote by the way from a senior UC admin who was trying to sign my Year 12 class up.)

They can paraphrase as much as they want, but in the end, by their own admission, they prefer practical over theoretical. Doers, over thinkers. And that places them much closer to TAFEs than true Universities.

Ko. said :

Well yeah, it is clear the Commonwealth are putting money into it because they fund the whole University.

Please go away and learn how University funding works because you clearly know squat.

I’m not going to waste time explaining it to you.

Diggety 12:28 pm
14 Apr 12
#30

johnboy said :

I don’t know if it’s true, but I had heard that most of the philosophers in American universities are paid for by the US Marine Corp.

The thinking goes that it takes around $1,000,000 a year to keep a Marine ready for action, but you can get about 20 philosophers for that kind of money.

And a new paradigm is a much more powerful thing than 1 trained Marine.

I’ve never heard about that, but it does make a lot of sense.

Critical thinking with constructive output is incredibly cheap in it’s rawest form compared with other publicly funded experiments.

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