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Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Intentional academic rank and tenure systems

by July 20, 2017 General


Part 1
ACADEMIC rank and tenure systems are mechanisms to determine placement of mentors in a continuum of professorial ranks from instructorship to university professorship. These systems also specify who shall be guaranteed job security, subject to compliance with labor laws. A rank and tenure system cannot just be copied and adopted. Implementing it requires academic and administrative policies and practices of the HEI which foster meeting of requirements of the system by all concerned. (We, being accustomed to educational terminologies of the US, can begin to adopt European terminologies, especially when we find ourselves dealing extensively in the coming years with our counterparts in neighboring Asean universities where terminologies arise from their historical roots, usually European, not North American, like us. Singapore and Malaysia use British terminologies, Indonesia, that of the Dutch, and Vietnam, the French, etc. Academics in British universities refer to teachers in higher education; teacher – to those teaching basic education.)

Does the rank and tenure system walk the talk? An HEI’s vision, mission and goals are expectedly articulated in an HEI’s rank and tenure system. This system is intentional if the HEI’s administrative policies and practices support the academics in meeting rank and tenure requirements. To illustrate, if an institutional core value includes the value of service, is this “service” clearly defined and understood by all concerned? If so, how much weight in performing this “service” is given in the ranking system and at what rank or ranks? Academics desiring rank promotion would naturally pursue the accomplishment of the requisites for a rank. If research carries a heavy weight for a certain rank, considering CHED requirements for universities, the likely tendency of academics would be to want to do research. In assigning a heavy weight to research for a certain rank, the HEI acknowledges that such an activity contributes to the quality of education. Since research is required for rank promotion, what incentives are available for those who wish to go to research? Is there built-in time for research, decreasing subjects taught within the usual fulltime pay? Are academics trained to outsource research funds? Are there available research equipment and internet services? If considerable weight is attributed to good teaching, are administrators and academics clear about what “good teaching” exactly is? Is “good teaching” clearly characterized in a teaching evaluation instrument? Does the academic and administrative environment foster good teaching? What support mechanisms and facilities are available to update and develop teaching skills? Does an HEI allowing 30 units of teaching load promote “good teaching”?

Intentional rank and tenure systems as to student quality. The term “student quality” as a characteristic of “excellence,” often a byword in institutional mission and vision statements, is also to be clearly understood by the academics who are the firsthand mentors of students, as well as to the students themselves and to the public the HEI serves. “Factors such as the nature and cohesiveness of students’ curricular experiences, their course-taking patterns, the extent to which academics involve students actively in the teaching-learning process, extra-classroom interaction with academics, and the amount of peer group interaction have all been discovered to be associated with student learning.”

“A longitudinal survey by Astin (1985; 1996) similarly reveals that the learning environment and academic quality—student involvement in the learning process—have the main impact on students’ cognitive and affective outcomes. But it is precisely these types of process measures that, along with measures of university outputs, are missing… .”. Has this output been considered in “good teaching”? Does the ranking system work in this context?

Achieving student learning outcomes as a sign of “good” teaching. An intentional rank and tenure system also gives due credit to academics in their service to students. Such service refers to efforts that translate to marketability competencies of the institution’s graduates—that these graduates have been appropriately honed for 21st century successful employment or entrepreneurship. This expectation and promise is for academics to perform “good” teaching to achieve the student learning outcomes of a unified curriculum constituting every degree program. Becker (1964) “assumes that student outcomes” to be relevant, should be those “valued by society” “. . .that socially valued student outcomes are those that contribute to human capital. During their university education, students develop knowledge, skills, and abilities that over their lifetimes provide private benefits to themselves as well as social benefits or social capital to the larger society. This human capital perspective…is also explicitly reflected in current national policies on academic quality, which seek to improve the academic standards of higher education institutions.” (Brennan and Shah 2000)
The foregoing are some stray thoughts on rank and tenure systems. First, intentional rank and tenure systems are those that foster the institution’s vision, mission and goals. Thus, institutional policy and practice support equitably the purposive efforts of academics to meet rank and tenure criteria. Support mechanisms and facilities for the continuing professional development (CPD) of academics are available. Terms of reference of the system have been arrived at collegially and are clearly understood by all concerned while at the same time comply with Philippine labor laws. Similarly, student-related policies and practices support the curricula such that student learning outcomes are indeed achieved. Such achievement has corresponding metrics in faculty evaluation and duly credited in the rank and tenure system. Having these, a rank and tenure system becomes intentional. It spells the avowed excellence of an institution.