fredag 12 december 2014

Research faculty

Here, I will bring up issues regarding the faculty and especially the differences that are seen within each system. This includes: responsibility, employment, evaluation, promotion and expectations. As in the other posts, I will first describe each university separately and then make a final discussion and as before, the comparison and description is limited to the area of chemical engineering or the related area. With faculty means, the employed persons that are supposed to perform both teaching and research together with other task that is beneficial for the University such as being active in different committees and councils. 

UC Berkeley 

General information about research faculty

The research faculty is, in most cases, given 9 month salaries from the university but each individual has the possibility to attract funding (research funding) from agencies or companies to fill up the extra 3 months (summer). The research faculty is expected to teach one course each semester unless other duties (such as chair, dean, vice dean etc.).


The first research faculty position is assistant professor. This position allows, encourage and demand you to start your own research group directly. There are no conditions of previous courses in supervision of PhD students or experience as co-supervisor. This is the position you enter after finalizing the PhD and the post-doc sessions. Thus, it might be difficult to learn directly what is expected and how to manage the different tasks. Therefore, the CBE department has, as a rule, to assign a mentor to each new assistant professor. The role of the mentor is to explain and give advice in matters regarding, grants, proposals and teaching requirements. After about 2.5 to 3 years, there is an evaluation where the research faculty decided whether or not to recommend a tenure (the vote is either likely tenure or not likely tenure). Most will receive a not likely tenure vote which mainly indicates that the amount and quality of the research is not enough yet to reach the associate professor level. This is only a recommendation and has nothing to do with the future possibilities of reaching an associate professor position but should be viewed upon as a chance to get feedback of what is needed.  

After the full period (totally 5 years) there is a thorough evaluation regarding if the assistant professor should be appointed tenure or not. This evaluation is made in several steps and finally ends up at the vice chancellor’s table where the formal decision is made. It includes both teaching and research. At UC Berkeley they have decided to not have the tenure in competition which means that as long as you are progressing according to or better than expected there will be a tenure position. With other words, the department cannot hire an assistant professor if there is not a tenure position available in the end. Typically, the department is offering money for a couple of PhD students (4-5 years of PhD research), summer salary the first two years, together with some funds for starting a laboratory.

The level of associate professor means that you have achieved a tenured position. It is no longer possible to apply for initiation grants from the agencies and all applications are in competition with other researchers which makes it more challenging but on the other hand there has been time to test and develop ideas during the previous position which should be a solid foundation.  

After the associate professor is the full professor. To get a promotion as full professor you must be evaluated again and the focus now is on international impact. You also have to have made several commitments to the university during your years such as serving on the university senate (it is the structure that handles all academic questions such as admission of students, change in course curriculum, promotions etc.). Besides, the evaluation on teaching is also made (what contributions have been made such as text books).

At each level, there has to be an evaluation of your performance at least every 5th year but preferable it should take no longer than 3 years in between.  It should be noted that within each of these positions, there are steps (steps on a ladder) which indicate how far you have reached in that category (it is also closely connected to the salary).


University of Borås

I will use the English translation for the different positions but I will give a corresponding name in parenthesis that will match the UC Berkeley nomenclature. The first position within the faculty is the lecturer (corresponding to assistant professor). This is an appointment for 4 years and the intention is to evolve into an independent researcher and to get teaching experience. During this period, the researcher is not allowed to act as a principal supervisor for PhD students but is encouraged to act as co-supervisor. It is, however, possible to be the main applicant on applications for funds. Typically, no extra funds are associated with the position so in order to attract students in the area fund must be collected from foundations or companies. 

Next step in the academic hierarchy is the senior lecturer. This position is a tenure position and should be preceded by an open advertisement whereby the area of the position is clearly designated. This means that, the university (in reality the faculty) agrees upon a research area that would fit (and match) the current ongoing research  and to appoint the best person in that area both with respect to research abilities but also with respect to teaching abilities. Not even a senior lecturer can supervise their own PhD students, you must first undergo a second evaluation to something we call docent (in the UK it is reader) where the focus is upon research achievements (international publications) and it is not a separate position but more to be regarded as a degree which allows to you to be the principal supervisor. This evaluation also considers that mandatory courses in supervision are passed. 

Marching up in the ranks, leads to the associate professor’s level. Here, the demand for research is the same as for the docent level but additional demands are set for teaching and supervision. The final step is the full professor. To reach this level, the person must show original and innovative research at high international level.



There are some distinct differences between the two systems. One of the first things is the responsibility that is given the assistant professors at Cal. They are supposed to manage project leading; supervision, grant proposals and teaching at the same time without, in some cases, any previous experience. This will be tough. It may also strike back to the students, who will have an inexperienced supervisor where there could be all sorts of mistakes like micromanagement or impossible project ideas. Hopefully, the evaluation will consider these issues before assigning the position. In the UB system, the assistant professor can do their own research but only co-supervise PhD students, which make it a little safer for the students. However, it imposes other difficulties such as showing independence when your students have another principal supervisor. 

Another important difference is the security of employment. At Cal, there is a tenure position waiting if you perform good enough but at UB the position it is not certain that there will be a position available at the time when the assistant professor are ready for the promotion (and besides the promotion will be in competition to other applicants). In most cases, though, there is a tendency of securing a position in the area if the candidate show good capabilities but nothing is certain (in the end it depends on available funding). 

Higher up in the hierarchy, there are, in theory, the same type of evaluation for promotion and merit increase. However, a difference is that at Cal there is a continuous evaluation of the performance with regular interval (these are made for merit increase and basically determines the salary) but no such evaluation is found at UB where the salary increase will be based on the yearly communication with the nearest head.

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