Tag: faculty

Guest blogger: Explaining postdoc internationalization at US universities

Dr. Brendan Cantwell (Michigan State University)

Dr. Brendan Cantwell
(Michigan State University)

This guest entry is written by Dr. Brendan Cantwell who is currently employed as an assistant professor at the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. His current research interests include higher education organization, governance and policy, with focus on comparative education, political economy and theory. 

Since the 1990s over 50% of all postdoctoral researchers (‘postdocs’) working at universities in the United States (US) have been temporary visa holders, or ‘international’. This makes postdocs the most internationalized group at American universities.

The fact that over 50% of postdocs are international is especially striking when compared to student enrollments; international students accounted for only 3.7% of total enrollments in the US during the 2011/2012 academic year. Why, then, do most postdocs come from abroad?

Over parts of the past five years I have studied the employment of international postdocs, primarily in the US but also in the United Kingdom. One of my objectives was to understand why so many researchers work as postdocs abroad. I began this research qualitatively by interviewing international postdocs and their supervisors. I examined the experiences of international postdocs, the role international postdocs play in the production of knowledge, and the process by which postdocs become employed internationally.  From these studies I drew two main conclusions.

first graph

First, international postdoc mobility requires demand for postdocs from aboard, as well as the supply of internationally mobile researchers. Global expansion of higher education, and especially rapid growth of higher education systems in Asia, produced a large supply of PhD researchers looking for jobs abroad. But professors also had to be willing to hire international postdocs. In other words, postdoc mobility would be impossible if there were not individual professors and universities interested in hiring international postdocs.




Guest blogger: Academic Compensation Around the World – It is not Just About the Salary

This guest entry is written by Ivan F. Pacheco who is the co-editor of the book “Paying the Professoriate” and currently works at the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. 

“Paying the Professoriate: A Global Comparison of Compensations and Contracts,” presents the main findings of a comparative study conducted by the Laboratory for Institutional Analysis (LIA) at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow, and Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, in the United States will be published soon by Routledge. The study included 28 countries from all continents and different economic, political, and academic contexts and provides valuable information about the remuneration for the academic work and other important topics shaping the academic profession.

One of the main results of this study is the comparison of salaries for full time professor from public universities using PPP dollars—a conversion rate index that allows comparisons across countries based on the cost of living.  In this comparison Canada offers the best entry-level, overall average, and top-level salaries; China the lowest entry-level salary; and Armenia the lowest overall average and top-level salaries. Norway has very competitive entry-level salaries but the top-level salaries do not rank as well (see the table).

There are significant disparities across countries. The average top-level salary in Armenia is $665 and $910 in Russia;, the average entry-level salary in Ethiopia is $864, and the average top-level salary is $1,580.  The average entry-level salary in Canada (5,733) or about 22 times the average entry-level salary in China (259), more than 14 times the average in Armenian (405), and more than thirteen times the average in Russian (433) (All values in PPP US Dollars).




Female-only university

Image: stock:xchng

The Saudi Arabian king has recently invested 5,3 billion US dollars to open worlds largest women-only university: Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University.

The introduction of a female-only university is linked to the extreme segregation in the Saudi society, where men and women are not even allowed to work in the same place, let alone be in the same room alone. The religious police monitors this and when caught, this usually would lead to a prison sentence or other type of punishment, arguably also used as a means to frame people win unpopular beliefs.

There are also arguments that despite a strong division, the public image of Saudi women is in a process of change. Already in 2003, E. Doumato argued in a book “Women and globalization in the Arab Middle East: gender, economy, and society” that while Saudi women still wear the all covering black abaya, changes are starting to happen and increasingly these outfits would increasingly be “slightly form-fitted, embroidered, flowing, and almost sensual” and women would not cover their eyes. While these changes might be small and incremental and perhaps something easy to overlook and underestimate in secular context, these are still important changes in an extremely rigid and traditional context such as Saudi Arabia.

The establishment of this new university means that there will be more study opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia. University World News (UWN) quotes Abdulkader Alfantookh, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia who argued that this will be an important step by the government to improve the situation of women in higher education. Further, the article cites the University president Huda bint Mohammad Al-Ameel who said that “PNU has become a major symbol of gender equality and women’s education in Saudi Arabia“.  On the contrary to popular belief, the UWN article indicates that the majority of university students in Saudi Arabia are women, and the percentage of female researchers is higher in Saudi Arabia than for example Germany, Japan and Korea.




