[Viewpoint]Find new ways to rate professorsColleges and universities around the country have begun to reform their standards for evaluating professors.
Kaist started the trend by firing unqualified professors. Major schools such as Seoul National University have considered getting rid of professors for low levels of accomplishment in research. They are also tightening tenure evaluations.
Such changes are good, yet belated. Reform should not be limited to certain schools. Instead, it should be considered an opportunity to nurture well-intended competition.
So far, colleges and universities have been free from competition. Professors and students have neglected efforts to improve their competitiveness on an international level.
The professor’s position has been derided as a “safe job,” and many students have chosen to prepare for national examinations, sought ways to graduate easily and searched for cushy jobs without pursuing a proper education in their chosen major.
The paternalistic professor evaluation culture, which guarantees tenure until retirement, should be ended. Of course, many professors are working hard on their research, and there are professors who deserve applause for their international accomplishments. However, there still are many professors whose performances are substandard. Therefore, stricter professor evaluations should be established with the goal of raising the competitiveness of Korea’s colleges and universities.
You can find many professors who are more interested in politics, golf and entertainment. They regularly oppose reform and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without putting their heart and soul into research, teaching and service.
Colleges and universities are rapidly changing, with a decreasing number of students and financial strains. Schools pursue restructuring, specialization and international competitiveness.
Considering these changes, professors should be busy educating students and concentrating on world-class research to meet society’s demands.
If professors have strong demands but neglect their duties, and speak fancy words without practicing them, the colleges cannot be competitive. It is about time for college professors display a passion for education and pride in academic research.
Here are a few points colleges and universities should keep in mind regarding the evaluation process.
First, they should establish a fair evaluation process. It should reflect the opinions of the members of the schools and take into account the position, specialty and seniority of each professor.
Second, the evaluation should consider the fact that professors can offer different contributions in research, teaching, service and administration. Research schools might prioritize accomplishments in research more than anything, but teaching schools should not value research more than anything.
Moreover, the evaluation should take into consideration that different areas of studies have different opportunities for publication, and colleges and universities should not put too much value on internationally prestigious journals.
They should be careful not to make uniform judgments simply based on the number of published journals or the scope of research.
Third, in Korean culture, when a college professor fails to be reappointed, he is, in effect, forced out of academia, which is not something that happens in Western society. Using these reforms as an opportunity, professors who are not reappointed at a certain college should be given the chance to get hired at another school.
Fourth, the tenured professors who have a do-nothing attitude and are cynical about change are largely responsible for the decreasing productivity and weakened competitiveness of professors.
Therefore, it is important to reform the tenure evaluation and reappointment assessments, but schools should also consider a post-tenure review system. Senior professors need to perform research using their experience and set examples for the younger professors.
Unless professors change, colleges and universities cannot transform.
The quality of college education cannot surpass the quality of professors. To get out of the bottom of the rankings of world colleges, universities must drastically transform.
To improve their competitiveness, the professor evaluation criteria needs to be reformed.
*The writer is the president of Honam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily Staff.
by Lee Hyun-chong
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