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    Some observations on the academic life

    Fatih Özatay, PhD04 June 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 932

    I am not a specialist in education. I did not conduct any studies on university education, either. I am planning to refer to my experience in these activities.

    A couple of weeks ago I said that I will address disincentive mechanisms in the academic world and their outcomes; but I postponed writing on this issue. This was a risky decision as it might have raised expectations among the readers of this column that I will present important analysis on the academic life. But this is not a just expectation.

    I am not a specialist in education. I did not conduct any studies on university education, either. I am a fellow at a university. I am invited to talk in conferences in many universities with my identity as an academician. I exchange opinions with other fellows and serve as a jury member in associate professor proficiency examination. Moreover, some scientific journals ask my opinions about the academic studies submitted to them for publication. I am planning to refer to my experience in these activities. Therefore, I am not at all assertive. So, let me call the following lines as anecdotal scratches.

    Today, I want to talk about a couple of points in my -thankfully short - list of the "aspects I do not like in the academic field": serving as a jury member in associate professor proficiency examinations. For jury members, the exam has two stages. In the first stage, you examine the academic studies of the candidate and write a report on it. This report is send to the Directorate of Interuniversity Board. After some time, you are asked to attend the oral examination in a certain university and at a certain date. You are obliged to be there at the specified time, wherever the mentioned university is. There is nothing unusual up to this point.

    Candidates are unaware of the latest studies in the field
    The studies in the files of the candidates are quite inconsistent in quality. Of course there is no "uniform" definition of quality; but while you reading you keep asking yourself how the quality level of the studies by a same person can be that different. So this should be the first point to stress: there are substantial qualitative differences between the studies of associate professor candidates. This is not normal. After all, I am talking about fellows who are candidates for the degree of associate professor. These young fellows teach courses mostly in MA or PhD level; so they play major roles in the nurturing of future fellows. This, therefore, raise doubts about the quality of the departments they teach at. This can be acceptable to some degree if the candidate is not researcher but an instructor only. He/she can be a good teacher who follows the developments in the field and communicates to the students helping them think about the problems in the field. However, the current system forces the candidates to sketch some studies and publish them in journals in order to earn degrees. Even they are not happy with the studies, they do not have any other choice. The candidate who might be interested only in becoming a good teacher might have faced the regulation which dictates a certain "number" of publications to grant the associate professor degree.

    Unfortunately, even this is not the case for some candidates. And this takes us to the second point: some candidates are not aware of the high-quality studies in the field they teach. In some extreme cases the candidate teaches MA or PhD level courses but does not know the names, let alone the contents of the generally accepted and though books in the field. I will not talk about the articles published in that field.

    The other side of the table is also problematic. I am talking about the evaluation jury. One of the main problems here is that some jury members ask questions that are not related with the field of specialty of the candidate. In fact, in some cases they ask whatever flashes in their minds; questions which the other jury members cannot answer, probably. At least, I felt like this in a high number of juries. Some candidates who have heard the reputation of that jury member probably take a look at the previous studies of that fellow. But since the topic is not related to their field of specialty, they cannot acknowledge the concepts they had come up with right before a stressful examination. So, they generally provide memorized answers to those sorts of questions. This is enough depression for today. I will continue in the next commentary of the series.


    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 04.06.2011