Book review: The Decline of the American Mandarins? (part 4)

Vidar Grøtta

This is part four of the review by Vidar Grøtta who is a PhD candidate at the Department of Educational Research/KULTRANS at the University of OsloHe holds a magister degree in comparative literature from the University of Oslo. For the past four years he has been working for the Ministry of Education and Research in Norway. You can find part one here,  part two here and part three here.

The review is focused on four books:

  • Frank Donoghue: The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities (NY: Fordham U P, 2008)
  • Stanley Fish: Save the World on Your Own Time (NY: Oxford U P, 2008)
  • Martha Nussbaum: Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton: Princeton U P, 2010)
  • Louis Menand: The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (NY: Norton, 2010)

Part 4

One of the latest additions to the humanities debate is Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas. In addition to his day job as distinguished professor in English at Harvard, Menand is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, and since 2001 a staff writer for the New Yorker. Like Stanley Fish, who also dabbles with journalism (he writes an op-ed column for the NYT), Menand is for the most part refreshingly unsentimental in his view of the humanities. This common trait might also be due to the fact that both of them have had considerable administrative experience, Fish as the dean at Duke and Menand as a regular participant on educational reform committees. Menand’s book has more to offer people interested in how higher education works than Fish’s, however, because (like Donoghue) Menand has actually done some research on the matter.

As with most volumes of this kind (including the three others under review here), Menand’s book is edited from various talks and previously published pieces, and thus contains a wide range of topics: the difficulties inherent in reforming general education (that is, required undergraduate courses at American colleges), the development of post-WWII humanities, the issue of interdisciplinarity, and the striking political conformity of the American professoriate. All of these are of course interesting topics in their own right; what actually makes them hold together in Menand’s book is his persistent preoccupation with the weberian topic of science as a vocation. His thinking on this issue begins from the paradox of professionalism: “Professionalism was born of contradictory impulses. On the one hand, it belongs to the movement towards a democratic and free market economy… On the other hand professions are monopolistic…”




Book review: The Decline of the American Mandarins? (part 3)

Vidar Grøtta

This is part three of the review by Vidar Grøtta who is a PhD candidate at the Department of Educational Research/KULTRANS at the University of OsloHe holds a magister degree in comparative literature from the University of Oslo. For the past four years he has been working for the Ministry of Education and Research in Norway. You can find part one here and part two here.

The review is focused on four books:

  • Frank Donoghue: The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities (NY: Fordham U P, 2008)
  • Stanley Fish: Save the World on Your Own Time (NY: Oxford U P, 2008)
  • Martha Nussbaum: Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton: Princeton U P, 2010)
  • Louis Menand: The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (NY: Norton, 2010)

Part 3

Of course, as Frank Donoghue’s book The Last Professors demonstrates, the academy couldn’t’ really be made to work as a self-contained system either, unless the academic universe kept expanding exponentially. The reason is the simple Malthusian one: If every professor educates (which she must) a whole series of new ones, overpopulation will (all other things being equal) eventually flood the system. This is precisely what is happening now in the American humanities departments, according to Donoghue, and he makes a good case for his conclusion. He begins his story with the invention of the American concept of tenure in 1915, and then describes the ensuing period of negotiations between the professors’ organization AAUP and the employers’ organization AAC, which in 1940 ended with the establishment of the tenure track system we know today. A strange thing about this system, says Donoghue, is that although it was originally established to protect academic freedom, its built-in seven year probation period creates a fierce competition for tenure among assistant professors which has the exactly opposite effect, – it produces conformity on a massive scale.

But that is not even the worst problem. The worst problem is that, although the American academia did expand for a very long time, when the decline came in the 1970s, and the institutions stopped hiring, while at the same time continuing to produce PhDs at approximately the same rate, the Malthusian mechanism slowly became visible. The result was at first an even frenzier competition for the few available tenure track positions, and then, after a time, a tremendous growth in the contingent academic workforce of adjunct professors, lecturers etc. who are ineligible for tenure. Cheap, eager to please, and with no strings attached, this workforce has proven irresistible to the institutions, especially in the humanities, who are as we know faced with diminishing funds. Under such conditions, Donoghue contends, tenured humanities professors will soon become extinct, except perhaps for a few exemplars on display in the Ivy League institutions. Donogue puts on a fatalist attitude on this point. As he says in the preface, “I believe that professors in the humanities have already lost the power to rescue themselves.”